- The Trump administration is ending federal support for coronavirus testing sites on Friday, according to CNN.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency has helped run “community-based testing sites” as states scramble to ramp up testing efforts, which are now transitioning to state-managed operations, CNN reported.
- The cutting of resources comes as governors continue to spar with the Trump administration over the provision of testing kits and critical medical supplies.
- While testing in some states has scaled up in recent weeks, the US still lags far behind other countries at a time when public health experts saying widespread testing is critical.
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The Trump administration will end federal support for coronavirus testing sites on Friday, according to CNN, forcing states to take over the operations and provide their own kits.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been helping states run so-called “community-based testing sites” by providing nasal-swab testing kits, financial support, and other resources. But those sites are now transitioning to state-managed operations.
“Many states have already begun transitioning these programs, and other states have implemented testing sites based on the CBTS model,” a FEMA spokesperson told Business Insider in an emailed statement. “Transitioning fully to state-managed operation creates an opportunity for the states to better serve their own communities, while leveraging federal support to augment their state’s success.”
States that transition “can choose to source testing kits and supplies through their standard ordering process or to request assistance from their FEMA Region,” a FEMA spokesperson told CNN, adding that the CBTS program was only meant as a temporary effort to jumpstart initial testing in parts of the country hardest-hit by the pandemic.
However, some testing sites will be closed as a result of federal support drying up, including locations in Pennsylvania and Colorado, NPR reported, even as those regions see the virus spread.
The decision by the Trump administration to withdraw federal support was met with criticism from some, given that it comes as public health experts say widespread testing is critical. The US has managed to increase testing capacity recently — with nearly 2.2 million tests completed nationwide — but efforts still lag in many areas, including some with widespread outbreaks.
“The idea of cutting funding to testing in any way right now? We should just be ramping up as much testing as humanly possible,” Phil Petit, national director for the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics, told Business Insider.
Even though the US missed its chance to contain the coronavirus by not testing enough people early on, experts say the country still needs to test as widely as possible, not just to isolate and treat those who are sick, but also to find people who have recovered and may have developed immunity.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Wednesday that his playbook for preparing the US for future waves of COVID-19 infections, which could come after lockdowns lift, depends on the US developing its capacity for widespread testing, contact tracing, and case isolation.
“The keys are to make sure that we have in place the things that were not in place in January, that we have the capability of mobilizing identification — testing — identification, isolation, contact tracing,” Fauci said.
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Government agencies have been criticized for rolling out testing and isolation policies too slowly. Errors and delays in producing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus test led to dangerous shortages, and decisions about lockdowns have been left to states in piecemeal fashion.
Several state governors have also sparred with the administration over the federal government’s response to the virus, criticizing the lack of a coordinated response, testing kits, and critical medical supplies.
Morgan McFall-Johnsen and Dave Mosher contributed reporting to this story.