Diagnostics, Policy

HHS gives rural clinics $225M to ramp up Covid-19 testing

The announcement comes as researchers have noted that the pandemic has begun shifting from urban centers like New York to rural areas of the country. The U.S. continues to lead the world in SARS-CoV-2 infections, with more than 1.5 million cases as of Thursday.

Clinics in rural areas of the country will receive more than $200 million in order to increase access to testing for Covid-19, the Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday.

The department said it was providing $225 million through the Health Resources and Services Administration to more than 4,500 rural health clinics across the country in order to support their testing efforts. Rural health clinics, or RHCs, are healthcare practices in underserved areas, as designated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The funding, which amounts to nearly $50,000 per clinic, is being provided through the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law on April 24.

Large cities like New York have been the main hot spots for the pandemic, with nearly 200,000 people in the city infected, though the infection rate has been reported to be on the decline. Overall, the U.S. has by far the largest number of people infected, which has surpassed 1.5 million, while the second worst-hit country, Russia, has more than 317,000 cases. However, the rate of infection has begun to rise in rural areas as well, with The Washington Post reporting earlier this month that almost nine of every 10 rural counties in the U.S. how has at least one Covid-19 patient, with rural counties now seeing a raise in new daily cases, while the New York City metropolitan area’s numbers are declining, and other urban centers are past their peak.

“Today’s funding provides rural health clinics with resources and flexibility to boost their testing capabilities to fight Covid-19,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “Further expanding testing capacity, including at RHCs, is a crucial element of safely reopening our country and helping American sreturn to work and school.”

The department’s announcement stated that the funding being provided to RHCs can be used for a “wide range” of testing for Covid-19 and related expenses like planning for implementing a testing program, procuring supplies, training providers and staff on how to perform testing and reporting data to HHS.

Photo: Mark Wilson, Getty Images