Trump administration grants funding extension for Texas testing sites

The Trump administration will grant five community-based coronavirus testing sites in Texas a 14-day funding extension after pushback from federal and local officials.

“Federal public health officials have been in continuous contact with our public health leaders in Texas, and after receiving yesterday’s request for an extension, have agreed to extend support for five Community-Based Testing Sites in Texas,” Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said in a statement. 

The administration has been under pressure from GOP senators and local Texas officials after announcing earlier this week its intent to stop funding 13 sites across several states and transition them to state control.

HHS said it will assess the need for further federal support “as we approach the extension date.”

While the transition may have been planned, coronavirus cases are surging in Texas; hospitals are nearing capacity, and on Friday Gov. Greg Abbott (R) closed all bars in the state and imposed restrictions on outdoor gatherings. 

Texas has reported more than 5,400 new coronavirus cases on each of the last three days, setting successively higher one-day records.

On Thursday, Texas GOP Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down GOP lawmakers join social media app billed as alternative to Big Tech GOP senators push back on Trump administration plan to end support for testing sites MORE and John CornynJohn CornynThe right way to end qualified immunity GOP senators push back on Trump administration plan to end support for testing sites Trump faces ObamaCare court deadline as political ground shifts MORE sent a letter to HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) protesting the administration’s plans.

“Now is not the time to end a program that is working and successfully increasing testing capacity — especially for underserved communities in the state. Due to the recent rise of COVID-19 cases in Texas, cities need additional time to prepare for the transition to state and local control of the testing sites,” the lawmakers wrote.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) also urged the administration to reverse its decision, saying that keeping the federal sites open will pull limited resources away from other sites that also have to be open during the current surge. 

In announcing the reversal, HHS said it will provide “additional resources to assist the state of Texas to prepare for the upcoming transition to these five locations becoming fully state-run testing sites.” 

Giroir, the administration’s COVID-19 testing czar, defended the move on Wednesday, telling reporters the sites were not being abandoned, and the amount of testing will not decrease.

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