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Trump administration to end federal funding for virus testing sites in El Paso, across Texas

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Healthcare workers hold coronavirus testing supplies.

EL PASO, Texas -- As coronavirus cases surge across Texas, setting daily records for new infections and hospitalizations, ABC News confirmed Wednesday that the Trump administration plans to pull funding for community testing efforts in El Paso, Houston and Dallas.

In all, El Paso is among 13 community testing sites across five states in hard-hit parts of the country that will lose funding come the end of this month.

"Our testing will not slow down if the federal government decides to withdraw funding," said City of El Paso spokeswoman Laura Cruz, who indicated that the city was prepared to continue operating the site.

There was no immediate reaction from Gov. Greg Abbott about word of the funding loss, but El Paso Congresswoman Veronica Escobar took to twitter with her displeasure.

"El Paso is facing an unprecedented crisis that has taken 122 lives and devastated thousands of others. Yet (President) Donald Trump is pulling support from a desperately needed testing site in our community," she wrote.

She wasn't the only member of the Texas Congressional delegation to react with concern, the state's two U.S. senators also weighed in. 

Sen. Ted Cruz said he would "urge HHS (Health and Human Services) and FEMA to extend the community testing sites in Texas.”

Sen. John Cornyn said he too believes "that they need to extend that federal support in Texas, at least until we get this most recent uptick in cases addressed.”

He added, "It’s pretty clear to me, and I think it’s clear to all of us, that with the uptick of cases, now is not a time to retreat from our vigilance in testing.”

The decision to pull funding comes as President Trump has expressed displeasure with the increased rate of testing nationwide because, he says, it causes case numbers to rise and make the U.S. health crisis look bad. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday predicted as many as 150,000 American deaths related to the virus by July 18.

Daily case numbers in Texas, in particular, have been soaring with 5,5551 new Covid-19 cases reported on Wednesday.

Trump administration officials indicated they had long planned to end direct federal involvement in running the testing sites, but state and local governments were encouraged to continue those efforts on their own.

Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary of Health tasked by Trump to coordinate the nation’s testing efforts, told ABC News that the federal government is still planning to support testing efforts in Texas and elsewhere, including providing states swabs, reagents and other supplies.

In testimony on Capitol Hill this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said rising case numbers in certain states, including Texas, were "disturbing" and that more needed to be done to expand testing.

"Right now, the next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges that we are seeing in Florida, in Texas, in Arizona and other states," Fauci said.

(ABC News contributed to this report.)

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Jim Parker

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