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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sending more than $600 million to state and local governments to help with testing to identify new cases of the novel coronavirus, as officials weigh when to begin steps to reopen their economies.
The CDC is awarding $631 million to 64 jurisdictions through the existing Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases cooperative agreement.
The funds, which come from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed last month, could help states with their efforts to reopen amid the coronavirus crisis.
“This infusion of additional funding into the nation’s public health infrastructure will strengthen our capacity to implement tried and true containment measures,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement Thursday. “The ability to implement aggressive contact tracing, surveillance and testing will be fundamental to protecting vulnerable populations as the nation takes steps to reopen and Americans begin returning to their daily lives.”
Redfield said the CDC will use existing networks to reach out to state and local jurisdictions to access the new funding, which may be used for establishing or enhancing the ability to aggressively identify new cases of COVID-19, conducting contact tracing and implementing appropriate containment measures.
The funds are also expected to help to improve “morbidity and mortality surveillance,” as well as enhancing testing capacity, controlling the novel coronavirus in high-risk settings and protecting vulnerable or high-risk populations.
“This new funding secured from Congress by President Trump will help public health departments across America continue to battle COVID-19 and expand their capacity for testing, contact tracing, and containment,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.
He added: “As we look toward re-opening the economy, the work of these dedicated public health officials is only going to get more important, and the Trump Administration and CDC will be working right alongside them to assist.”
The additional funding to states comes after President Trump and governors across the country agreed on a set of guidelines titled “Opening Up America Again.”
“We can begin the next front in our war, which we are calling 'Opening Up America Again,'" Trump said during a press briefing at the White House. "To preserve the health of Americans, we must preserve the health of our economy.”
"We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time," Trump said, adding that the guidelines were "based on hard verifiable data.”
He added: "Some states will be able to open up sooner than others.”
The Trump administration's guidelines outline what individuals, businesses, health care workers and more should do over three phases in reopening the economy, with states only making it to the first phase if they see a decrease in the number of cases within their borders over 14 days.
The guidelines, which pass the decision on when to move to each phase to governors and local officials, are a reversal for Trump on comments made earlier that indicated he wanted to be the one deciding when the stay-at-home orders and business closures would lift.
The announcement of funding also comes as some governors and mayors of large cities have called for more funding from the federal government to enhance their testing capabilities.