Feds: Oh, You Wanted Us To NOT SHUT DOWN TESTING SITES? Well If You Feel So Strongly About It
Video screenshot via Project Baseline

The Department of Health and Human Services yesterday announced that it would drop a plan to defund local coronavirus testing sites, after NPR and other outlets called attention to the fact that multiple test sites would be forced to close today, resulting in national outrage, at least from people paying attention. Yr Wonkette is happy to take credit for shaming the government into reversing its idiotic decision, which would have pulled funding for the "Community-Based Testing Sites (CBTS)" program even as cases continue to rise and the nation's testing capacity is still far short of what's needed.

And it's only slightly hilarious that, in announcing the reversal, HHS continued with the happy managerial-speak that it used to justify pulling the funding in the first place. As we noted yesterday, HHS and FEMA spokespeople said that ending funding on April 10 (that's today!) was merely a "transition" to state and local funding that would give the states more "flexibility" and "autonomy," and that the loss of funding was an "opportunity" for states to "better serve their own communities" — by going it alone without any icky federal funds that would keep the testing sites open. So hey, no surprise that HHS's reversal is being framed as a "choice," hooray:

the agency says local authorities can choose whether they want to transition to running the programs themselves or continue with federal oversight and help.

Aww, how nice it is to have a choice! At least now it's an actual choice, so yay.

In a conference call with press outlets yesterday, Adm.Brett Giroir, HHS's assistant secretary for health, explained that NO WAY was anyone going to be forced to lose the testing sites that were absolutely facing closure today.

"The federal government is not abandoning any of the community-based test sites. I want that to be loud and clear" [...]

Under the community-based testing site program, the federal government supplies expertise, testing materials, protective equipment and lab contracts to local authorities at 41 sites.

Giroir says the program has been successful, testing more than 77,000 people so far, mostly health care workers and first responders. He says results show about 20% of those tested were infected with the coronavirus.

Yep, that really does sound like it was a successful program (which had been slated to be left without a penny of federal support as of today — gosh, we can't seem to stop reminding you of that).

The CBTS program had been put into place by HHS and FEMA as a temporary "stop-gap" to get at least some coronavirus testing out there while hospitals and local health departments got their own testing programs going. Of course, as Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, it also constituted the closest thing the federal government had to a national testing program of any kind. So hooray for keeping the halfassed federal program going while states and hospitals continue to struggle to get enough testing done!

So yes, the funding will continue, for now. It probably helped that a bipartisan group of Congress members from Pennsylvania sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar calling for restoration of the funding; the cuts would have caused the closure of two testing centers in the Philadelphia area. As of yet, however, we haven't seen how long the federal funding for CBTS will actually continue, and the feds still haven't shown any interest in a national plan for testing.

Instead, we still have a "president" who considers questions about inadequate testing "horrid," because reporters should instead be praising the wonderful job he's doing, even though he doesn't have to, since testing isn't the government's job at all:

Golly, we're such negative nellies, still grumping about Donald Trump's refusal to take national action. You'd think we'd be more grateful that the axe didn't fall on this one small effort, but here we are, pointing out that the official position, from the head of the federal government, is that there is no federal government in a pandemic:

Hospitals can do their own testing, also. States can do their own testing. States are supposed to be doing testing. Hospitals are supposed to be doing testing. Do you understand that? Listen. We're the federal government; we're not supposed to be standing on street corners doing testing. They go to doctors. They go to hospitals. They go to the state. The state is a more localized government. You have 50 of them.

We just don't know what's wrong with us.

[NPR / Rolling Stone / Video screenshot via Project Baseline]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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