Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn (R-TX) demanded in a Thursday letter that the Trump administration keep supporting drive-through testing sites in their state, calling the sites “critical to Texas’ testing capacity.”
The letter — addressed to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Pete Gaynor — asks the Trump administration to keep the free, drive-through sites open and not to “place that burden on the state while COVID-19 cases are rising.”
The letter comes after TPM first reported that the Trump administration would let support for the sites lapse at the end of the month. State and local officials in Texas have expressed outrage over the move, as the state faces down an outbreak of COVID-19. Cornyn and Cruz joined them Wednesday, voicing their opposition to the administration’s plan in statements to the press.
Seven of the thirteen sites are in Texas, and the looming end of support will mean that the Trump administration will cease to provide personnel, testing kits, and contracts with laboratories and call centers for patient notification.
Instead, HHS and FEMA envision the cost of running testing to move to the states — what Cruz and Cornyn describe in Thursday’s letter as a “burden.”
“Testing capacity remains a crucial component to reopening the economy and ultimately defeating this disease,” the pair wrote.
The move comes as states and cities buckle under the weight of lost tax revenue, and are already looking to cut services. The Trump administration’s plan to transition the sites from federal to state control could exacerbate that burden, forcing cities and states to pull from a limited pool of CARES Act funding that has already been granted to them.
Legacy Community Health, a Texas health care system that has been testing for COVID-19, described the lapse of support for the sites as “extremely concerning.”
“We, at Legacy, have been trying to keep up with the demand for testing, but we have reached the limits of our capacity and the need for testing will be amplified if FEMA pulls out of these sites,” the statement to TPM reads. “This is not the time to scale down testing; it is time to support our work in the community.”
In addition to Cornyn and Cruz, Texas officials across the board have pressured the Trump administration to reverse itself and extend support for the sites, set to expire on June 30.
“Now is not the time to end federal support of a program that is working and successfully increasing testing capacity — especially for underserved communities in the state,” Cruz and Cornyn wrote. “I am confident that that the State of Texas and local governments are capable of assuming control of the drive-through sites without interruption, but 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.”
Read the letter here: