June 24, 2020 / 4:35 PM / 22 days ago

Trump administration defends defunding COVID testing in Texas, four other states

FILE PHOTO: A person walks next to a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing site, which was closed due to inclement weather, in Houston, Texas, U.S., June 22, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

(Reuters) - The Trump administration said on Wednesday that it would no longer directly fund 13 of its original coronavirus testing sites in five states, saying states were allocated money for testing by the federal government last month.

U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir said in a call with reporters that the 13 sites were those left among 41 sites the agency set up when the new coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year, before moving on from the “antiquated” program to newer testing programs.

NBC reported on Wednesday that funding and support for the sites in Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado and Pennsylvania as well as Texas would end June 30.

Giroir called the NBC report misleading and said there are thousands of testing options.

President Donald Trump has lamented the rising U.S. coronavirus cases and sought to put the onus on increased testing, which he said makes the United States look bad.

He told a weekend political rally that he asked for testing to be slowed down, something White House and top U.S. health officials have said was not requested. Giroir said on Wednesday that he had not been asked to slow testing, which he expects to rise to at least 40 million to 50 million tests per month by the fall.

Giroir added that he had spoken to leaders of the five states, noting they had agreed “it was the appropriate time to transition” to other options. He said the states could use the more than $10 billion allocated last month to support testing to keep the sites open if they chose to.

The federal government fully funds a newer testing program with 600 sites in pharmacies and other health care settings and also pays the test costs of a third program run with CVS Health Corp at 1,000 locations, he said.

(This story was refiled to fix typographical error in headline)

Reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington, Caroline Humer in New York; additional reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Editing by Franklin Paul, Richard Chang and Marguerita Choy

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