The federal government has set aside 30 million additional COVID-19 tests to ensure that long-term care facilities continue receiving testing supplies throughout the first quarter of 2021, officials said Thursday.

The additional allotment will allow the Department of Health and Human Services to keep providing Abbott BinaxNow tests “on a routine basis” to skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities, hospice organizations, and other vulnerable groups through at least March, said Assistant Secretary Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D.

Aside from unexpected outbreak situations that require surge testing, allocation of this 30 million stockpile will be based on transmission levels in each county. This is similar to the red-yellow-green needs-based strategy used to allocate tests in late 2020, Giroir said.

“We want to continue to support the most vulnerable … until we see a clear signal that it’s not a problem in that population,” Giroir said. “I would have no reason to believe that the incoming administration would change that,” he added.

There is also flexibility to expand beyond the 30 million, changing course as needed as new data arrives, he concluded.

The pledge to set aside additional tests for long-term care is part of a larger strategy to continue supplying states and territories with test equipment and support throughout the first quarter, and likely beyond, Giroir said.

The new allocation to long-term care providers is in addition to 50 million tests sent directly to congregate care settings earlier this year. That initiative was an adjunct to distributing 100 million tests to state governors in September for use as they saw fit. 

In related news:

FDA authorizes Abbott BinaxNow telehealth home test for symptomatic patients One day after it approved the nation’s first fully at-home COVID-19 test for over-the-counter retail sale, the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday cleared a second coronavirus home test made by Abbott Laboratories. The BinaxNow COVID-19 Ag Card rapid test is available through a telehealth provider, who will determine eligibility and provide guidance. Unlike the newly approved Ellume COVID-19 Home Test, Abbott’s test requires a prescription and is for symptomatic patients only, the company said. The test will cost consumer $25 — reflecting the cost of telehealth guidance. The same tests were sent in kits to nursing homes starting this fall in a nationwide infection control initiative.