05.12.20

Murray: Experts Have Made Clear, U.S. Not Ready to Safely Reopen as Trump Administration Fails to Chart Path Forward on Tests, Supplies, and More

Murray slams President Trump for preparing nation to reopen without adequate testing, personal protective equipment, or guidance for communities to keep people safe

 

Murray: “The Trump Administration’s response to this public health emergency so far, has been a disaster all of its own.”

 

Murray: “The fact of the matter is, President Trump has been more focused on fighting against the truth, than fighting this virus—and Americans have sadly paid the price.”

 

Last week the Trump Administration blocked a detailed CDC report meant to guide communities on practices for safely reopening

 

Dr. Fauci on the danger of reopening too soon: “There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control, which in fact paradoxically will set you back not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery.”

 

***Watch Senator Murray’s full opening remarks here***

 

 

(Washington, D.C.) –  Today, at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing, HELP Committee Ranking Member U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), spoke about what is needed before the U.S.  can safely reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and asked health experts and officials about how far off the U.S. was from meeting these needs and how to get there. In her remarks, Senator Murray highlighted the increasing death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consensus of experts that the U.S. is not ready to safely reopen. She criticized President Trump for his failed leadership throughout the crisis and made clear the country cannot safely reopen without rapidly expanding testing nationwide, without far more personal protective equipment, and without guidance for states, tribes, employers, schools, and communities about how to keep people safe while returning to some semblance of normal.

 

“The Trump Administration’s response to this public health emergency so far, has been a disaster all of its own,” said Senator Murray.  “We recently learned that, after experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spent weeks developing a detailed guide to help our communities understand how to safely reopen when the time comes, the Trump Administration tossed it in the trash bin for being too prescriptive  The fact of the matter is, President Trump has been more focused on fighting against the truth, than fighting this virus—and Americans have sadly paid the price. Since this Committee last heard from these witnesses on March 3rd, we have seen: over 900 deaths in my home state of Washington, over 80,000 deaths nationally, and the numbers continue to climb. Still, President Trump is trying to ignore the facts, and ignore the experts who have been clear we are nowhere close to where we need to be to reopen safely. My hope today is that we can cut through this and have a serious discussion about what is needed to safely reopen, how close we are as a country to meeting those needs, and how we actually get there.”

 

As Senator Murray highlighted experts’ warnings against reopening too soon, one witness, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, provided a similar warning of his own. “My concern is that if states or cities or regions in their attempt—understandable—to get back to some form of normality, disregard to a greater or lesser degree the checkpoints that we put in our guidelines about when it is safe to proceed on pulling back on mitigation, because I feel, if that occurs there is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control, which in fact paradoxically will set you back not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery. It would almost turn the clock back rather than going forward, that is my major concern,” said Dr. Fauci.

Senator Murray went on to discuss how the Trump Administration has yet to provide a detailed national plan to make sure testing is fast, free, and everywhere, how personal protective equipment already in short supply will be even more in demand if other businesses are to reopen safely, and how schools, employers, and communities are lacking any specific guidance from the Administration on what they should be doing to reopen while keeping workers, students, and families safe. Looking ahead, Senator Murray made clear we also need a plan to make sure a safe, effective vaccine can eventually be quickly produced and distributed to everyone at no cost.

 

Senator Murray also responded to Republicans who have suggested any further negotiations on a next COVID-19 response package are premature, saying “Some—including in the White House—say we’ve already provided enough economic relief. My question to them is, ‘What good is a bridge that only gets you to the middle of the river?’ We don’t need to wait around to see if people need more help—we know they do.”

 

Testifying at today’s hearing were several members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force: Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary For Health, and Dr. Stephen Hahn, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

 

Read Senator Murray’s full remarks below and watch a video HERE.

 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman. My thoughts are with you and your team right now as you navigate the same challenge so many in our country are worried about. We all wish your staff member a speedy recovery.

 

“And as everyone works to take appropriate safety precautions today, I’d like to thank, not only our witnesses for joining us today, but also our Committee staff for working to set up a safe format for members, witnesses, and the public to participate in this hearing remotely.

 

“Families across the country are counting on us for the truth about the COVID-19 pandemic—especially since it’s clear they won’t get it from President Trump.

“Truth is essential so people have the facts, so they can make decisions for themselves, their families and their communities.

 

“Lives are at stake. If the President isn’t telling the truth—We must. Our witnesses must. 

 

“We are counting on you today!

“Families need us to use this opportunity to dig into the facts about where things have gone wrong, so we can finally get them on track. Because the Trump Administration’s response to this public health emergency so far, has been a disaster all of its own.

 

“Delays and missteps have put us way behind where we need to be on diagnostic tests, and allowed inaccurate antibody tests to flood the market. 

 

“Corruption and political interference have impeded efforts to secure desperately needed personal protective equipment, and promoted dangerous, unproven treatments.

“And we recently learned that, after experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spent weeks developing a detailed guide to help our communities understand how to safely reopen when the time comes, the Trump Administration tossed it in the trash bin for being too prescriptive.

 

“But this is far from the first time this Administration has silenced experts who were doing their job and putting public health first. The fact of the matter is, President Trump has been more focused on fighting against the truth, than fighting this virus—and Americans have sadly paid the price.

 

“Since this Committee last heard from these witnesses on March 3rd, we have seen: over 900 deaths in my home state of Washington, over 80,000 deaths nationally, and the numbers continue to climb.

 

“Still, President Trump is trying to ignore the facts, and ignore the experts who have been clear we are nowhere close to where we need to be to reopen safely.

 

“My hope today is that we can cut through this and have a serious discussion about what is needed to safely reopen, how close we are as a country to meeting those needs, and how we actually get there.

“One thing that’s already abundantly clear? We need dramatically more testing.  It’s unacceptable we still don’t have a national strategic plan to make sure testing is fast, free, and everywhere.

 

“That’s why I fought to make sure our last COVID-19 package included an initial $25 billion testing fund, and a requirement the Administration submit a plan by May 24th.

 

“And when I say a plan, I don’t mean a PR plan. I mean a plan with specific timelines and numeric goals for supply and funding needs—one that actually addresses the issues we’re seeing on testing capacity, distribution, disparities, and building out our public health system.

 

“And makes clear to states, tribes, employers, and the American people, what they can expect and what the Administration will do to keep Americans safe.

 

“But testing alone won’t be enough to reopen our country. We still need far more personal protective equipment than has been available for our health care workers on the frontlines, and we will need far more for other workers as we reopen.

 

“So we desperately need this Administration to step up and get that equipment to states who are doing everything in their power to purchase supplies but simply cannot get nearly enough. Because the reality is, unlike states, the federal government has the tools to actually fix the problem—if only the Administration would use them.

 

“And we also need that equipment to actually work—and for the FDA to act promptly if it doesn’t—not weeks later when people may have already been exposed.

 

“And just as importantly, we can’t expect people to go back to work, or restaurants, or confidently send their kids to school, if there isn’t clear, detailed guidance about how to do that safely.

 

“Schools, from early childhood through college, need to know how to keep students, staff, and educators safe. When should they wear masks? How do you run a school cafeteria? Or a school bus?

“And if they can’t reopen classrooms, schools and families need to know we are working to ensure every student gets an education. Tools like online learning can only get us so far if we don’t address the digital divide so that every student can access them. And even then, there will be learning loss that could deepen existing educational disparities among low income students, students with disabilities, English language learners, and other vulnerable populations if we don’t make sure they get equal access to resources and support. 

 

“And schools aren’t the only workplaces we need to be thinking about. We need to make sure industries across the country know how to safely reopen, and that people know their workplaces are safe.

 

“Secretary Scalia needs to stop dragging his feet, do his job, and have the Department of Labor set forward a rule that makes clear worker safety isn’t optional.

 

“Mr. Chairman, I hope this Committee can hear about these critical issues from Secretary Scalia, Secretary DeVos, as well as other experts in this space in the days ahead. 

“This is especially important to protect workers and residents at nursing homes and other congregate care facilities where we’ve seen some of the most deadly outbreaks.

 

“And as the rash of outbreaks at meat-packing plants shows—this isn’t just an issue for the health care industry—it’s an issue for everyone.

 

“And just as we need a plan before we can start to reopen, we also need a plan well before we have a safe and effective vaccine, to guarantee we can  quickly produce and distribute it on a global scale, and make it free and available to everyone.

 

“So I’ll be asking about our progress on these issues during questions.

 

“Today, safely reopening our country may be a ways off and the Administration’s planning may be way behind, but there’s still a lot Congress needs to do—and there isn’t time to spare.

 

“Some—including in the White House—say we’ve already provided enough economic relief. My question to them is, ‘What good is a bridge that only gets you to the middle of the river?’

 

“We don’t need to wait around to see if people need more help—we know they do.

“We need to work quickly on another aggressive relief package—and we need to make sure our priorities in that bill are protecting workers, students, and families, and addressing this public health crisis, not bailing out corporations and protecting big business from accountability.

 

“People across the country are doing their part. They are washing their hands, wearing masks, social distancing, and staying home.

 

“They need their government to do its part too.

 

“They need leadership. They need a plan. And they need it now—before we reopen—so they can rest assured that we are doing things safely, competently, and with their health and wellbeing as our top priority.

 

“Thank you.”

 

###