In a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville; Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo; and Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, urged the Texas Governor to make more diagnostic testing available in South Texas.
The U.S. Representatives implored Abbott to provide COVID-19 testing kits at South Texas hospitals, medical centers and drive-thru testing sites in “South Texas communities,” according to a news release.
Vela acknowledged the disaster declaration Abbott made late last week allowing for emergency mechanisms to kick in, but he and the other congressmen are asking for more action from the governor.
“In order to get ahead of this worldwide pandemic, offering drive-thru mobile testing sites could help decrease the spread of COVID-19,” Vela said. “I commend Governor Abbott’s disaster declaration last week which will allow the state to invoke emergency measures. South Texas remains vulnerable to the spread of the virus due to a lack of testing kits available in our region. The State of Texas must act immediately to establish regional testing locations in the Rio Grande Valley.”
“What we are asking is simple,” Gonzalez said. “Make test kits and drive-thru testing readily available in South Texas now.”
The letter underscores in part the more than 100 cases that have been confirmed in the state as of Tuesday.
“As you know, we are entering a critical stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which all Americans must take steps to reduce the spread of the disease or threaten the safety of our most vulnerable populations. At this time, Texas has confirmed at least 131 cases of COVID-19. However, testing remains limited in the Rio Grande Valley and most communities south of San Antonio, indicating the possibility of countless unreported cases left to identify and diagnose,“ the letter states in part.
In addition to Vela, Gonzalez and Cuellar, Congressman Michael Cloud signed the letter.
Read the letter below.
Dear Governor Abbott:
As you know, we are entering a critical stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which all Americans must take steps to reduce the spread of the disease or threaten the safety of our most vulnerable populations. At this time, Texas has confirmed at least 131 cases of COVID-19. However, testing remains limited in the Rio Grande Valley and most communities south of San Antonio, indicating the possibility of countless unreported cases left to identify and diagnose.
The lack of available testing impedes local health officials’ ability to respond. Not only does it put the lives of those experiencing symptoms at risk, it also depreciates the reliability of our current statistics and puts everyone at risk of being exposed to an unidentified case. As you know, Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the nation, which makes Texas particularly vulnerable to the spread of the virus as the uninsured are less likely to seek necessary care. We call on you to use the authorities granted by the recently declared national and state emergencies to make testing kits readily available and erect drive-thru testing sites in the counties south of San Antonio, including the Rio Grande Valley.
Drive-thru mobile testing facilities are an important tool that will decrease the danger associated with contact among infected patients, health care workers, and first responders and thereby lessen the risk of community spread. While Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio have already implemented limited drive-thru testing, South Texas communities are being left behind. We must partner with local health care providers and health departments to expand testing capacity in order to assure the health and safety of all Texans.
The American people need a clear and unified response to ensure that this public health emergency does not overwhelm our nation. The state of Texas now has the authority to make testing available state-wide, and Texans are relying on you to utilize that power. We implore you to consider the urgency of this matter in communities throughout the state, not just in major city centers, and establish regional testing facilities in the Rio Grande Valley and throughout South Texas immediately.