Admiral Brett Giroir headshot
Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D., assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The federal government will send more than 421,000 rapid-results antigen COVID-19 tests to assisted living communities this week, Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D., assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced Monday at a press conference.

Those tests are part of a larger effort that will see the distribution or sending to the stockpile of more than 8 million of the Abbott BinaxNOW tests. Of the total, more than 1.99 million of the point-of-care tests will be sent to nursing homes, 336,000 will go to home health and hospices, more than 3.99 million will be sent to governors and states, and more than 394,000 will go to historically Black colleges and universities, Giroir said.

“As of last week, we have distributed over 50 million of these tests to protect the vulnerable in nursing homes, assisted living, home health, tribes, historically Black colleges and universities, and to provide an unparalleled resource to our nation’s governors to keep schools and universities open and provide immediate testing for first responders in critical infrastructure,” he said.

Giroir said that federal officials are encouraged by the recent news regarding the apparent effectiveness of potential COVID vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna as well as therapeutic treatments from Eli Lilly.

“We now understand that the endgame for this pandemic is in sight, but we are now still in a critical and dangerous time with cases rising across the country, hospitalizations approaching peaks that were reached in mid-summer and, tragically, deaths also increasing,” he said.

If Americans “double down” on public health measures now, he said, thousands of lives can be saved and further societal disruption can be avoided. Such measures, proven in the United States and around the world, Giroir added, include testing (of those who have symptoms and targeted surveillance testing for those who do not) but also physical distancing, avoiding crowds, wearing masks, practicing good hand hygiene and cleaning surfaces.

“If the above steps are taken, there is no need to ‘shut down’ communities, workplaces and schools,” Gioir said. “Such total shutdowns are no more effective and risk the lives of additional thousands of Americans because of mental illness, suicide, substance abuse, lack of preventative care and medical care, and economic hardship.”

Reporting by Danielle Brown.