Coronavirus: In reversal, HHS rules community testing sites can opt to keep federal funding, support

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reversed course Thursday, announcing community-based novel coronavirus testing sites across the country can continue to receive federal funding.

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In partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the HHS announced local authorities can now opt to maintain federal oversight and assistance or transition to state control which would still include federal technical assistance as well as supply requests through traditional FEMA channels.

“We want to assure people and communities all across the country that we’ll continue to partner with states to the extent that they prefer us to be a part of it,” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said during Thursday’s daily coronavirus task force briefing, noting New Jersey, Louisiana, Illinois, Colorado and Texas already requested "continued federal participation.”

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According to NPR, the drive-through testing sites are part of FEMA’s Community-Based Testing Sites program, and their transition to state control was devised to “ensure each state has the flexibility and autonomy to manage and operate testing sites within the needs of their specific community and to prioritize resources where they are needed the most,” an HHS representative said in a prepared statement.

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Meanwhile, the HHS called the community-based testing to date a “profound success,” with more than 84,000 people screened, more than 77,000 tested and only about a 20% positive rate for those receiving tests, The Washington Post reported.