Looming funding cuts to federal COVID programs threaten SoCal clinics in at-risk communities

As a result, testing capacity could drop significantly and supplies of COVID-related drugs could run low.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Certain parts of Asia and Europe are seeing a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases amid reports that the omicron subvariant is continuing to pick up speed here in the U.S.

Meanwhile, a stall in federal COVID program funding could impact Southern California clinics.

"The population of East Los Angeles and South Los Angeles are always the hardest," said Jim Mangia, the president and CEO of St. John's Community Health.

These areas were the first local epicenters of the COVID pandemic, but in two years, they've come a long way.

In January, St. John's Community Health was one of the first to pilot President Joe Biden's program offering anti-viral COVID pills to eligible patients.

"The test-to-train is an incredible success because you have someone right there, and then you hand them medicine," Mangia said.

But this program - and many others - are in immediate jeopardy.

The White House said in the coming weeks, Americans will feel the impact of funding cuts to the U.S. COVID response if efforts to get more money are stalled.

As a result, testing capacity could drop significantly and supplies of COVID-related drugs could run low.

"It's kind of like cutting off someone's cancer treatment in the middle before it's done," said Mangia.

Mangia said the patients his clinics serve will be the ones affected right away.

"About 40% of people we see are uninsured. They're working as essential workers in the restaurants, they didn't have the availability to work from home," he said.

This comes as new warning signs emerge showing the U.S. could be on the brink of another surge.

In the United Kingdom, the BA.2 subvariant now accounts for more than 50% of cases.

In the U.S., that number is closer to 20%, but with the BA.2 subvariant spreading faster than the original omicron variant, that percentage is likely to rise.

"We're not at the end yet, and so this is not the time to start cutting the vital things we need in order to battle the pandemic," Mangia said.

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