DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – In a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson requested the extension of two federally-supported Covid-19 drive-thru testing sites and the doubling of capacity.

As of now, the sites at an American Airlines Center parking garage and at the Ellis Davis Field House, which are supported by FEMA, are set to end after May 31.

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Each site has a capacity to offer 1,000 tests daily.

Mayor Johnson has asked that the capacity be expanded to 2,000 tests per day per site.

“Our two Community Based Testing Sites have been key assets in the fight against this pandemic. The testing support has aided our public health response, and it will be a critical piece of our economic recovery efforts moving forward.”

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson (CBS 11)

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins also said Tuesday that he is working with the federal government to continue offering this program beyond May 31.

He said new testing sites operated by the private are welcomed, but don’t offer as much as each of the community sites.

“It’s very concerning because when you look at these four Walmarts that I announced yesterday, or the two we got last week, and the one at Kroger, all those put together would not be more than one thousand tests per week.”

Judge Jenkins said despite the help from Parkland Hospital, the county and city of Dallas can’t continue the program without the federal government’s help.

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“We don’t have access to the testing kits and reagents. If they’d give us the testing kits and reagents, we could run those at our labs at Parkland and UT Southwestern.”

Mayor Johnson said he appreciates the federal government’s help.

In the city of Dallas alone, there are about 1,900 tests given each day, but Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune said Tuesday that with more people returning to work, as many as 4,000 people a day in the city should be tested.

As part of his ongoing response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mayor Johnson named Dr. Kelvin Baggett, a former Chief Medical Officer at Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, as the city’s new health and healthcare access czar.

Dr. Kelvin Baggett (credit: pharofunds.com)

“His part is to figure out strategies for improving testing and contact tracing and helping look at data.”

The Mayor said Dr. Baggett will help identify disparities in healthcare related to the virus so that the city can address the problem as quickly as possible.

“We want to understand how it’s moving in our community, how it’s affecting people of color, low income individuals, front line workers, anything that shows a disparity in the impact of the disease.”

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