The Trump administration plans to cut funding for 13 Covid-19 testing sites in five states, including seven sites in hard-hit Texas, according to multiple reports this week. The other sites facing a loss of federal funding are in Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado and Pennsylvania.
The testing sites were set up during the initial response to the coronavirus pandemic, but federal officials have decided not to extend funding for them beyond June 30. Responsibility for operating the sites will be transferred to the states.
The Trump administration has downplayed the withdrawal of funding, with testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir telling reporters that it is “providing federal support in a different way,” including hundreds of other federally funded testing sites.
Even so, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), whose home state is experiencing what Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called a “massive outbreak” of the disease, is pushing back on the decision. A Cruz spokesperson told NBC News that the senator “has urged and will continue to urge [health officials] to extend the community testing sites in Texas.”
The decision to withdraw funding comes as President Trump has claimed that he told officials to slow down testing in order to reduce the number of detected cases. Lawmakers have criticized the president’s comments, including some Republican senators. “No, no, no. We need tests and we need … millions of them, tens of millions of them, especially when we start opening up this fall,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said when asked about slowing down testing.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on Wednesday charged that the funding withdrawal is driven by Trump’s desire to reduce the case count.
“The pandemic is clearly getting worse in states nationwide—and instead of trying harder to stop it, President Trump is apparently trying harder to hide it,” Murray said in a statement. “It’s completely unacceptable that while billions in federal dollars Congress passed to support testing sit unspent, this Administration is closing testing sites in states where new COVID-19 cases are rapidly on the rise. The President should reverse this clearly counterproductive step immediately.”