Pima County may be forced to stop free COVID testing if state doesn’t provide more assistance

Proposal to end free COVID testing

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Free COVID-19 testing could be coming to an end in Pima county.

On Thursday, Pima County Administrator, Chuck Huckleberry, posted a memo that stated they were asked by the state to provide the county’s testing expenses for reimbursement. The county came to a projected total of $40,274,448.

In response, the state told them they would not be able to support the entirety of that amount and instead only provide one million.

Based on this, Huckleberry is asking the Board to suspend County COVID-19 testing as of Monday, February 22, 2021.

He said in his memo quote: “This is unfortunate as it was abundantly clear to Pima County that the State allocation was for COVID-19 testing. At least that was the impression we were left with in reviewing the Federal 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act.”

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero is disappointed by the amount.

“That wouldn’t even begin to serve the residents of the city of Tucson and Pima County,” said Romero.

Romero said the city and county face the dilemma of digging into general funds to offset the cost. Money that comes from sales tax that would normally go towards police, fire and park services.

“The capacity to test and vaccine the residents in Tucson and Pima County will be cut short,” said Romero.

To lose free COVID testing would be an issue for Denisse Vergara and her family.

“We tested positive last month, so we wanted to make sure we were negative before an upcoming doctors appointment,” said Vergara at the Kino testing site. “It would be really bad for a lot of families if we lost it.”

On Thursday, State Health Department Director Dr. Cara Christ alluded to more funding to help offset some costs.

“We do have federal funding that has come to the state, we’re working on the budget, but we’re looking to get a portion of that out very, very quickly,” said Christ.

Many hope that it does in fact happen quickly, so the free testing doesn’t go by the wayside. Or the county may face the cost that comes from discontinuing testing.

“It would be catastrophic for what we know about the spread of COVID 19 in our community,” said Romero.

The Board is set to make a final decision on suspending free testing on Monday the 22nd.

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