June 26, 2020

Duckworth Joins Reps. Garcia and Schakowsky As They Lead IL Delegation In Urging Trump to Continue Funding COVID-19 Testing Sites

 

[Washington, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) as they led Illinois delegation members in a letter to President Trump urging him to continue funding COVID-19 testing sites. The administration previously announced it would stop funding coronavirus testing sites in five states including Illinois.

 “From the man who says, ‘I don't kid,’ Trump is showing us exactly what he means when he says he wants to slow down testing—by actually doing it,” said Senator Duckworth. “This week our nation witnessed some of the biggest spikes in new COVID-19 cases since the beginning of this public health crisis and the Trump Administration’s reaction was to pull the plug on federal funding for multiple testing sites in Illinois and other states that desperately need it. We know that testing can save lives and this move—because Trump cares more about how the numbers of cases look than the well-being of his fellow citizens—is going to put more American lives at risk.”

“Sufficient testing has lagged from the start, and Black and Brown communities like the ones I represent have been hit the hardest. Working class, immigrant, and minority families are testing positive and dying at disproportionately higher rates. The virus hasn’t suddenly gone away which underscores the need to ensure testing is readily available. The last thing we should do is cut federal funds to support states as they expand their testing capacity. Trump’s decision is yet another display of this president’s utter lack of leadership and competence--both during this crisis and throughout his presidency,” Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García said.

“No matter what President Trump may suggest, our country’s first and foremost public health response must be testing, testing, testing if we have any chance of slowing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “We will not allow him to strip away support for testing in our communities without using the power of the legislative branch to fight for the health and safety of the people of Illinois.”

“The Trump Administration’s decision to cut off federal funding for COVID-19 testing sites in Illinois is foolish. During a time when expanded testing is critical to conquering this virus and re-opening our economy, President Trump’s decision defies common sense,” Senator Durbin said.

“Testing is critical to identify, effectively implement contact tracing, and ultimately slow the spread of COVID-19. In order to mitigate the public health threat that the virus poses, we must ramp up our testing capacity in hotspots, especially as states reopen and experience spikes in new cases. Rising cases over the past two weeks indicate that our country is failing to contain COVID-19,” the Members write.

The letter is also signed by U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, and Representatives Cheri Bustos, Sean Casten, Danny K. Davis, Bill Foster, Robin Kelly, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Dan Lipinski, Mike Quigley, Bobby L. Rush, Brad Schneider, and Lauren Underwood.

The text of the letter is below and a signed copy can be found here.

Dear President Trump:

We write to express deep concerns with your Administration’s announcement to end federal funding for testing sites in five states, including the State of Illinois.[i] The COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate communities across our state and infections continue to spike nationwide. We urge you, in the strongest terms possible, to reverse this decision and instead increase, not rescind federal support for testing sites and testing capacity as Americans continue to die in record-high numbers during this pandemic.

Testing is critical to identify, effectively implement contact tracing, and ultimately slow the spread of COVID-19. In order to mitigate the public health threat that the virus poses, we must ramp up our testing capacity in hotspots, especially as states reopen and experience spikes in new cases. Rising cases over the past two weeks indicate that our country is failing to contain COVID-19. On Tuesday, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, unequivocally stating that the United States is far from controlling the spread of the virus.[ii]

U.S. testing capacity has been a problem since the beginning of the crisis. To date, we lag behind other countries as we have only been able to test 9 percent, or 30 million people, in total over the last three months.[iii] Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir has said, “HHS will continue to increase testing capacity overall, and make it more accessible especially to underserved communities.” However, pulling funding from community-based testing sites directly undermines that claim.[iv] Once implemented, your inexplicable decision to close two of our state’s community-based testing sites strips away 500 tests per day from our constituents.[v] Though Governor Pritzker’s Administration is already making provisions to ensure other sites can increase their capacity, it will cost our state nearly $70,000 a day to perform and process these additional tests at a time when the state budget is extraordinarily tight and while your Administration has failed to disburse nearly $14 billion in funds approved by Congress for the purposes of COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.[vi]

It is your duty to lead and implement effective strategies to address and support states through this crisis. These proposed funding cuts represent a dereliction of that duty. While the State of Illinois has flattened the curve of COVID-19, our communities continue to have alarmingly high infection case-positivity rates. Without the support of the Administration, many states and local governments—including ours—may not have the resources or capacity to undertake the challenges of this pandemic.

Your Administration’s efforts to reduce testing are irresponsible and will ultimately lead to more deaths. Lack of testing will not make the virus disappear; it will only exacerbate our current public health crisis. We urge the administration to rescind its decision to end funding and instead support COVID-19 testing sites across the country.

Sincerely,

CC:     The Honorable Alex M. Azar II

Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

 

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