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FEMA asks states to consider transition from federal COVID-19 testing sites

Healthcare professionals with Children's National Hospital collect specimen samples for COVID-19 testing at a collection facility on the campus of Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C., on April 2. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI
Healthcare professionals with Children's National Hospital collect specimen samples for COVID-19 testing at a collection facility on the campus of Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C., on April 2. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo

April 9 (UPI) -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency has requested that states determine whether they will transition federal coronavirus testing sites to state-run locations, citing improvements to available testing kits.

In a statement released on Thursday, FEMA said it requested that states make a formal decision on whether they would prefer to assume full control of the so-called Community Based Testing Sites.

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"The federal CBTS Task Force is working with states to clarify whether sites want to continue as they are now, or transition to full state control. Under state control, CBTS sites would still receive technical assistance from the federal government and be able to request supplies through the normal FEMA systems," FEMA said.

The sites, established by FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services, have tested more than 77,000 individuals to date, the agency said.

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FEMA added, however, that advancements to testing, including the validation of self-swabbing tests, have reduced the need for trained health professionals and personal protective equipment at these sites.

"As a result of these advances, many states have indicated that they want to fully transition the CBTS to state control, allowing more flexibility in testing and reporting," FEMA said. "Many states have already begun transitioning these programs and other states have implemented testing sites based on the CBTS model."

Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., wrote on Twitter she was relieved the state would be able to continue federal funding after sending a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar saying the state's lone community testing site would close without it.

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During a briefing by the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence said that states including Colorado, Illinois, Lousiana, New Jersey and Texas have asked for the federal government to continue support.

"We want to ensure people in communities throughout the country, that we'll continue to partner with states to the extent that they prefer us to be a part of it," Pence said.

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