Congress Must Get Its Act Collectively on the Coronavirus


Final night time, after Donald Trump’s head-scratching Oval Workplace address in regards to the novel coronavirus, the nation’s capital was hit with one other piece of disquieting information: a staffer for Washington senator Maria Cantwell had examined positive for the virus. It was hardly the highest-profile new case to emerge yesterday—that may be Tom Hanks or NBA gamers Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert; take your decide—but it surely may show to be essentially the most consequential. Not like professional athletes, the common member of Congress is sort of outdated—particularly senators, almost half of whom are 65 and up. And their day by day routine entails a heavy quantity of shut, in-person interactions. That each one makes them particularly in danger for the worst results of the virus.

You might need anticipated that to create a transparent new sense of urgency in Congress, which was scheduled to enter recess for every week beginning Friday. However the early returns weren’t nice. This morning, Democratic Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed ahead with efforts to move a invoice within the Home that may, amongst different issues, broaden Medicaid funding, require paid sick depart for all employees, and make coronavirus testing free. However within the Senate, Republican majority chief Mitch McConnell dismissed the invoice as “an ideological want checklist.” His distinguished Republican colleague Lamar Alexander even steered that the Senate wouldn’t vote on the invoice till after its recess. “The Senate will act after we come again and we now have a clearer concept of what further steps we have to take,” he instructed reporters.

A number of hours later, McConnell walked that again, announcing that Congress would keep in session. However the truth that it was even a query is a miserable reflection on the federal authorities’s utter failure to deal decisively with the disaster. The US response lags far behind other countries. Weeks after the primary confirmed circumstances on American soil, and months after it was clear the illness would ultimately arrive right here, there are so few exams out there that we nonetheless don’t have any actual sense of the variety of infections, due to a collection of baffling missteps by federal businesses.

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Ask any knowledgeable about what’s wanted throughout a public well being disaster, and so they’ll nearly actually inform you a similar factor: clear, constant messaging from the individuals in cost. We’ve been getting one thing totally different. That begins with Trump, whose communication has been constant solely within the sense that it’s reliably misleading. To date there’s no proof that Congress, significantly the Republican management that takes its cues from Trump, is able to step into the vacuum.

“The dearth of exigency on the a part of Congress, what message does it sign?” stated Wendy Parmet, director of the Heart for Well being Coverage and Regulation at Northeastern College. “We now have squandered weeks and weeks, to our hurt. And a few fundamental measures to assist the state of affairs that ought to have been put into place weeks in the past really want to occur now—they wanted to occur yesterday.”

Parmet and different public well being consultants steered that one of many issues that should occur most urgently is for Congress to offer actual monetary help for individuals who keep dwelling from work. That may sound like a second-order concern, but it surely’s important for “social distancing,” the one method of slowing the unfold of the virus. Folks liable to shedding their job or operating out of cash could have no alternative however to maintain going out into the world, even when they’re sick. The US is likely one of the solely rich nations that doesn’t mandate paid sick depart. (Not serving to issues, as Bernie Sanders and his supporters have loudly identified, it additionally lacks a common well being care system.)

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