06.23.20

Senator Murray Warns Republicans Against Moving On From COVID-19 As Pandemic Continues to Rage

At HELP Committee hearing, Senator Murray warned her colleagues that immediate action is still needed to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

 

Senator Murray: “I want to be absolutely clear from the start: reflecting on how we prepare for the next crisis is no substitute for responding to the crisis at hand, which has infected over 2 million people in our country, killed over 120,000, and which continues to spread.”

 

President Trump and Vice President Pence have wrongly suggested the COVID-19 pandemic is fading, even as states see record breaking case increases

 

As nation struggles to reach testing capacity needed, lead testing official has stepped down from that role,  Administration has left $14 billion in testing funds unspent, and President Trump has suggested slowing testing

 

Senator Murray emphasized the importance of responding to the health disparities the pandemic has exacerbated among Black, Latino, and Tribal communities

 

Murray also called for the Trump Administration to put forward a plan to ensure an eventual vaccine is safe, effective, and widely available

 

Senator Murray: “These aren’t questions we need to answer before the next pandemic starts—they are questions we have to answer before the current pandemic can end.

 

***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S FULL OPENING REMARKS HERE***

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on preparing for future pandemics, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Committee, warned her Republican colleagues that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and Congress must take additional action to keep families and communities safe.

 

“I want to be absolutely clear from the start: reflecting on how we prepare for the next crisis is no substitute for responding to the crisis at hand, which has infected over 2 million people in our country, killed over 120,000,and which continues to spread,” said Senator Murray. “Unfortunately, the White House is pretending this pandemic is over.”

In her remarks, Senator Murray pointed to several alarming examples of the Trump Administration refusing to take the ongoing threat of COVID-19 seriously. She noted President Trump and Vice President Pence have both suggested the pandemic is under control or fading, even as several states see record daily increases in COVID-19 cases. With testing still far below what experts suggest is needed to safely reopen, Senator Murray also noted the White House’s lead on testing has stepped down from that role and President Trump has suggested the country do less testing. Relatedly, Senator Murray sent a letter Sunday pressing the Administration to release $14 billion in funding for testing and contact tracing that have not yet been spent. She also called on Republicans to stop ignoring the urgency of the crisis and work with Democrats on additional relief measures.

“But it’s not just officials in the White House who are sticking their heads in the sand. Leader McConnell and Republicans have suggested there is less urgency to take further action since we gained some two and half million jobs, after losing over 20 million. As a former pre-school teacher, I can tell you even some of our youngest students know that math just doesn’t add up,” said Senator Murray. “So I hope we don’t just spend our time today discussing how to avoid mistakes in the next pandemic, but instead address the mistakes the Trump Administration is still making during this one and the ones they are at risk of repeating as the response to COVID-19 continues.”

 

Senator Murray discussed several urgent issues she wants to see addressed, including: the health disparities the pandemic has exacerbated among Black, Latino, and Tribal communities and the need for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to protect workers.

She concluded her remarks by speaking at length about the importance of taking steps that ensure that an eventual vaccine is safe, effective, and widely available. She demanded the Trump Administration put forward a comprehensive plan on vaccines and commit to being transparent about the process and data for ensuring  a vaccine is safe and effective.  

 

“This pandemic won’t end until we have a vaccine that is safe and effective, that we can widely produce and equitably distribute, and that is free and accessible to everyone. So when it comes to developing a vaccine, we don’t just need a fast process—we need a thorough, transparent, and science-driven one. We need to know the process is free of political influence—especially after the hydroxychloroquine debacle—and that the final COVID-19 vaccine, or vaccines, truly meet the gold standard families have relied on for so long,” said Senator Murray. “Which is why the Administration needs to commit now to being fully transparent about the vaccine development and review process, and about the data that is ultimately used to evaluate safety and effectiveness. We also need the Administration to detail how it will produce and distribute vaccines everywhere to everyone… the Trump Administration must work now to draft and release a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccines plan—the type of comprehensive plan we still haven’t gotten on testing.”

  

Watch video of Senator Murray’s remarks HERE.

Senator Murray’s full remarks are below.

 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman. I’d also like to thank our witnesses for joining us today, and of course, our staff for wrangling the technology to make this hearing possible.

 

“I’ve said before we need to understand, fully and exactly, everything that has gone wrong in our response to COVID-19, why, and how to make sure we are never in this situation again.

 

“But I want to be absolutely clear from the start: reflecting on how we prepare for the next crisis is no substitute for responding to the crisis at hand, which has infected over 2 million people in our country, killed over 120,000,and which continues to spread.

 

“Unfortunately, the White House is pretending this pandemic is over.

 

“President Trump has said it’s fading—even as several states see record case increases.

 

“Vice President Pence wrote an op-ed saying we are ‘winning the fight’ and there isn’t a second wave—while experts like Dr. Fauci warn we aren’t even through the first wave yet.

 

“Admiral Giroir has stepped down from his role leading testing efforts—without being replaced—and President Trump is calling for less testing even though we don’t have anything close to the testing and tracing capacity we need to safely reopen our communities.

 

“But it’s not just officials in the White House who are sticking their heads in the sand. Leader McConnell and Republicans have suggested there is less urgency to take further action since we gained some two and half million jobs, after losing over 20 million.

 

“As a former pre-school teacher, I can tell you even some of our youngest students know that math just doesn’t add up.

 

“So I hope we don’t just spend our time today discussing how to avoid mistakes in the next pandemic, but instead address the mistakes the Trump Administration is still making during this one and the ones they are at risk of repeating as the response to COVID-19 continues.

 

“One lesson we’ve already learned? This crisis is no great equalizer, but rather a force which perpetuates and deepens the injustices that Black communities, Latino communities, Tribal communities, people with disabilities, and so many others face.

 

“We’ve known for decades that our health care system treats some communities much worse than others—especially communities of color—those disparities are caused by a long history of systemic racism and underfunding, and that those in charge have a responsibility to acknowledge the problem and do everything they can to close the gap. 

 

“This Administration has not taken this responsibility seriously. At best, they turn a blind eye to the problem.  At worst, they seem determined to make it worse, as we’ve seen in the Administration’s irresponsible rule to allow discrimination in health care.

 

“We’ve also seen once again how desperately we need a national, universal paid sick leave policy, so workers can stay home and do what’s best for their health—and for public health—without fear of losing their job or their paycheck.

 

“And we’ve learned how important it is the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration stop dragging its feet, and finally make clear safety isn’t optional by immediately issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard.

 

“And there are also several lessons we need to apply regarding vaccines. We can’t allow the Trump Administration to bungle this like they have so much else. 

 

“This pandemic won’t end until we have a vaccine that is safe and effective, that we can widely produce and equitably distribute, and that is free and accessible to everyone.

 

“So when it comes to developing a vaccine, we don’t just need a fast process—we need a thorough, transparent, and science-driven one.

 

“We need to know the process is free of political influence—especially after the hydroxychloroquine debacle—and that the final COVID-19 vaccine, or vaccines, truly meet the gold standard families have relied on for so long.

 

“Which is why the Administration needs to commit now to being fully transparent about the vaccine development and review process, and about the data that is ultimately used to evaluate safety and effectiveness. 

 

“We also need the Administration to detail how it will produce and distribute vaccines everywhere to everyone.

 

“Even the incomplete data we currently have shows Black, Latino, and Tribal communities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and have significantly less access to testing than white communities. This is an injustice that we can’t repeat when it comes to vaccines.

 

“Nor can we afford to repeat delays like those the Trump Administration caused by refusing to take responsibility for resolving coordination problems in the national supply chain.

 

“Instead, the Trump Administration must work now to draft and release a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccines plan—the type of comprehensive plan we still haven’t gotten on testing. One that addresses all of these questions and other barriers like: How do we fight misinformation and vaccine hesitancy? How do we strengthen our immunization infrastructure to ensure it is ready to meet this unprecedented challenge? How do we build global partnerships in this effort, instead of turning our back on the rest of the world—which not only betrays American values, but also puts people here at home directly in harm’s way?

 

“Mr. Chairman, these aren’t questions we need to answer before the next pandemic starts—they are questions we have to answer before the current pandemic can end.

 

“I look forward to hearing our witnesses’ perspectives on all of these urgent issues today.

 

“And I hope in the near future this Committee will also be able to get the perspectives of several important members of this Administration we haven’t heard from yet, like Secretary Azar, Secretary Scalia, and Secretary DeVos.

 

“It’s clear we have a lot more work to do to respond to this pandemic, and I urge my Republican colleagues to come back to the table so we can work on this together. 

 

“Because the challenges our nation is grappling with right now—the public health crisis of COVID-19, the economic crisis this pandemic has set in motion, and of course the persistent systemic inequities, driven by racism, that these crises have only exacerbated—are urgent.

 

“Our nation can’t keep waiting. Thank you.”

 

###