Harris County warns coronavirus testing could end if federal government resupply doesn’t happen this week

HOUSTON – Harris County leaders and public health officials said Tuesday public testing sites for coronavirus may shut down citing a dwindling supply for test kits and other supplies.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Dr. Umair Shah with Harris County Public Health issued the warning Tuesday morning during a news conference, saying they are waiting on a re-supply from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

They said 500 kits received Friday were divided among two testing locations that opened Monday.

“Testing needs to continue. The last thing we want to do is to interrupt testing. We just got it started, we’re just getting things rolling and then all of a sudden hear that oh a resupply isn’t happening, that’s really not right,” Shah said.

Shah said the county could run out of necessary testing materials and supplies including personal protective equipment for workers by Wednesday night.

“We have enough supplies to go through at least we believe tomorrow, although we’re obviously a lot is going to depend on what the volume is today. We’re hopeful that we’ll get a resupply tonight into tomorrow but that’s not dependent on us it’s dependent on them to get it to us,” Shah said.

KPRC 2 reached out to FEMA for a comment. They did not answer our specific questions, instead sending the following statement:

"As part of the whole of government federal response, personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution support is a coordinated effort which includes HHS, FEMA and other federal partners. The FEMA National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) receives, reviews and approves requests for federal assistance from states, tribes, territories for PPE, surgical masks, and other needed equipment and supplies. As requests are processed, PPE is distributed through a variety of methods, including FEMA and HHS contracted transportation capabilities. Once provided to the cities/states/tribes/territories, distribution to the point of need is at their discretion, which may include the National Guard.

FEMA and our interagency partners are working to meet demands for personal protective equipment (PPE) through new acquisition, DOD allocation or Strategic National Stockpile sources. FEMA does not stock medical supplies and HHS is in charge of those commodities through the Strategic National Stockpile. FEMA warehouses are stocked with the traditional commodities, including water, food, cots, blankets and other supplies.

Additionally, the public-private sector partnership is a primary part of the solution. The Department of Homeland Security’s National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC) is coordinating with the private sector on any PPE needs. The private sector can directly purchase PPE from manufacturers and distributors, as they normally do. The private sector can also accept donations from other private sector entities. See the link here on how to help."

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