South Florida COVID-19 testing sites may soon run out of funding

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FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Some testing sites throughout South Florida may soon run out of funding if Congress does not pass another stimulus package to keep the sites running.

The sites, such as the one in Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale, are funded through the CARES Act, which will expire on Dec. 31, and there is no plan in place to re-fund the test sites.

“It is on each and every one of us to take the important precautions that we all know by now,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. “The pandemic is very much still with us. The numbers are on the rise again in Miami-Dade County.”

Over 9,000 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported statewide on Friday, with 79 new deaths. In a bizarre coincidence, Friday’s numbers are exactly the same as those released on Thursday.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., announced he tested positive for the virus on Friday, and he is experiencing mild symptoms.

Several South Florida mayors said they will have to work collectively with the counties to fill the budget shortfall because the sites are crucial in the fight against the virus.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has limited some of the funds the state uses for testing. If sites continue to shrink or disappear altogether, the virus could spread faster than ever before.

“Then, all of the sudden, you got people in the community who are sick or don’t know they need to not be around others, so this is a potentially devastating situation,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said.

The House of Representatives has passed another stimulus package, but the Senate has not.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said if legislators do not act now, it could cost American lives.

“The crisis will run to an emergency of epic proportions, and it doesn’t have to be this way,” she said.

As of Friday, it does not look like one will pass in the near future, as it will require both political parties to come together to continue to fund the sites.

“So far, it doesn’t look like we’re going to see much action out of this Congress,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said, “so I think going forward, we need to begin those conversations to ensure that our folks are being protected after Dec. 31.”

Trantalis added that the Florida Division of Emergency Management plays an important role in keeping the sites open, and his city cannot afford to test thousands of people on its own.

“They let us know, essentially, that we have to reconfigure the funding sources to continue the testing,” Trantalis said. “We may have to suspend it for a few days until we can work with one another, but I hope that we would have a plan in place before that Dec. 31 date rolls around.”

7News has reached out to the division of emergency management to get more information on what would happen if the funds run out. They acknowledged 7News’ request for an interview, but they did not respond to any questions.

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