The Trump administration announced plans on Friday to maintain multiple coronavirus testing sites in Texas after a bipartisan group of lawmakers and county officials rejected plans to suspend federal support.
In a statement, the Department of Health and Human Services said it had granted a two-week extension to support five sites that were scheduled to transition to state control on June 30.
On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced plans to deliver 13 sites to multiple states, as part of an effort to transition the national testing strategy to localized sites, such as pharmacies and retail stores, run by state and local health authorities. with subsidies.
“There is no reason a bulky parallel system should occur that is not locally responsive when states can take over these,” Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health tasked with coordinating coronavirus testing, said Wednesday.
But the move, which the Department of Health and Human Services said was made after consulting with the governors of the respective states, drew criticism from lawmakers from both parties.
Tune in to ABC at 1 pm ET and ABC News Live at 4 pm ET every day of the week for special coverage of the new coronavirus with the entire ABC News team, including the latest news, context, and analysis.
In Texas, which reported a record 5,996 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, Republican Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz called for a reversal of the government’s plans.
“Now is not the time to end a program that is working and successfully increases testing capacity, especially for underserved communities in the state,” they wrote Thursday in a letter to HHS and the Federal Agency for the Management of Emergencies.
In an interview with ABC News the Friday before the administration’s policy change, House Democrat James Clyburn, DS.C., chairman of the House selection committee that oversees the government’s coronavirus response, called it the decision to prematurely suspend some test sites.
“To get involved in this process, we must do tests, tests, tests,” he said. “It is a bit foolish to remove or remove test sites in the midst of this pandemic.”
Giroir said on Wednesday that the government still plans to support testing in these states, including the supply of swabs, reagents and other supplies.
He said the federal government had established the 41 sites at the beginning of the pandemic as a stopgap measure until local doctors, pharmacies and other retail sites could take over.
In Colorado, a community testing site in Puebla is still scheduled to close June 30, a spokesman for the Colorado State Emergency Operations Center told ABC News, while another site in Grand Junction had already closed and transferred the remaining supplies to the state.
The spokesperson noted that Colorado “has vastly increased access to testing across the state,” including in private sector locations.
In Texas, Harris and Dallas County officials confirmed to ABC News that the community-based sites would continue to operate beyond June 30, even if the federal government were to request support.
Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health, said federal support would allow the county, which includes Houston, to release resources to improve testing capacity in other areas, including communities of color with services insufficient.
“Any support we can get from a federal and state level will only increase what we can do here locally,” he said.
In Dallas, Mayor Eric Johnson said he was “encouraged and relieved” by the extension, which he had requested earlier this month.
The federal government had been providing the ability to perform 2,000 tests a day in Dallas, where the largest county reported 496 new cases on Friday.
The city said it would still close one federal test site after June 30 and that it would work to double the capacity of the other to 1,000 tests a day. It has also signed a contract with a private provider for a new site that will collect up to 500 tests per day.
What to know about the coronavirus: