Washington, D.C. — At a U.S. Senate Health Committee hearing this morning focused on safely reopening our communities, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Committee, questioned health officials about the federal government’s ongoing testing efforts.
Senator Collins highlighted the harmful effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Maine jobs and small businesses tied to the tourism industry. Current regulations require out-of-state visitors to receive a recent negative COVID-19 test before entering Maine. However, when hotel owners in Maine surveyed testing sites in 10 states, they found that 90 percent of requests for a test for travel purposes were denied.
“This lack of access to tests is devastating for reopening Maine’s tourism businesses. One inn keeper told me that last year, in the month of June, she had an occupancy rate of 94 percent; this year it was 6 percent,” said Senator Collins. “Given the impact on reopening schools, and on jobs in the tourism and other related industries, how is the federal government working with states to better match demand for testing with supply and to overcome these geographic variations?”
“We have worked individually with every single state to determine what their state testing needs are, how are they organized in the context of CDC, and we are supplying them with the supplies they need to meet that. So, every week, shipments of the basic supplies go to every single state according to their state testing plans, “replied ADM Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources. “For example, the state testing goals for July or somewhere across the country, about 13.9 million test is our first line goals and we will match those state by state.”
The public health leaders also provided an update on how agencies within the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are working to assist states and communities reopen by supporting testing; speeding the research, development, and manufacturing of new tests, treatments, and vaccines; and providing public health guidance and other support to states.