Members of the Texas congressional delegation on both sides of the aisle are asking the Trump administration to reconsider its decision to halt direct funding to several coronavirus testing sites in the Lone Star State, where there has been a surge of Covid-19 cases.
Lawmakers from the state, including Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, say they do not understand why the federal assistance is being pulled as their state sees more and more coronavirus cases.
“Frankly, I didn’t understand what they were thinking,” Cornyn told CNN on Thursday.
In a joint letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor on Thursday, Cornyn and Cruz urged the administration “to grant an extension of the program for the testing sites in Texas,” which they said are “critical to Texas’ testing capacity.”
A transition away from these federally funded sites began in April, but the latest debate over federal funding comes after President Trump on Saturday lamented the rise in coronavirus cases in the US, blaming increased testing.
The federally funded testing program was intended to jump-start initial capabilities in critical areas across the US, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But given Food and Drug Administration approval for individuals to self-administer nasal swab tests at sites, the demand for personal protective equipment and trained health care providers will be reduced, a FEMA spokesperson said in a statement in April, when the administration began its transition away from the program.
A Health and Human Services spokesperson confirmed to CNN that the 13 Community-Based Testing Sites, seven of which are in Texas, would no longer receive direct funding.
What other Texan lawmakers are saying: Speaking to CNN’s Jim Sciutto, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat from Texas, said that given the spike in Covid-19 cases, the state “clearly opened too fast and too soon.”
Gonzalez noted that Texas reported nearly 6,000 cases yesterday and said his district in the Rio Grande Valley had a 700% increase just in the last 30 days.
Gonzalez decried reductions of federal funding for testing.
“That would be reprehensible to imagine that we would be cutting tests at a time when our pandemic is increasing in leaps and bounds,” Gonzalez said. “I hope that the President follows CDC recommendations, listens to Senator Cruz and Senator Cornyn and the rest of us, assuring that testing is robust, that it is widespread, that it is available. It is the only way we are going to get this under control.”