HOUSTON — U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn sent a letter to Health and Human Services and FEMA urging continued federal support for community-based COVID-19 testing sites in Texas.
The senators sent the letter Thursday addressed to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Pete Gaynor urging them to continue the federal support for sites in Texas as testing capacity remains a crucial component to defeating COVID-19, strengthening the economy, and safely getting Texans back to work.
In the letter, they wrote:
“Texas is currently experiencing a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases. In the last two weeks, daily new cases, the overall positivity rate, and hospitalizations in Texas have all increased. Some of the state’s largest cities—where these CBTS sites are located—are experiencing single-day records of new cases.
“Now is not the time to end a program that is working and successfully increasing testing capacity—especially for underserved communities in the state. Due to the recent rise of COVID-19 cases in Texas, cities need additional time to prepare for the transition to state and local control of the testing sites.”
The letter from the senators comes a day after a Houston delegation of lawmakers requested that the federal funding be continued past the June 30 cutoff date.
Those lawmakers say removing supplies, money, and people from four testing sites in Harris County would be “harmful and irresponsible." They want federal partners to stay through Aug. 30.
Dr. David Persse, Houston’s public health authority, made the same plea in a letter to the deputy surgeon general.
Mayor Sylvester Turner is vowing to keep the city’s two federally-supported testing sites at Delmar Stadium and Butler Stadium open no matter what happens.
“Just those two sites alone, over 60,000 people have been tested, and they are maxing out before noon every single day now,” Turner said. “They are hugely important. Now, we would love for FEMA to continue providing the resources and supporting those two sites, but if not, then the responsibility will fall on the city, working in conjunction with the Texas Department of Emergency Management.”
Stephen Williams, director of the Houston Health Department, said the city is also talking with organizations on whether they’d be willing to take on some or all of the functions at those two sites.
If none of those options work out, Turner says they’ll pull resources away from other testing sites, like mobile sites.
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