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Feb. 5, 2021, 12:55 p.m. EST

U.S. aims to spur development of 61 million at-home COVID-19 tests

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Jaimy Lee

The White House plans to contract with at least six testing companies to spur development and manufacturing of more than 60 million at-home COVID-19 tests by this summer.

The announcement was made Friday during a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing.

Here are five key takeaways:

• The Biden administration plans to award six companies with contracts to manufacture 61 million at-home or point-of-care COVID-19 tests by the end of the summer. The names of the companies were not disclosed. This is in addition to the $231 million the U.S. government plans to pay privately held testing maker Ellume , which recently received an emergency authorization for its over-the-counter coronavirus test. (That agreement was announced Feb. 1.)

• Roughly 1,000 active-duty military personnel will be deployed to five vaccination sites, including in California. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has approved the request.

• The White House is using the Defense Production Act to put Pfizer Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +1.78% at the front of the line for access to products that it uses to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines. It is expanding what are called “priority ratings” to include supplies like filling pumps. “Right now one of the factors constraining increased manufacturing of vaccines is limited equipment and ingredients,” said Tim Manning, the COVID-19 Response Team’s supply coordinator.

• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to issue new guidance about schools sometime in the next week.

• There is no data yet showing that President Joe Biden’s mask mandates have led to a reduction in cases, said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. The number of new cases and hospitalizations in the U.S. continues to decline since they hit a peak on Jan. 8. (There was a record death toll on Thursday, however.) “I do think the mask orders are helping…protect people and having those cases coming down,” Walensky said. “What is also happening is that we are coming off of the case bump from the holidays.”

The next COVID-19 Response Team briefing is set to be held Monday, Feb. 8, at 11 a.m. ET.

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