- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Patty Murray claimed the Trump administration has been sitting on nearly $US14 billion designated to fund coronavirus testing and contact tracing.
- Schumer and Murray penned a letter Sunday to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, demanding action be taken in distributing the funds, which were part of the coronavirus package that Congress approved back in April.
- According to a statement from the top Democrats, the Trump administration has “still failed” to distribute $US8 billion of the funds, while the CDC has not used nearly $US6 billion designated to fund contact tracing efforts and provide free testing to those who are uninsured.
- The letter came after Trump’s remarks about testing at a campaign rally Saturday, in which the president called testing a “double-edged sword” and claimed he told his staff to “slow down” testing. A White House official later claimed the president was joking.
- At least six states saw record single-day increases since the pandemic began, and experts have reiterated that testing and contact tracing are the key to safe reopening.
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Top Democratic senators accused the Trump administration of sitting on nearly $US14 billion in funds for testing and contact tracing months after it was initially appropriated in April.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Patty Murray penned a letter Sunday to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar regarding the funds, which were part of the $US25 billion designated back in April to fund testing and contact tracing.
“While it has been months since these funds were first appropriated, the Administration has failed to disburse significant amounts of this funding, leaving communities without the resources they need to address the significant challenges presented by the virus,” they wrote.
According to a statement, the senators said the administration has “still failed” to distribute more than $US8 billion for testing and contact tracing.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention also still has yet to use $US4 billion in contact tracing funds, and “very little” of the $US2 billion appropriated for free testing for the uninsured has been spent, they said.
Schumer and Murray, the ranking member on the Senate Health, Education, Labour, and Pensions Committee, called on Azar and the Trump administration to put the funds to use and expand testing and contact tracing capabilities in the US.
“We call on you to immediately disburse the remainder of the $US25 billion in funds to ramp up testing and contact tracing capacity,” the senators wrote in the letter, “as well as to make sure providers are aware of and able to easily access the $US2 billion that Congress appropriated to provide testing for the uninsured.”
The letter came after Trump’s remarks about testing at a campaign rally Saturday, in which the president called testing a “double-edged sword.”
“When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases, so I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please,'” Trump said at the rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
It is not immediately clear if the president made the order, but a White House official later claimed the president was joking when delivering his comments about testing at the rally.
The US is seeing upticks in total new cases in multiple states, with at least six states seeing record single-day increases since the pandemic began. Experts have been urging that testing and contact tracing are the key to safe reopening, regardless of when it happens.
Danielle Allen, director of the Edmond J. Safra Centre for Ethics at Harvard University, co-authored detailed guidance, titled “Pandemic Resilience: Getting It Done,” on the necessary levels of testing and tracing to safely reopen communities.
Allen previously told Business Insider that so-called “rushed” reopenings shouldn’t be blamed for the rise in cases; rather, it should be blamed on the lack of a cohesive testing and contact tracing infrastructure.
“Most states have reopened with a mitigation strategy in place rather than a suppression strategy,” Allen told Business Insider, “and our view is that this is a mistake because it does not provide a sufficiently secure foundation for full opening and fully stable opening.”
Allen continued: “Basically what matters is that you need to be able to do enough testing to trace the chains of transmission and break the chains of transmission in order to suppress the disease and to get prevalence back down to near zero.”
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