As much as President Trump and his band of sycophants would like us all to believe it, the coronavirus pandemic isn't over yet, nor does it seem like it'll be going away anytime soon. Still, despite the fact that COVID-19 is still raging across much of the country — in some places, worse than ever — the Trump administration is reportedly planning to end federal funding for a number of key viral testing sites, leaving local communities to foot the bill themselves.
According to Talking Points Memo, which broke the news of the administration's plan Wednesday, 13 sites across Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado, and Pennsylvania will be affected by the government's decision. Earlier this year, the administration abruptly reversed initial plans to shut down dozens of these "community based testing sites" after massive public outcry forced the government to extend its April 10 deadline for funding.
That extension, however, will end on June 30, after which it will be up to the states and cities themselves to fund the sites if they are to remain operational.
The government has indeed telegraphed its intent to shift the financial burden to keep these sites up and running onto local communities, with one official from the Federal Emergency Management Agency explaining in April that because "the FDA has given approval for individuals to self-administer COVID-19 nasal swab tests at testing sites, the demand for [personal protective equipment] and trained health care providers will significantly be reduced."
However, since then, a number of states — including, most pointedly, Texas — have seen COVID-19 cases skyrocket to record heights, highlighting the need for a robust response for which any sort of administrative hand-off could be detrimental to public health.
"The personnel, the site, the tents, the generators, the kits, the lab work, the patient notification, all of that" will soon become a local financial responsibility, Rocky Vaz, Dallas's director of emergency management, explained to TPM. Vaz estimated that the two sites slated to no longer receive federal funds could cost the city up to $130,000 to $150,000 per day if the sites hit their maximum daily testing capacity of 1,000.
Trump, meanwhile, has gone out of his way to downplay the need for coronavirus testing, bragging at his dramatically underwhelming weekend rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that he'd ordered his staff to "slow the testing down, please" in order to be able to report lower infection rates.
To date, there have been 2.3 million coronavirus cases in the United States. More than 120,000 people have died.