On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Sec. Alex Azar, as well as all 50 governors, requesting information on the status of the cost-efficient and widely-available rapid coronavirus tests that the federal government has distributed to all states.
Dear Secretary Azar:
Thank you for your continued work to fight the coronavirus pandemic and keep Americans safe and healthy. Ending this virus requires a large-scale, coordinated effort among federal and state governments to provide every resource necessary to safely reopen the economy. As governor of Florida for eight years, I understand the unique challenges states face as we navigate and coordinate this public health emergency.
We must do everything possible to fully reopen our nation’s economy and get Americans back to work and school. Our nation’s testing capacity has greatly increased and the Trump administration is making great progress with therapeutics and vaccine development. However, it is clear we have not beaten this, and there is more we must do at all levels of government, especially when it comes to testing capacity.
Testing is key to reopening the United States and ending the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the state Departments of Health have worked together on real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic testing and antigen test distribution to ensure tests are widely available to Americans. However, Congress has not received information on how these antigen tests have been used. We must make every effort to ensure rapid tests are widely available to Americans. Therefore, I write to ask:
What federal funds, and how much, were allocated for the states to assist in testing? What portion of these funds have the states already accessed? How much is still available?
How many rapid antigen tests for coronavirus has the federal government provided to the states? What type of tests were they? If the tests are provided on an ongoing basis, how many tests does each state receive per tranche?
Does HHS possess information regarding how each state has used those rapid tests? Do the states report this data? Is there a penalty for not reporting?
What are the metrics HHS uses for determining a successful utilization of rapid antigen tests?
What are the metrics that HHS uses for determining a successful state PCR testing strategy?
What are the metrics HHS uses for the states to determine if they are meeting coronavirus testing goals? If these metrics exist, what happens if a state fails to meet these goals?
Does HHS actively share best practices between states, or between the federal government and states?
I appreciate any information you can provide as we continue to work to end the coronavirus. Americans deserve transparency and as much information as possible from every level of government so they can make the best decisions to keep their families safe.