The Trump administration announced it would rescind funding for thirteen federal COVID-19 test sites in five states—Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Texas--even as the U.S. sets a daily record for number of cases. Texas is among states experiencing a sudden resurgence of cases, recording between 5500 and 6500 new cases on June 24, the highest numbers ever. Yet the state is losing funding for seven federal drive-thru testing sites.
“The federally supported testing sites remain critically needed, and in some place like Houston and Harris County, TX and in other hotspots, are needed now more than ever,” Scott Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, told Politico.
In April, FEMA put forward a press release detailing a plan to transition from federal to state testing with Community-Based Testing Sites. Initially, this included 41 test sites. The federal government would still provide financial support for state efforts to provide testing to citizens, allowing “the opportunity for the states to better serve their own communities, while leveraging federal support to augment their state’s success."
Giroir told NBC News in a statement that the new model will expand partnerships with over 600 private retail and pharmacy partners and up to 1400 additional sites to provide localized testing:
“HHS will continue to increase testing capacity overall, and make it more accessible especially to underserved communities,” he said. “We are transitioning 13 sites from the original now antiquated program to the more efficient and effective testing sites.”
They will continue to operate, but under local jurisdiction instead.
CVS Health announced 44 new drive-thru testing sites in Texas slated to open on Friday, along with eight additional rapid-response testing sites with community partners. The company's President and CEO, Larry J. Merlo, pointed to CVS's ability to expand testing in local communities nationwide:
“One of our greatest strengths as a company is our local presence in communities across the country, which enables us to uniquely expand people's access to safe and effective COVID-19 testing options and respond to a need for increased testing capacity.”
Some Texas officials are skeptical of the state’s capacity to take over COVID-19 testing. Director of emergency management for the City of Dallas, Rocky Vaz, told Talking Points Memo that the city has requested an extension for federal testing sites to remain in operation beyond the June 30 shutdown date. The request was denied.
Dallas County records the second-highest infection numbers in the state, just behind Harris County in Houston, TX.
Cases up only because of our big number testing. Mortality rate way down!!! https://t.co/bKFmgOLEGZ— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2020
Texas Senators Ted Cruz (R) and John Cornyn (R) have also opposed the Trump administration’s move.
“I know there’s concern, concern I share, over some of the statements being made about withdrawing federal support for coronavirus testing in Texas at the end of June. It’s pretty clear to me, and I think it’s clear to all of us, that with the uptick of cases, now is not a time to retreat from our vigilance in testing,” Cornyn said.