The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Dallas County continues to rise, but the city's two drive-thru test sites are set to lose federal funding at the end of the month.
Texas is one of five states — the others are Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado and Pennsylvania — to have this funding cut, affecting 13 sites across the country.
Seven of those sites are in the Lone Star State, which previously requested an extension for the funding passed June 30. The request was denied, but Dallas officials say they have a plan to keep the testing going. The two local sites, at American Airlines Center and Ellis Davis Field House, opened in March and have had the capacity to test 500 people per day.
"We have been talking to many partners. We are working with vendors to have a seamless transition for testing at our two community-based sites," Rocky Vaz, director of the Office of Emergency Management, said in a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday. "That will continue July 1 and people will not see a difference in the level of service that we provide to continue to do the testing."
Vaz also said Dallas was partnering with the state and hopes to announce more testing sites in the next couple of weeks.
Dr. Kelvin Baggett, COVID-19 health and healthcare access czar, said testing is a community issue that necessitates a community response.
"This does require us to consider our neighbors and, therefore, that's what fed into our testing strategy and the way we're deploying tests going forward — what we're calling our 'neighborhood testing strategy," Baggett said at the press conference.
With this strategy, Baggett said the focus is on the accessibility of testing.
"We went through a variety of criteria to better understand that," Baggett said. "We looked at where do we have the highest risk population, where do we see the highest number of cases, where we're also lacking in available testing and how we promote accessibility."
At President Donald Trump's Tulsa rally last weekend, he told his supporters that his administration plans to slow down testing. Trump said in a tweet this week that the country's increase in COVID-19 cases is the result of increased testing. With fewer tests, there would be fewer cases reported, he said.
On Wednesday, The Democratic Coalition, a Super PAC founded in 2016, filed a complaint against Trump, the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services regarding what they say is intentional prevention, slowing, delaying, hampering and obstruction of testing for COVID-19.
"Intentionally delaying testing during this pandemic is mass murder, a criminal conspiracy against the United States, violates the [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations] Act and violates other state and federal laws," the complaint, filed with the HHS' inspector general, says.
On Tuesday, nearly 5,500 new cases were reported in Texas — another single-day record. Since the beginning of the month, COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 88%, according to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council. On Wednesday, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said there is a massive outbreak in the state and urged people to stay home.
"The numbers are not moving in the right direction," he said. "It's just becoming increasingly clear that we are not doing a great job on wearing masks and doing the things we need to do and we have to turn this around now."
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.