WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said Friday that it is giving states $1.7 billion to track Covid-19 variants.
The money, from the Covid-19 relief package enacted last month, will help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and governors monitor emerging variants by boosting the country’s capacity to sequence the virus’s genome and detect mutations, the White House said.
“New and potentially dangerous strains” of the coronavirus now make up about half of the U.S. cases, the White House said.
Laboratories around the country were sequencing only about 8,000 Covid-19 strains a week in early February, but a previous $200 million investment increased the capacity, allowing the processing of about 29,000 samples a week, the White House said. The investment announced Friday will help further that effort.
About $1 billion of the money will go toward expanding genomic sequencing to find Covid-19 mutations; $400 million will help launch six new centers to study genomic epidemiology; and $300 million will help build a national system to share and analyze sequencing data.
Health officials said last week that a highly transmissible variant first detected in the United Kingdom has become the most dominant strain in the United States.
Health officials have said the key to defeating the circulation and emergence of the variants is vaccinating as many people as possible against Covid-19. Nearly 38 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, the CDC said, and nearly a third have been fully vaccinated, according to NBC News’ vaccine tracker.