The City of Dallas said it wants to continue COVID-19 testing at Community Based Testing Sites (CBTS) like at the American Airlines Center and Ellis Davis Field House, but said the federal support will come to an end on June 30.
The federal government has provided funding for seven sites in Texas, two of which are located in North Texas.
Last month local leaders asked for an extension when the threat of funding was looming at that time, and the federal government granted the request until June 30.
Because of the second wave, local leaders said it's important to continue the service. The two sites provide about 1,000 tests a day.
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At a news conference on Wednesday, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson urged people to wear masks as the number of cases and hospitalizations continue to climb and, "headed in the wrong direction."
Rocky Vaz, the director for the Office of Emergency Management also spoke and touched on the federal support ending at the end of the month.
"We have known this for a while but we continue to advocate, the mayor did, several of our elected official's delegation continue to advocate, we still have seven more days before the support ends," Vaz said.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn told reporters, "Now is not the time to retreat from our vigilance in testing."
A spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said he believes testing is crucial to protecting public health and helping the economy get back on its feet.
Health and Human Services said in a statement, "The federal government is not ending funding or support for COVID-19 testing sites," but rather transitioning resources to retail pharmacies.
In regards to local leaders stating that funding is coming to an end, in a statement, The Assistant Secretary for Health, ADM Brett P. Giroir, M.D., said:
"On the contrary, we have expanded from the original 41 sites to over 600 in 48 states and the District of Columbia in the federal bundled payment program to pharmacies, and enabled over 1400 additional pharmacy sites through regulatory flexibility empowering pharmacists and facilitating billing and reimbursement. In addition, 93% of all Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) offer COVID-19 testing; thousands of sites. HHS will continue to increase testing capacity overall, and make it more accessible especially to undeserved communities. The only truthful, but still misleading report in the media, is that we are transitioning 13 sites from the original now antiquated program to the more efficient and effective testing sites outlined above. All 13 sites were provided an extra 30 days from the original transition date in May, and I personally spoke with Governors from all 5 states involved, and/or their leadership designees, who agreed that it was the appropriate time to transition out of the original 13 sites and into the thousands of new testing options.”
HHS said there are 600 locations for the retail pharmacy COVID-19 testing sites. The government said the extension of the CBTS lasts until Aug. 30, and more than $550 million has been given to Federally Qualified Health Centers to extend coronavirus testing through it.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said they've asked the federal government to provide the reagents so the county can perform its own lab tests.
"These are the chemicals that run in their machines and kits so that they (the federal government) would no longer be responsible for doing the lab work, but they'd get us the chemicals so that we could do our own lab work at Parkland and UT Southwestern," said Jenkins. "That would be our preference of a continued partnership, that will allow us to do more tests and get the results back faster."
Jenkins said if the federal government refuses to do that, they're asking them to continue the partnership now given the second wave.
In the meantime, the county and city are working together to find a vendor to provide testing near the American Airlines Center and Ellis Davis Field House.
"We’re going to need to get new sites because those buildings need to be used for their intended purpose, but it won't be far away. It will be at the University of Dallas and in south Dallas we're finishing up negotiations," Jenkins said.
Aiming testing to places where people are most affected by COVID-19 which the judge said are people who are uninsured. He said they also tend to be people who work at restaurants and grocery stores.
Jenkins said there are two walk-up sites at Red Bird Mall in South Oak Cliff and Pleasant Grove.
"In Dallas County, here are some numbers to put this into perspective, if you're Hispanic then 664, thus far per one-hundred thousand have gotten sick with COVID, compared with only 43 Anglo non-Hispanics," Jenkins explained. "Compared to being black, If you're black, you're a little more than three times as likely to get COVID statistically based on whose gotten it so far."
He and the mayor said they're working on more testing sites in underserved communities.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.