“We know there are people who are sick and not getting tested. The more testing we have in the community, the better.”
The Trump administration is ending funding for 13 coronavirus testing sites in five states next week, despite the surge of coronavirus cases across the country. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas, Illinois, and Colorado will lose federal dollars and support for their local testing sites on June 30.
Talking Points Memo first reported the news Tuesday.
In March, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency set up 41 community-based testing centers nationwide to shoulder some of the financial burden for cities and states staggering from the financial repercussions of the pandemic, while boosting testing capacity. These 13 are the last remaining sites.
Health experts and public officials expressed dismay at the impending closures as the country braces for a second wave of infections.
As of Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 82,696 cases of coronavirus in the state—an increase of 510 from the day before. And COVID-19 infections are again increasing in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, with 45 new cases over the weekend. Shuttering the state’s last-remaining community-based testing site, at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, could affect many.
“We know there are people who are sick and not getting tested,” Allegheny County Health Department Director Debra Bogen told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The more testing we have in the community, the better.”
Texas, where cases are spiking, stands to lose seven centers. The city of Dallas requested that the federal government extend funding beyond June 30 for their centers. They were refused.
“Cases are continuing to rise in Dallas County, and we want to continue with the testing,” Rocky Vaz, the director of emergency management for the city of Dallas, told TPM. “They told us very clearly that they are not going to extend it.”
The Trump administration previously attempted to end support for community-based testing sites in early April, but backtracked when faced with public outrage. They instead extended the sites, but the extension is drawing to a close. The government will continue offering COVID-19 testing at federally qualified health centers.
President Trump tweeted his displeasure with expanded testing Tuesday, writing: “Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding. With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”