Rep. Davis Joins Letter to HHS Secretary Azar Urging Reversal of Decision to Terminate Funding for 13 coronavirus Testing Sites
Congressman Danny K. Davis joined a letter to HHS Secreatry Azar unging reversal of decision to terminate funding for 13 coronovirus testing sites. The letter can be found HERE and below.
June 25, 2020
The Honorable Alex M. Azar II Secretary
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
Dear Secretary Azar:
We write to express our serious concern over the Trump Administration’s decision to terminate federal support of more than a dozen coronavirus testing sites at the end of June. This dangerous decision appears to follow the President’s instruction to “slow the testing down,” but it will only make it harder to stop the spread of the virus and save American lives. In light of the record-breaking surges in new infections across the United States—which come after the Administration pushed states to reopen last month—the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must make every effort to ensure adequate testing capacity, especially in states hit hardest by the outbreak. The federal government should dramatically increase testing—not abandon testing centers.
On June 22, 2020, the Administration announced that its support for 13 community testing centers in Texas, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania will end on June 30.1 This decision comes at a critical juncture in our country’s fight against the coronavirus. Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this week that the country is seeing a “disturbing surge” of new cases and “the next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges.”2 Yesterday’s total of more than 38,000 new cases in the United States in a single day was the highest total in the pandemic so far.3
Texas—where the Administration is withdrawing support from seven testing centers4—is currently experiencing one of the worst outbreaks in the country, with nearly 5,500 new cases and more than 4,000 hospitalizations reported on June 23. Despite pleas from local officials to maintain federal funding during the surge in cases, federal officials have refused to alter their closure plans.5 At least one testing center in Dallas has already announced it will be forced to close next week due to the loss in federal funding.6
The Administration’s plan to end federal support for testing sites has drawn bipartisan criticism. Both of Texas’s Republican Senators have called for the federal government to continue supporting these testing sites, with Senator Cornyn stating, “I believe that they need to extend that federal support in Texas, at least until we get this most recent uptick in cases addressed.”7
HHS’s announcement comes as President Trump has repeatedly expressed strong opposition to testing, stating at a recent political rally, “I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down please,’” and writing on Twitter: “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 showfewer cases!”8 As the Select Subcommittee wrote to you earlier this week, no American should go untested because the President fears an accurate count of coronavirusinfections.9
Public health experts have urged government officials for months to increase the number of coronavirus tests being conducted each day in order to detect outbreaks and control the spread.10 It is inexcusable that at this critical time, the United States federal government—the only entity with the resources, authority, and expertise to implement testing at the massive scale needed—is instead taking steps to slow testing down.
We urge you to immediately reverse this devastating decision and to quickly and efficiently ensure that all communities have the federal resources they need to conduct robust coronavirus testing.
1 Feds About to Bail on Supporting COVID Testing Sites in Texas and Other States, Talking Points Memo (June 23, 2020) (online at talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/exclusive-feds-about-to-bail-on-supporting-covid- testing-sites-in-texas-and-other-states).
2 Fauci, Top Health Officials Warn of COVID-19 Surge, Contradict Trump on Testing, Washington Post (June 23, 2020) (online at www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/06/23/fauci-testimony-coronavirus-house/).
3 New Coronavirus Cases in the U.S. Soar to Highest Single-day Total, Washington Post (June 24, 2020) (online at www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/06/24/coronavirus-live-updates-us/).
4 Feds About to Bail on Supporting COVID Testing Sites in Texas and Other States, Talking Points Memo (June 23, 2020) (online at talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/exclusive-feds-about-to-bail-on-supporting-covid- testing-sites-in-texas-and-other-states).
5 As Dallas COVID Cases Rise, 2 of the City’s Testing Sites Will Lose Federal Funds, Fort Worth Star- Telegram (June 24, 2020) (online at www.star-telegram.com/news/local/dallas/article243746952.html); Local Leaders Beg for Help from Trump Administration as FEMA Funding for 4 Houston-Area Testing Centers to End June 30, KPRC (June 24, 2020) (online at www.click2houston.com/news/local/2020/06/24/local-leaders-beg-for-help-from-trump-administration-as-fema-funding-for-4-houston-area-testing-centers-to-end-june-30/).
6 As Dallas COVID Cases Rise, 2 of the City’s Testing Sites Will Lose Federal Funds, Fort Worth Star- Telegram (June 24, 2020) (online at www.star-telegram.com/news/local/dallas/article243746952.html).
7 Coronavirus: Federal Government Will End Funding for 13 Community-based COVID-19 Test Sites, Most in Texas, CNBC (June 24, 2020) (online at www.cnbc.com/2020/06/24/coronavirus-federal-government-to-end-funding-some-covid-19-test-sites.html).
8 Trump Says He Wasn’t Joking About Testing Slowdown: “I Don’t Kid”, CBS News (June 23, 2020) (online at www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-slow-down-testing-coronavirus-i-dont-kid/); Donald J. Trump, Twitter (June 23, 2020) (online at https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1275381670561095682); Trump on Coronavirus: ‘If We Stop Testing Right Now, We’d Have Very Few Cases, If Any’, The Hill (June 15, 2020) (online at thehill.com/policy/healthcare/502819-trump-on-coronavirus-if-we-stop-testing-right-now-wed-have-very-few- cases); Trump: Coronavirus Testing May Be ‘Overrated’ and Reason for High U.S. Case Count, Politico (May 14, 2020) (online atwww.politico.com/news/2020/05/14/trump-coronavirus-testing-high-case-numbers-259524).
9 Letter from Chairman James E. Clyburn, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, to Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (June 22, 2020) (online at https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/ democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020-06-22.Clyburn%20to%20Task%20Force%20re%20Testing.pdf).
10 Public Health Experts Warn the U.S. Lacks Resources to Contain the Coronavirus, National Public Radio (June 18, 2020) (online at www.npr.org/2020/06/18/880513711/public-health-experts-warn-the-u-s-lacks-resources-to-contain-the-coronavirus).