Burr questions HHS over COVID-19 test shortage

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, at Capitol Hill in Washington. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — North Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and another U.S. senator penned a letter to express frustration with the current status of COVID-19 test shortages nationwide.  

Burr, who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, along with U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, urged U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to detail the Biden administration’s strategy for solving the nation’s shortage of COVID-19 tests.  

The senators said the need to clarify the administration’s plan comes as coronavirus cases driven by the omicron variant continue to skyrocket. 

Sens. Burr and Blunt noted that the nation is facing a shortage of COVID-19 tests despite Congress having provided more than $80 billion over the last two years for the administration to improve, expand and distribute tests and testing-related capabilities. 

“With over $82.6 billion specifically appropriated for testing, and flexibility within the Department to allocate additional funds from COVID-19 supplemental bills or annual appropriations if necessary, it is unclear to us why we are facing such dire circumstances now. It does not appear to be because of lack of funding, but a more fundamental lack of strategy and a failure to anticipate future testing needs by the administration,” the senators’ letter read. 

“As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that Congress, and the American people, have an understanding of the administration’s strategy and accounting of how the Department is using taxpayer funding,” they added. 

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Matt Mercer is the editor in chief of North State Journal and can be reached at [email protected].