- The Trump administration originally planned to cut federal support for some coronavirus testing sites after Friday, according to CNN.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency has helped run dozens of “community-based testing sites” as states scramble to ramp up testing efforts. Some sites are now transitioning to state-managed operations, CNN reported.
- The anticipated cuts came as some governors continue to spar with the Trump administration over the provision of testing kits and critical medical supplies.
- While testing in some states has scaled up in recent weeks, the US still lags far behind other countries at a time when public-health experts are saying widespread testing is critical.
- However, the White House reversed course on Thursday following bipartisan pushback by lawmakers, according to new reporting by NPR.
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Update (9:52 p.m. ET): The White House on Thursday reversed its decision to cut federal resources for testing sites, according to NPR. A bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote a letter opposing the federal pullback to Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services, apparently prompting the change in plans. Some of the information below may no longer be current.
The Trump administration is cutting federal support for coronavirus testing sites and prompting states to take control of them, according to CNN.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has helped states create and run “community-based testing sites,” or CBTSs, by providing nasal-swab testing kits, financial support, personal protective equipment, and other resources. But a number of sites are now reportedly transitioning to state-managed operations, and some are closing down entirely.
“Many states have already begun transitioning these programs, and other states have implemented testing sites based on the CBTS model,” a FEMA spokesperson told Business Insider in an emailed statement. “Transitioning fully to state-managed operation creates an opportunity for the states to better serve their own communities, while leveraging federal support to augment their state’s success.”
States that transition “can choose to source testing kits and supplies through their standard ordering process or to request assistance from their FEMA Region,” according to a policy the agency updated following the initial publication of this story.
The community-based testing sites were meant as only a temporary effort to jump-start testing in parts of the country hit hardest by the pandemic, CNN reported the agency said. However, some testing sites will be closed, apparently as a result of the change in federal support, including locations in Pennsylvania and Colorado, NPR reported — two states where cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, continue to grow.
“While I’m grateful to have had federal and state support for our successful community-based testing site, I am understandably disappointed that the supplies and the federal contract for lab testing are ending just as we are heading into the surge here in southeastern Pennsylvania,” Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners, reportedly told CNN.
The decision by the Trump administration to withdraw federal support was met with criticism from some, given that it comes as public-health experts say widespread testing is critical. The US has managed to increase testing capacity recently — with nearly 2.2 million tests completed nationwide — but efforts still lag in many areas, including some with widespread outbreaks.
“The idea of cutting funding to testing in any way right now? We should just be ramping up as much testing as humanly possible,” Phil Petit, the national director of the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics, told Business Insider.
Even though the US missed its chance to contain the coronavirus by not testing enough people early on, experts say the country still needs to test as widely as possible, not just to isolate and treat those who are sick but also to find people who have recovered and may have developed immunity.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Wednesday that his playbook for preparing the US for future waves of COVID-19 infections, which could come after lockdowns lift, depends on the US developing its capacity for widespread testing, contact tracing, and case isolation.
“The keys are to make sure that we have in place the things that were not in place in January, that we have the capability of mobilizing identification — testing — identification, isolation, contact tracing,” Fauci said.
Government agencies have been criticized for rolling out testing and isolation policies too slowly. Errors and delays in producing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus test led to dangerous shortages, and decisions about lockdowns have been left to states in piecemeal fashion.
Several governors have also sparred with the administration over the federal government’s response to the virus, criticizing the lack of a coordinated response, testing kits, and critical medical supplies.
Morgan McFall-Johnsen and Dave Mosher contributed reporting to this story.
This story has been updated with new information. It was originally published at 4:08 p.m. ET.