C.D.C. Announces $200 Million ‘Down Payment’ to Track Virus Variants


Dr. Gregory Armstrong, the director of the Advanced Molecular Detection Program, mentioned in an interview that his workforce got here to the conclusion in January that sequencing from 5,000 to 10,000 samples every week could be an excellent short-term goal.

“It’s the starting point,” Dr. Armstrong mentioned. “The more we sequence above that, the more quickly we’ll be able to pick up these variants.”

At a White House information convention later that month, Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, acknowledged how troublesome reaching that aim could be.

“We are 43rd in the world in genomic sequencing — totally unacceptable,” he mentioned, citing December knowledge from the GISAID database. In a subsequent interview, he corrected himself, saying that the U.S. was behind 31 different nations.

In the early days of the administration, Dr. Walensky spoke of an preliminary aim for the C.D.C. of sequencing 7,000 genomes a month. Since then, the labs haven’t come shut to that determine.

The company’s National Genomic Surveillance Dashboard confirmed that they logged simply 96 genomes within the week of Feb. 6. The following week, the determine rose to 1,382 genomes. Dr. Walensky’s new goal of 25,000 genomes every week would require a major enhance.

Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, mentioned placing $200 million rapidly into monitoring variants was a welcome improvement prematurely of what she hoped could be longer-term enhancements. “Time is of the essence,” she mentioned. “An initial investment to expand genomic surveillance while the supplemental funding package comes together is a smart move.”