Today, U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, Sen. Tina Smith were joined by health expert Andy Slavitt during a briefing to discuss their bipartisan bill to create a national coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and contact-tracing strategy in partnership with states.
The measure, the Suppress COVID-19 Act would provide federal support to states working to address the virus by helping them purchase tests and testing supplies. It would also allow states to work together in interstate compacts and regional agreements to overcome challenges with the testing supply chain, such as a lack of available tests and slow turn-around for test results.
Republican Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee is also a lead author and Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D. of Louisiana is the coauthor in the Senate.
If you missed the press conference, you can watch it here.
“The path of economic recovery goes through the path of suppressing the COVID-19 virus. Right now there are shortages of testing supplies and people are waiting up to two weeks to get their test results back, these bottlenecks are making it virtually impossible to suppress the threat of the virus,” said Sen. Smith. “Our bill is a federal strategy that enables states to come together in multistate compacts to pool their purchasing power in order to get the level of testing we need to get a hold of the virus and take the necessary steps to stop it.”
“We’ve been treating the symptoms of COVID-19, not the disease. This is a cohesive strategy around testing, getting the results back quickly enough that you could meaningfully contact trace and isolate,” said Rep. Craig. “This bill will effectively address the spread if we want our local economies to get back up and running at the full strength that’s possible.
Based on research by leading public health experts, the Suppress COVID-19 Act seeks to end testing shortages and provide states with the tools they need to identify and suppress outbreaks. The legislation would set aside $25 billion for states to purchase tests and testing supplies, and it authorizes states to form interstate compacts that allow them to overcome challenges with the testing supply chain.
The Suppress COVID-19 Act also provides $25 billion to states for contact tracing and test administration.
Under the bill, states are not required to use testing dollars in the context of regional agreements; however, those that do will be eligible for part of a $5 billion set-aside from the overall testing amount. Unlike states alone, regional compacts can:
- give manufacturers of tests and supplies guaranteed contracts, providing them the certainty they need to ramp up testing capacity;
- deliver innovative tests at an affordable price, rapidly expanding the national testing arsenal;
- allow multiple states to leverage their market power to purchase tests and testing supplies at lower rates;
- protect small, rural and remote states from being crowded out of the testing market by big states; and
- distribute tests across a region to plug gaps in testing capacity.