In a move to make coronavirus cases trend downward, Trump is halting support for testing sites in 5 states. But that could have 'catastrophic cascading consequences,' health officials say.
Residents are waiting in line on June 23, 2020 at a COVID 19 mobile test site that has been set up on vacant land in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson / Getty Images
U.S. officials are seeking an increase in coronavirus cases while the federal government is ready to end support and funding for 13 test sites.
The screening locations are located in Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Colorado and Pennsylvania. TPM reported for the first time.
This decision could "have catastrophic cascade consequences" when it comes to identifying and isolating new cases, wrote Dr. David Persse of the Houston Health Department wrote to the Deputy General Surgeon.
Experts told Business Insider that frequent and widespread testing is critical because the coronavirus is still in our midst and can easily overwhelm the country's already strained healthcare system.
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Coronavirus cases are increasing in much of the American South and West.
The Trump administration is expected to end funding for 13 federal test sites in five states by the end of June, as the Talking Points memo revealed on Tuesday.
This move follows President Donald Trump's comments last week at a senior citizens' round table, arguing: "If we stop testing now, we would actually have very few cases."
He used a similar rhetoric at a rally in Tulsa on Saturday, complaining that the number of cases in the country had increased due to an overall increase in the availability of coronavirus tests. He indicated that he would respond to the growing pandemic by telling his team to "please slow down the tests."
Trump promoted this flawed logic last month.
In May, he said to Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, "So the media likes to say that we have the most cases, but we do the most tests by far. If we did very few tests, we wouldn't have the most cases. " In a way, all of these tests make us look bad. "
Seven of the sites for defusion are in Texas, where a record 10-day hospitalization rate and upward trend in new infections were recorded this week for 10 consecutive days. New Jersey and Illinois each have two facilities, and Colorado and Pennsylvania each have one, according to the TPM. Colorado is the only state that is not on the top 10 most affected states in the United States.
Despite the government's decision to discontinue federal support for these locations, some states are securing funds to keep them open. New Jersey governor Phil Murphy announced Tuesday to reporters that he had received "continued support" from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Health and Human Services for both of the state's screening sites.
"This partnership between the state, the federal government and our pharmacy chains, which has led to a significant increase in community-based test centers and which should also end on June 30, will now continue at least until the end of August. I. I am grateful for this partnership and that it continues, "said Murphy.
The loss of federal support can trigger catastrophic cascade consequences.
Officials in other states were less fortunate.
"Illinois has requested an extension for further federal support at the two federally funded Illinois test sites, but unfortunately the application was denied," said Melaney Arnold, an information officer for the Illinois Department of Public Health Business Insider in an email .
It is now up to the state to step up testing efforts and officials plan to "continue to support these sites," she added.
A woman takes a COVID-19 test on June 20, 2020 in Livingston, Montana.
William Campbell / Getty Images
In Pennsylvania, a test site at Montgomery County Community College is affected.
The officials are in the "planning phase for the establishment of six test sites throughout the district" so that the residents can continue to be examined for the corona virus. The new facilities will be "paid for under the CARES Act," county spokeswoman Teresa Harris told Business Insider.
Texas officials have also applied for an extension and are waiting for a response.
The county has had an "almost four-fold increase in hospital admissions not only in hospitals in the city but throughout Harris County since May 21," wrote Dr. David Persse, health department of the Houston Health Department, in a letter to the surgeon's office.
"The loss of federal government support for test sites will undoubtedly have catastrophic consequences for the region's ability to adequately test, quarantine and isolate new patients," which is necessary to curb transmission of the highly contagious disease, he wrote .
In Houston alone, the two sites operated by FEMA helped examine an estimated 60,000 people, Scott Packard, chief communications officer of the Houston Health Department, told Business Insider. However, with the federal government ready to withdraw next Tuesday, local officials and authorities will take responsibility for checking residents of the Butler and Delmar stadiums, Packard said.
Experts are concerned about decisions that "reduce testing in any way during this critical time."
Dr. Melissa DuPont-Reyes, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the School of Public Health at Texas A&M University, told Business Insider that an effective response to an infectious disease outbreak depends on early and widespread testing.
"Tests help curb the spread of COVID-19 and enable epidemiological and scientific efforts to continue to monitor and understand the pandemic," she said.
Tests are especially important when it comes to coronavirus, as people who don't get sick or show symptoms can still be asymptomatic carriers who spread the disease to others they come into contact with.
"We cannot estimate prevalence or spread without testing," said DuPont-Reyes.
Tests have also proven critical because the transmission of the coronavirus was "dynamic over space and time with human movement and physical proximity," she added.
"Epicentres have moved from one part of the country to another. Cases have been reported in rural, suburban and urban areas in each state. The virus does not discriminate, so it is important to continue testing everywhere," said DuPont -Reyes.
A Florida resident will be tested for the corona virus on April 30, 2020. Florida is among the 19 states that have failed to meet test standards set by the federal government or Harvard.
David Santiago / Miami Herald / Tribune News Service via Getty
For these reasons, Dr. Laura Rasmussen-Torvik, head of epidemiology at Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, is concerned about the Trump administration's recent moves.
"I am very concerned about measures that will reduce testing in any way during this critical time of the pandemic," she told Business Insider. "I am even more concerned about measures that could reduce the number of tests for racial and ethnic minorities, as these groups are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and in some cases these groups may have less access to tests via the traditional health system."
According to Rasmussen-Torvik, politics between states and even communities has changed so drastically that in some parts of the United States the number of coronavirus cases is increasing rapidly, while in others the rate of spread of the infection remains stable or decreases.
The "increased number of positive cases and the high utilization of hospital beds and intensive care resources" in states such as Texas and Arizona are worrying, said Rasmussen-Torvik, because it is possible that hospitals in the region "will soon be overwhelmed with COVID cases could result in lower quality of care for people with COVID as well as for people with other health problems. "
Without tests, nobody would know these trends, DuPont-Reyes added.
"If we stop testing and controlling the spread of infections, it is possible to exceed the capacity of our health system, which is already very thin. Healthcare workers are burned out and resources are running low," she said.
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