White House earmarks $1.7bn to help states deal with COVID-19 variants

COVID-19 variants are spreading freely in the United States and currently represent around half of the cases in the country. Rapid vaccination remains a key aspect of preventing the rise of new variants, which are the result of mutations that begin popping up when a virus is spreading far and wide. Other things also contribute to controlling the spread of variants, and the Biden administration has revealed how it will help bolster them.

The Biden administration plans to invest $1.7 billion of American Rescue Plan funds toward helping states deal with SARS-CoV-2 variants, according to a recent White House announcement. The money will be used to 'improve the detection, monitoring, and mitigation of these' mutations, the administration explained, with the CDC tapped to allocate the funds.

One of the key methods for identifying and dealing with COVID-19 variants is called genomic sequencing. The White House explains that the funds it will make available will be put to use across the states to expand the detection and tracking of SARS-CoV-2 variants. The data will then help locations impacted by variants take steps to prevent their spread.

Past government inventions into genomic sequencing rapidly expanded the number of strains tested weekly from around 8,000 at the start of February to around 29,000 presently. The White House says that $1 billion of the funds will go towards finding and monitoring variants.

Another $300 million has been earmarked 'to build and support' what the administration calls a National Bioinformatics Infrastructure. The remaining $400 million will go to launching half a dozen Centers of Excellence in Genomic Epidemiology, which will work with universities and state health departments to develop new tracking tools and more.

Distribution of the funds will start early next month; you can see the full breakdown for each state in the White House's announcement here.