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Trump administration to stop funding 13 COVID community test sites

Record-breaking spike in new COVID-19 cases
Record-breaking spike in new COVID-19 cases 03:33

The Trump administration is ending federal funding of 13 coronavirus community-based test sites in five states on June 30, a senior Health and Human Services Department official told CBS News, after having extended the funding once because states said they were not prepared to take over the sites. The HHS official stated that the administration isn't "defunding" or "closing" federal testing sites — the money was provided to states through the Paycheck Protection Program to fund their testing efforts.

The assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services maintains that the federal government isn't ending support for COVID testing sites and that in fact, testing has been growing.

"On the contrary, we have expanded from the original 41 sites to over 600 in 48 states and the District of Columbia in the federal bundled payment program to pharmacies, and enabled over 1400 additional pharmacy sites through regulatory flexibility empowering pharmacists and facilitating billing and reimbursement," Admiral Brett Giroir said in a statement. 

But Giroir said that 13 sites whose funding is expiring have yet to transition from "the original now-antiquated program to the more efficient and effective testing sites." 

He also said that he had personally spoken with the governors of the five states involved, and added that these leaders agreed that it is "the appropriate time to transition out of the original 13 sites and into the thousands of new testing options."

However, seven of the 13 testing sites are in Texas, which is seeing a "massive" COVID outbreak, according to Governor Greg Abbott. In light of the surge in cases, GOP Senator John Cornyn of Texas urged the White House Wednesday to revisit its decision and extend federal funding for the community-based sites.

"I know there's concern, concern I share, over some of the statements being made about withdrawing federal support for coronavirus testing in Texas at the end of June. 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," Cornyn said in a statement. "I believe that they need to extend that federal support in Texas, at least until we get this most recent uptick in cases addressed."

Giroir told a House panel Tuesday that the U.S. is conducting around 500,000 tests per day, with the expectation that 40 to 50 million tests will be conducted per month by the fall.

President Trump said last week that he ordered his administration to slow down testing, calling testing a "double-edged sword." He doubled down on the statement on Tuesday.

But Giroir said Tuesday that he has not received a directive from the White House to slow testing.

"Neither the president nor anyone in the administration has instructed or suggested that we should do less testing," Giroir said. "And we are proceeding in just the opposite [direction]. We want to do more testing, of higher quality."

Weijia Jiang, Ben Tracy and Alan He contributed to this report.

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