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Schumer pushes the federal government for more at-home COVID tests

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
Jacquelyn Martin
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants more federal funding to be available to send free, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests to New York. Schumer’s home state is trying to curb a recent spike in coronavirus cases and prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.

“I am urging a surge of these at home tests,” said Schumer, “They should be distributed to community health centers, they should be distributed by mobile vans, and given free when a person wants a test.”

“The more testing we have, and the quicker we have, the better we can deal with Omicron, that’s what the experts tell us,” he said.

Last week, President Biden announced a plan to expand reimbursement for at-home rapid test purchases and increase distribution to community health centers and rural clinics. Schumer asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to make access to the tests as easy and as soon as possible.

Rapid tests provide results within about 15 minutes. The tests are also available over the counter at CVS and Walgreens.

Parents can now use over-the-counter, at-home COVID test results as evidence to keep their children in school. New York updated guidance last week for school children who have been exposed to COVID-19, but test negative and don’t have symptoms. Previous guidelines said any child who was exposed to the virus had to quarantine away from school.

The state also purchased 1 million rapid COVID antigen tests that will be available to schools.

Schumer said he wants the at-home tests to arrive at community centers before January 15. This is when the federal government is expected to issue guidance on insurance reimbursement for test kits.

In Connecticut, some parents are concerned over a similar change in state COVID-19 guidance. It now also allows students to stay in school after being exposed to the virus if they test negative. A state survey found 83% of school districts in Connecticut have implemented or plan to implement the program.

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.