Trump Plans to End Federal Funding for COVID-19 Testing Sites as Cases Spike Across U.S.
By Jake Johnson
As Covid-19 cases continue to spike across the U.S.—the nation on Wednesday saw its largest daily increase in confirmed new infections since the pandemic began—the Trump administration is reportedly planning to cut off federal funding for 13 coronavirus testing sites in five states at the end of the month, a move that is in keeping with the president's vow to slow screenings for the virus.
Politico reported Wednesday that "the federal government is ending its support for 13 drive-thru coronavirus testing sites on June 30, urging states to take over their operations—even as cases spike in several parts of the country."
Seven of the sites set to lose federal funding and support are located in Texas, which has seen new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations skyrocket during the reopening process—a spike that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott predicted last month in a private call that leaked to reporters. Texas was one of six states that saw a record increase in new infections on Wednesday.
The other testing sites that will lose federal support next week are located in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New Jersey.
The Trump admin is cutting off federal funding for 13 community testing sites in 5 states, including one in Colorad… https://t.co/uVPXRFPX1O— Rep. Diana DeGette (@Rep. Diana DeGette)1593019329.0
Texas lawmakers reacted with alarm to the administration's plan, which was reported days after President Donald Trump said during a weekend rally in Oklahoma that he ordered a slowdown in coronavirus testing. White House officials claimed Trump's comments were made "in jest," but the president on Tuesday doubled down and told reporters that he was not joking.
"Texas continues to set records for the number of new cases and hospitalizations and Harris County leads the state in number of confirmed cases," Texas Democratic Reps. Sylvia Garcia, Al Green, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, and Sheila Jackson Lee wrote in letters this week to U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Pete Gaynor.
"Without FEMA's supplies, fiscal aid, and personnel, these sites may no longer be able to serve our communities," the lawmakers warned. "FEMA's removal in this moment would be harmful and irresponsible. We urgently ask you to extend FEMA's presence at these testing sites through August 30, 2020."
Rocky Vaz, the director of emergency management for Dallas, told Talking Points Memo that the city asked for an extension of federal support for two testing sites in Dallas County but was denied by the Trump administration.
"They told us very clearly that they are not going to extend it," Vaz said. "We are not expecting it to continue beyond June 30, but things change."
On several occasions in recent weeks, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have falsely claimed that the recent surge in Covid-19 cases is the result of an expansion of testing rather than an actual spread of the virus. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week, Trump said coronavirus testing is "overrated" and "makes us look bad."
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, demanded in a statement Wednesday that Trump immediately reverse the plan to end federal support for testing sites. On Sunday, as Common Dreams reported, Murray slammed the Trump administration for failing to spend $14 billion appropriated by Congress to expand coronavirus testing and tracing.
"The pandemic is clearly getting worse in states nationwide—and instead of trying harder to stop it, President Trump is apparently trying harder to hide it," said Murray. "It's completely unacceptable that while billions in federal dollars Congress passed to support testing sit unspent, this administration is closing testing sites in states where new Covid-19 cases are rapidly on the rise."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) echoed Murray and urged Congress to intervene to ensure that the testing sites remain open and at full capacity.
"Donald Trump can't run from the facts: Covid-19 cases are still increasing and Americans are still dying," Warren tweeted. "This is unacceptable—and Congress must act immediately to counter this reckless and inhumane measure."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
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