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Federal government to end funding of 13 test sites, but 'not support,' official says

The Trump administration is ending direct funding of the COVID-19 testing sites, but Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir says they'll still get resources.

WASHINGTON — The federal government will stop direct funding for 13 community-based COVID-19 testing sites, more than half in Texas, by the end of June. 

The Trump administration had already announced it months ago as part of a plan to support broader community testing nationwide and encourage more partnerships with pharmacies for testing.

Seven of the 13 sites are in Texas, where there has been an increase in coronavirus cases, while the others are in Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

NBC News and other outlets report that Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for the Health and Human Services Department and the Trump administration’s testing czar, told reporters on Wednesday the amount of testing won't decrease. 

“We are not withdrawing federal support” for coronavirus testing Giroir said during a call by the department, but "providing federal support in a different way.” He said hundreds of other sites are providing tests with federal money and will still get supplies. He said the 13 sites will stay open under state and local control.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said he believes the federal government needs to extend support in Texas at least until the recent surge in cases is handled.

"It's pretty clear to me, and I think it's clear to all of us, that with the uptick of cases, now is not a time to retreat from our vigilance in testing," the Republican from Texas said.

Credit: AP
Brett Giroir, U.S. assistant secretary for health, is seen during a break during a House Committee on Energy and Commerce on the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP)

A spokesman for the other Republican Texas senator, Ted Cruz, told NBC News that he's also urging health officials to continue the community testing sites in the state.

The Hill reports that local officials have also asked the administration to reconsider. David Persse of the Houston Health Department sent a letter to Deputy Surgeon General Erica Schwartz seeking for federal support to continue through August. 

"Losing the support of the federal government for testing sites will undoubtedly have catastrophic cascading consequences in the region's ability to adequately test, quarantine and isolate, ultimately blunting the progression of COVID-19," he said.

Roll Call reports that the U.S. is doing between 15 million and 20 million tests per week, with the goal of conducting between 40 million and 50 million this fall.

As confirmed cases have been declining steadily in early hot spots like New York and New Jersey, several other states set single-day records this week, including Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma. Some of them also broke hospitalization records, and North Carolina and South Carolina have as well. Florida’s single-day count rose to a 25% increase from the record set last week.

President Trump has held rallies drawing hundreds of people inside event spaces in two of the hot spot states, appearing Tuesday in Phoenix and in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday.

More than 2.3 million U.S. coronavirus cases have been confirmed, more than any other country, according to the Johns Hopkins University count

The Associated Press contributed.

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