NEW YORK – US Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-New Jersey) sent a letter Friday to the US Department of Health and Human Services asking the agency to release state COVID-19 testing plans to Congress.
The Energy and Commerce Committee chairman said in the letter that he believes a national testing strategy is the most effective approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, which conflicts with the HHS and White House's decision to defer most of the testing strategy to individual states.
Under the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which passed the Senate in April, required states, localities, territories, and tribes receiving federal funding for COVID-19 testing to submit to HHS their plans for testing and goals for the remainder of 2020 . The deadline for submission for May and June plans was May 30, and the deadline for plans for the remainder of 2020 was June 15, although some states and localities have requested additional time to respond.
"This provision was intended to ensure the federal government has a full understanding of the testing capacity and ongoing testing needs of each state and locality," Pallone wrote. This full understanding would allow the federal government to coordinate with local partners to increase testing capacity and access, he continued.
Testing plans are required to include the number of tests needed month by month, estimates of laboratory and testing capacity month by month, and a description of how the jurisdiction will use its resources for testing.
This information is necessary to "ensure that the testing levels and goals are being met and the testing capacity and supply needs have been attained," Pallone wrote.
Pallone requested the state and local testing plans be provided to the Energy and Commerce Committee by July 6.