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South Texas Congressmen Urge Texas Governor Greg Abbott to Make More Test Kits and Drive-Thru Testing Available in South Texas

March 18, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Filemon Vela (TX-34), Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Michael Cloud (TX-27) sent a bipartisan letter urging Texas Governor Greg Abbott to make more COVID-19 diagnostic testing available in South Texas hospitals and medical centers, and erect drive-thru testing sites for South Texas communities. 

 

“What we are asking is simple,” said Congressman Vicente Gonzalez. “Make test kits and drive-thru testing readily available in South Texas now.”

 

“In order to get ahead of this worldwide pandemic, offering drive-thru mobile testing sites could help decrease the spread of COVID-19,” said Congressman Filemon Vela.  “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.

 

“The health and security of my constituents remains my number one priority,” said Congressman Cuellar. “It is critical that South Texas have available testing sites at hospitals and drive-thru sites in order to ramp up testing, speed up results, and contain the spread in our community. As a senior Appropriator, I am committed to fighting for the necessary funding so South Texas can remain safe and healthy. Congressmen Gonzalez, Vela and I will continue to work to ensure our community obtains the resources to properly respond and contain this virus.”

 

“Localities across our region are doing tremendous work getting ahead of spread of coronavirus,” said Congressman Michael Cloud. “That said, our communities need continued support from the state level in order to increase testing capabilities and keep south Texans safe.” 

 

Signers of the letter include: Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Congressman Filemon Vela (TX-34), Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Congressman Michael Cloud (TX-27)

 

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.