Home panel approves $ 300 million for COVID testing in Michigan schools and funding for monoclonal antibodies

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With new cases of COVID-19 reaching their highest levels yet, lawmakers in Michigan are starting to shift to federal aid to help health systems and public schools better manage the pandemic.

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday put forward a $ 1.2 billion COVID spending plan that allocates $ 300 million for testing in public schools and $ 109.4 million to set up eight regional sites for them. monoclonal antibody treatments of infected people.

The bill also contains $ 150 million to help the healthcare industry recruit and retain staff and $ 367 million in federal funds to expand epidemiology and laboratory capacity for all COVID tests. 19 in the state.

The administration of Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been asking the Republican-controlled legislature since last spring to appropriate the $ 300 million for COVID tests in schools.

The money was originally intended to be used for the reopening of schools in August and September, but was stuck in state coffers because the legislature did not allow the Whitmer administration to use it. .

As part of the spending plan, schools could obtain COVID test kits through the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators or be reimbursed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for the test kits.

Rapid tests for COVID before children and teachers enter school could help reduce the number of days students and staff spend in quarantine, leading to lost learning for children and shortages of workforce in schools, Calley said.

“My own school district offers a test opportunity to stay, and our child is taking advantage of it,” Calley said. “It was exceptional. Instead of remaining isolated because they had been exposed, they were able to test, wait 15 minutes, find out they were negative, go to school and continue to learn.”

Funding for monoclonal antibody mass infusion treatment centers across the state includes funding for medical staff to staff regional sites, said Representative Julie Calley, R-Portland.

Regional sites for monoclonal treatment could be existing infusion centers, plasma donation facilities, nursing homes and other medical care facilities.

“This infrastructure that already exists can be extended to fulfill this role,” Calley said.

The legislature’s new injection of COVID relief funds comes as administrators at state hospitals report a continued rise in the number of new patients testing positive for the virus. The vast majority of them are not vaccinated, according to hospital administrators.

Nearly one in five hospital beds in Michigan are occupied by a COVID patient, according to state data.

On Monday, hospitals reported a record 4,419 COVID-positive patients, a record for the pandemic.

Hospitals also reported nearly 2,300 emergency room visits related to COVID the day before. Typically, these patients are sent home if they are not sick enough to be hospitalized.

Michigan’s seven-day average number of new COVID cases fell to 7,366 on Monday, from a peak of 8,615 on Friday.

The $ 100 million jar for antibody treatments could also be used for Pfizer’s COVID antiviral pill or “whatever is approved to fight this virus,” Calley said.

Under the bill, medical providers will be able to become a regional site for monoclonal antibody infusions based on eligibility criteria “which cannot be more stringent” than federal government rules, Calley said.

The $ 1.2 billion COVID spending bill also contains $ 90.2 million for vaccine distribution by the state health department.

This pot of money, however, is “not for marketing, education, outreach and other community engagement strategies,” according to an analysis of the bill by the House Fiscal Agency.

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