Thursday, April 09, 2020

Feds end support for state testing, but plan new program for smaller cities and towns that haven't been heavily hit yet

The coronavirus crisis has been worsened by the lack of testing, which has been especially scant in rural areas, but federal officials plan to end support for it tomorrow, and that means some sites will close, local officials told Jeff Brady of NPR.

However, the Trump administration "is developing plans to get the U.S. economy back in action that depend on testing far more Americans for the coronavirus than has been possible to date, according to people familiar with the matter, Mario Parker reports for Bloomberg. "The effort would likely begin in smaller cities and towns in states that haven’t yet been heavily hit by the virus. Cities such as New York, Detroit, New Orleans and other places the president has described as 'hot spots' would remain shuttered."

The Department for Health and Human Services told NPR, "The transition will ensure each state has the flexibility and autonomy to manage and operate testing sites within the needs of their specific community and to prioritize resources where they are needed the most." Federal support for testing was intended as a stopgap, but states have relied on it to "help prop up their own testing efforts in the absence of a national coordinated testing strategy," Matt Steib writes for New York magazine, and he argues that more testing would help Trump reopen the economy:

"Expanded coronavirus testing should be a priority, as it will help determine just how high mortality and hospitalization rates really are — two variables that, because they remain in the dark, have required countries to implement all-systems shutdowns. Most likely, increased testing and serology testing — which determines if coronavirus antibodies are in patients’ blood, showing they’ve been exposed to the virus — would prove that hospitalization and mortality rates are far lower than originally anticipated. That good news, if proven by comprehensive testing, could then help determine a date to safely open the economy."

However, the crisis will peak at different times state by state, and it will largely be up to governors to scale back social-distancing measures that have tanked the economy. "It isn’t clear that they will respond if Trump urges Americans to resume normal business practices and socializing before the outbreak abates," Parker writes.

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