Democratic reps ask Trump not to issue region-specific social distancing guidelines

Democratic reps ask Trump not to issue region-specific social distancing guidelines
© Greg Nash

More than a dozen House Democrats led by California Reps. Norma TorresNorma Judith TorresRep. Torres asks for stronger provisions in police reform bill House Rules Committee approves remote voting during pandemic House Democrats push for virtual naturalization ceremonies in next coronavirus relief package MORE and TJ Cox are calling on the Trump administration to halt its efforts to produce county-specific social distancing guidelines, citing concerns over the potential misclassification of low-income and rural communities that lack access to coronavirus tests. 

Nearly two weeks ago, Trump sent a letter to U.S. governors outlining a plan to classify counties in the U.S. based on their risk factors and rescind social distancing guidelines accordingly. The president prioritized reopening the economy, which has ground to a halt as a result of social distancing measures, leaving millions unemployed. 

“Our country does not presently have the testing infrastructure to accurately gauge the prevalence of COVID-19. Determining a risk classification based on insufficient testing could have a devastating impact on our national efforts to combat this disease, and in particular, on low-income and rural communities,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter addressed to the president and the public health officials in his Cabinet. 

ADVERTISEMENT

In Trump's letter sent March 27, the president said counties will be ranked based on “robust surveillance testing.” Such a plan could scale back social distancing measures in communities that unknowingly have an outbreak because of a lack of testing, posing the risk of the virus further spreading. 

Cox said the administration cannot use “incomplete and inaccurate data in matters of life or death” and challenged the administration to “commit to, at the very least, widespread testing access, before implementing a system.”

“We need tests, not county classifications, and the fact that this president is trying to ease social distancing guidance without the data to support his claims should alarm every single American,” Torres said, adding that testing facilities that serve low-income and rural communities “are already stretched thin.” 

The lawmakers — many of whom represent districts with large low-income and minority populations — noted pre-existing health care inequities pose a barrier between their constituents’ coronavirus cases being accurately counted. 

“Further, low-income individuals may not seek testing out of fear of other associated medical costs, especially if they are uninsured, and individuals in rural areas may be unable to reach testing sites given an already low number of health care facilities in their areas,” the lawmakers added.