Texas Lawmakers Urge Trump Administration to Keep Testing Sites Open

A healthcare worker takes down a patient's information at a United Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 testing site, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Houston.

A healthcare worker takes down a patient's information at a United Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 testing site, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Houston. AP Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | Civil rights experts say they’ve uncovered the first case of a person wrongly arrested after incorrect facial recognition software identification … New York proposal would ban Tik Tok from government devices … A proposal for a tourism tax credit.

Texas lawmakers are criticizing a Trump administration plan to shut down federally-supported community testing sites in five states, including Texas, even as coronavirus cases climb in the state. But a key federal testing official countered that the federal government is still backing testing, saying they wanted to shift resources to the pharmacy-based sites that are now the focus of federal testing efforts. “We are providing federal support in a different way,” Adm. Brett Giroir, the Trump administration’s testing czar said. “We are going to increase testing, both in the number and the quality, and in the targeting on social media.” Seven of the 13 sites that will close are in Texas, which is seeing cases and hospitalizations hit records, while the others are in Illinois, Colorado, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. A spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said he would like the administration to continue support for the community sites. Covid-19 case counts hit a new daily high on Wednesday of over 36,000 cases, with Texas, California and Florida each all reporting more than 5,000 new cases. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott acknowledged the "massive" nature of the outbreak, saying there could be new, local restrictions put in place. In North Carolina, concerns about coronavirus spread led Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday to issue a mandatory mask requirement in public. “Our cautious approach is like a dimmer switch, rather than an on/off switch. Over the past weeks and months, even as we’ve slowly turned the dimmer switch up and eased restrictions, we’ve seen community spread of the virus increase in North Carolina,” Cooper said. [CNBC; Houston Chronicle; Associated Press;Washington Post; News & Observer

WRONG MAN | A Michigan prosecutor dropped charges against a man who civil rights experts believe is the first person wrongly arrested after he was identified by facial recognition software. Robert Julian-Borchak Williams, a 42-year-old Black man, was incorrectly identified by software used by the Detroit police as stealing $3,800 worth of goods from a store. "They never even asked him any questions before arresting him. They never asked him if he had an alibi,” said a lawyer with the ACLU, which filed a complaint asking the police department to stop using the software. The agency responded that it will now only use facial recognition software in violent cases and run only still photos, not video footage like was used in the case that led to Williams’ arrest. [NPR]

TIK TOK | A bill introduced in the New York state legislature would ban state employees from downloading Tik Tok on their government devices. State Sen. Chris Jacobs said that data privacy concerns with the social media app mean “it is more than reasonable to conclude that this application should not be downloaded or used on government-issued electronic devices.” [Times Union

DOMESTIC TOURISM | U.S. Sen. Martha McSally introduced legislation that would provide tax credits to Americans who travel domestically within the United States. McSally said the bill would help stimulate areas where the economy is fueled by tourism. [Prescott eNews]

DEMENTIA DIRECTOR | Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law legislation that will create a statewide dementia director position within the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. In Florida alone, there are 580,000 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and 1.1 million unpaid caregivers. [The Center Square]

Laura Maggi is the managing editor of Route Fifty and Emma Coleman is the assistant editor.

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