Category Archives: Coronavirus Pandemic

Joe Biden: 5 Questions for Donald Trump at Coronavirus Pandemic Briefing

Vice President Joe Biden offers stark difference to Donald Trump in focus and approach to addressing coronavirus pandemic poses five questions to Trump that should be asked at the daily briefing (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The coronavirus pandemic has completely derailed the 2020 presidential campaigns. While Trump has a bully pulpit and turns daily briefings into political rallies, challengers including Vice President Joe Biden cannot compete for visibility or reach. We will do our part, as much as possible, to broadcast their messages so that voters may discern for themselves who should be elected to lead this country. This is from the Joe Biden campaign, which came before Trump, switching focus from the 10 minutes he spent concerned about the spread of the disease and having an adequate health care system, turned again to prioritize the economy, saying he would look to end measures in a matter of weeks (not months) designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 in order to goose the economy. Trump said that the economic impact could become worse than COVID-19 itself. “We cannot let cure be worse than the problem,” causing the medical community to scratch heads.  The desire to prioritize economic health over people is echoed by other Republicans and rightwingers. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said lots of grandparents would be willing to die in order to save the economy for their grandchildren. This is from the Biden campaign, in advance of Trump’s March 23 briefing–Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features.

Five Questions for Donald Trump at Today’s Briefing

As Trump Attempts to Spin Away His Historic Failure to Combat the Coronavirus, Here Are Five Questions He Needs to Answer at Today’s Press Conference

1.  Why do you continue to support efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act and kick tens of millions of Americans off their insurance in the middle of a global pandemic?
 
Ten years ago today, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, expanding access to quality, affordable health care for millions of Americans. But, even in the midst of a global pandemic, Donald Trump continues to lead fellow Republicans in efforts to do away with the law and the critical protections it put in place.
 
Over 20 million Americans have received health insurance through the ACA, and it’s given better care and peace of mind to countless others — that’s why Vice President Biden sent a letter today to President Trump and Republican leaders demanding that they drop their efforts to jeopardize Americans’ health care.
 
 
2.  Why did you put the profits of big corporations ahead of desperately needed medical supplies for health care workers, first responders, and coronavirus victims?
 
New reporting today from CNN shows that Trump abruptly reversed himself on using the Defense Production Act to speed up the manufacture of critical medical equipment because big businesses aggressively lobbied the White House out of fear of “profit loss.”
 
Trump is continuing to put the bottom lines of his corporate cronies ahead of the safety of first responders and coronavirus victims — even as a bipartisan group of governors and mayors has demanded that he finally use the DPA to help secure life-saving gear.
 
 
3.  Why did you ignore the repeated warnings of your own intelligence officials in January and February about the impending risk of the coronavirus and decide to downplay the threat instead of preparing a response?
 
The Washington Post reported that Trump ignored repeated warnings from top intelligence officials in January and February that the coronavirus was spreading globally and that it posed a dire threat to the safety of the United States, with one official telling the Post that “the system was blinking red.”
 
Instead of preparing for the imminent spread of coronavirus in America, Trump repeatedly ignored experts and downplayed its significance, claiming, “it’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” The result: a “chaotic” response as basic needs for tests and life-saving equipment go unmet, and as Administration officials scramble to cover up for Trump’s lies about the response.
 
While Trump was ignoring the experts and downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, Vice President Biden laid out a clear-eyed vision in January for how we could come together as a country to stop the emerging pandemic and has built on that with a comprehensive plan to combat the coronavirus.
 
 
4.  Why did you take China’s word and praise Xi’s response for weeks as the coronavirus continued to spread, ignoring Vice President Biden’s warning about their misleading statements?
 
Trump wasted critical weeks praising President Xi and China’s response to the coronavirus epidemic — even as Trump’s own intelligence officials warned that the Chinese were providing faulty information. Vice President Biden, on the other hand, clearly warned Trump against trusting information from Xi at face value, insisting instead that America push to get experts on the ground in China.
 
Now Trump has laughably pivoted to criticizing China, attempting to rewrite history and brush aside countless examples of him heaping praise on Xi and the Chinese government. Moreover, is Trump saying that he wasn’t supposed to take steps to protect the American people simply because this virus emerged in another country?
 
 
5.  Why are you supporting a $500 billion slush fund for corporations with no strings attached and no protections for workers?
 
With America’s economy teetering, and with countless families facing financial ruin, Trump continues to back a massive corporate bailout package with almost no conditions, and no restraints on corporations using taxpayer dollars for executive bonuses and stock buybacks.
 
That’s why Vice President Biden has called for workers and families to be put first in any stimulus package — with no blank checks for big corporations — so Americans will have the financial support they need to weather this storm.

On 10th Anniversary of Obamacare, Biden tells Trump, AGs ‘Drop the Lawsuit’ to Strip Millions of Health Insurance, Gut Protections for Pre-Existing Conditions

2017 rally to save Obamacare, Long Island. On the 10th anniversary of President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law and expanding access to quality, affordable health care for millions of Americans, Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for President, sent a letter to President Trump, State Attorneys General, and Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves calling on them the drop the lawsuit against the landmark legislation, which would strip millions of their health insurance and gut protections for those with pre-existing conditions—during a global pandemic. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Today, on the 10th anniversary of President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law and expanding access to quality, affordable health care for millions of Americans, Vice President Joe Biden sent a letter to President Trump, State Attorneys General, and Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves calling on them the drop the lawsuit against the landmark legislation, which would strip millions of their health insurance and gut protections for those with pre-existing conditions—during a global pandemic.  Below is the text of Vice President Biden’s letter:

March 23, 2020

Dear President Trump, State Attorneys General, and Governor Reeves,

All across this nation, Americans are anxious and afraid about the impact the deadly COVID-19 pandemic is already having on their lives, their families, and their ability to pay their bills. Individuals and families are stepping up to do their part––staying home, taking individual precautions and implementing social distancing, and making donations to support food banks and other vital service providers, all to protect those most at-risk from the virus in our communities. Their level of dedication should be matched by their elected leaders.

At a time of national emergency, which is laying bare the existing vulnerabilities in our public health infrastructure, it is unconscionable that you are continuing to pursue a lawsuit designed to strip millions of Americans of their health insurance and protections under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the ban on insurers denying coverage or raising premiums due to pre-existing conditions. No American should have the added worry right now that you are in court trying to take away their health care. You are ​letting partisan rancor and politics threaten the lives of your constituents, and that is a dereliction of your sworn duty​. I am therefore calling on each of you to drop your support of litigation to repeal the ACA.

This Monday, March 23, marks 10 years since President Obama signed into law the ACA. It was—and still is—a big deal for our country, because having health insurance isn’t just about being able to access health care when you need it, it’s about the peace of mind that comes from knowing that if your kid gets sick, you will be able to get them the care they need, or that if you have an accident, you won’t have to also worry about how to pay your medical bills. During a public health crisis, it’s part of the assurance that you can seek the treatment you and your loved ones need. I was proud to stand with President Obama every day of our Administration, but no day more so than when he signed the ACA, because of the real security it delivered for every day American families.

Since 2010, 20 million Americans have gained access to health insurance coverage. But the ACA also helps tens of millions more Americans across the country. It is the reason 100 million people with pre-existing conditions—including conditions like asthma and diabetes that make them at higher-risk for adverse health impacts from the—don’t have to worry about being charged more or denied coverage. It is the reason insurance companies can’t tell patients that they’ve hit an annual or lifetime cap on care.

The litigation you are supporting—Texas v. U.S.—jeopardizes every single one of those protections and threatens the peace of mind and access to care for hundreds of millions of Americans. There is no underlying constitutional flaw with the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the Supreme Court twice upheld the constitutionality of the law. The only reason this new case gained traction was because Congressional Republicans decided to amend the law and zero-out the penalty for not being insured, and legal experts from across the ideological spectrum have concluded that this new argument—that this change invalidates the entire law—is legally unsupportable.

The purpose of your suit is to destroy the ACA. Make no mistake: If the ACA did not exist right now, in this public health crisis, tens of millions of people would not have health insurance. 100 million would not have protections for the kind of underlying conditions that make them even more vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19. Insurance companies would be allowed to place caps on care provided to individuals. And if you succeed in killing it next year, you’ll put countless Americans at risk in the next pandemic.

If there was ever a moment to set aside politics, it is now. I have called for making all testing, treatment, and any eventual vaccine free of charge, regardless of whether an individual is insured. That is what is needed to defeat this virus. The last thing we need right now is people avoiding seeking care because they can’t afford it. But people will still have medical needs not directly related to COVID-19, which is why every American needs access to high-quality, affordable health insurance and the pre-existing condition protections that the law guarantees.

You have in your power the ability to make life safer, healthier, and a little bit easier for your constituents. All you have to do is drop your support for this ill-conceived lawsuit, which is even more dangerous and cruel in this moment of national crisis. History will judge all of us by how we respond to this pandemic. The public health imperative we now face is bigger than politics, and it requires all of us to summon the courage to lead and to do what is right for the American people.

Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
47th Vice President of the United States

Biden, in Harsh Critique of Trump Administration, Offers Own Plan for Combating Coronavirus Pandemic

Vice President Joe Biden offers his own plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic: “We need immediate action –on testing, on research for treatments and vaccines, on leading a global response to beat the virus everywhere.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com 

It is stunning that Grim Reaper McConnell, who held up the first House coronavirus stimulus bill for days, is now attacking Senate Democrats for refusing to rubberstamp a $2 trillion giveaway to corporate insiders and CEOs, raising the alarm (get this) that waiting until noon would mean a whole morning of Wall Street sinking further. A morning in exchange for the health and well being of Americans and the economy. The idea that Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, who made a bundle on the misery of the 2008 Bush Great Recession using just these same tactics, will personally decide what companies get bailed out is absurd – and a clear clue is that they want to keep secret who they are handing money to for 6 months.

Senator Elizabeth Warren and the Democrats have a better plan for immediate relief to Americans who will be most harmed financially now and perhaps for the rest of their lives: erase student debt, use the mechanisms you already have: expand unemployment insurance, disability, social security. Instead of simply incentivizing companies to not do anything and still collect up to $10 million in loans that would be forgiven (Mnuchin will choose who gets what), purchase goods and services needed now; evoke the war powers to require factories to reconfigure to produce vitally needed medical equipment and put in purchase orders for future production, say electric cars, long-life batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, and especially medical supplies which will give the companies the needed cash flow to get through. Then test everyone to determine who is already immune and can return to work, rather than lock people in for six months, nine months, until the hypothetical “herd immunization” number is reached.  

At this point, projections call for 40 to 80 percent of people to become infected, and deaths from one million to two million. Trump and his Keystone Cops administration of corrupt, inept thugs have no clue how to keep the numbers down to a minimum, and keep people and the economy healthy. Vice President Joe Biden, running for president, offered his own criticism and plan in a speech – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Vice President Joe Biden on Combating Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Good morning. 
 
I hope you and your family are doing well in these difficult, anxious, and confusing times. 
 
Like all families, the Biden family is adjusting to new ways: less time together, more worrying about friends and relatives, concern about those isolated – or suffering – due to the coronavirus. 
 
As Americans, we may be physically apart, but we are truly all in this together.
 
And let me say something right up front: When we have stood as one, this nation has never been defeated. And we are not going to be defeated now.
 
The pandemic of 1918. The Great Depression. Two World Wars. 9/11.
 
We overcame them all.
 
And out of each crisis – we emerged stronger.
 
And we will again.
 
This new enemy may be unseen – but we have the tools, the expertise, and, most important, the will and the spirit to defeat it.
 
But we need to move – and we need to move fast.
 
It matters for the public health. And it matters for our economy.
 
Later today, you will hear from the President in his daily briefing.
 
These briefings are an important opportunity to inform and reassure the American people
 
They’re not a place for political attacks. Or to lash out at the press.
 
They’re about the American people.
 
So I hope today and in the days ahead, the president will give us the unvarnished truth. That’s what the American people need and deserve.
 
I hope he lets medical experts and FEMA leaders and others carrying out the work take center stage so we can hear directly from them.
 
And I hope we hear less talk and see more evidence of fast action.
 
My principal focus today – and every day – will be on what we should do to get this response fixed, to save lives, and to provide economic assistance to the tens of millions of Americans who need it now – and who will need it in the weeks and months ahead.
 
It starts with adopting a mindset of real urgency.
 
For too long, the warning signs were ignored.
 
For too long the Administration said the threat was “under control,” “contained,” like a “flu.” The president says no one saw this coming. That’s just not true.
 
Our own intelligence officials were warning of the coronavirus threat in January.
 
Just based on public information, I warned that this threat would get worse way back on January 27, and urged the need to put science first, draw on emergency funds to get the response started, and think about invoking disaster powers to respond.
 
Many of us talked about the need to get U.S. scientists on the ground in China to see first-hand what was happening, rather than relying solely on China.
 
My point is not simply that the president was wrong.
 
My point is that the mindset that was slow to recognize the problem and treat it with the seriousness it deserves, is still too much a part of how the president is addressing the problem.
 
South Korea detected their first case of coronavirus on the same day that we did. 
 
But they had tests and a sophisticated tracing program to stop the spread of the virus,
so they didn’t have to put the country on lockdown. 
 
We had none of that. 
 
So we are left with only the extreme social distancing measures currently in place. 
 
That’s a failure of planning and preparation by this White House.
 
Today, months later, Americans who need to be tested still have no access to tests
in many parts of the country. And in many places, our health care system teeters on the brink of collapse. 
 
Hospital beds are filling. Doctors and nurses are already running out of critical equipment.
 
The federal government needs to coordinate getting medical supplies out to every corner of our country so we don’t have governors competing against one another.  
 
As late as yesterday, we are being told that the president still has not activated his authority under the Defense Production Act to direct American manufacturers to make essential supplies.
 
Trump keeps saying he’s a wartime president— well, then, he should act like one.
 
To paraphrase a frustrated President Lincoln writing to an inactive General McLellan during the Civil War: “If you don’t want to use the army, may I borrow it?”
 
We need to get in motion today what should have been set in motion weeks ago.
 
Any public health expert will tell you that in a crisis like this you can’t move too fast – you can only move too slow.
 
Let me be clear: Donald Trump is not to blame for the coronavirus. But he does bear responsibility for our response.
 
And I, along with every American, hope he steps up and starts to get this right.
 
This isn’t about politics.
 
There is simply too much at stake – too many lives, too many livelihoods, too many homes and families and businesses and communities at risk.
 
I’ve laid out a very detailed, in-depth plan for what we should do. You can read it all on JoeBiden.com
 
We need immediate action –on testing, on research for treatments and vaccines, on leading a global response to beat the virus everywhere.  
 
But today, I want to focus on just four key areas for action.
 
First, the President must take immediate steps to increase the capacity of our health care system to treat the sickest coronavirus patients, safely. 
 
I’m glad the president has finally activated the National Guard.

Now we need the Armed Forces and the National Guard to help with hospital capacity, supplies, and logistics. 

We need to activate a reserve corps of doctors and nurses to beef up the number of responders dealing with this crush of cases, and allow doctors and nurses trained abroad, not currently at work in the U.S., to temporarily work alongside our overburdened health care providers.
 
Second, the President must use the Defense Production Act to radically increase the supply of critical goods needed to treat patients and protect our health care workers and first responders, including protective gear like face masks, and critical equipment like ventilators so desperately needed in our hospitals. 
  
It means working with our allies and partners to get supplies from overseas when available, and dispatching U.S. military assets to retrieve them quickly. 
 
It means federal coordination of the supply chain to accelerate deliveries and get them to the right places. And much more.
 
We are the nation that built the arsenal of democracy in the 1940s. We can make personal protective equipment for health care workers in 2020.
 
Third, the President needs to end the infighting and bickering in his own administration, listen to the scientists, and provide clear guidance. 
 
The American people are not getting clear leadership, clear action, or clear accountability.
 
Management matters in a crisis. I’ve been there in the Situation Room. There are thousands of steps that need to be taken, all at once. 
 
You need to be planning not just for today and tomorrow, but for the day after.  
 
Is this White House actively planning for what it will take for America to begin to return to something resembling normal life?  
 
Just waiting and seeing isn’t going to cut it.
 
What are the conditions required? What capacities should be in place? What protections and protocols do we need to ensure the virus doesn’t simply start spreading again?  
 
They need to start planning now, so the current measures stay in place for as long as they are needed, but not longer.  
 

And fourth, the President needs to set the right priorities for our economic response. 
 
Our guiding principle must be to keep everyone paid through this crisis.
 
We should be doing everything in our power to keep workers on payrolls, make small businesses healthy, and help the economy come out the other side strong.

The Federal Government should provide the resources to make that happen, while still protecting the American taxpayer.
 
Unfortunately, as of last night, President Trump and Mitch McConnell were offering a plan that let big corporations off the hook. They proposed a $500 billion slush fund for corporations, with almost no conditions.

Under their plan, the Trump Administration could even allow companies to use taxpayers’ money for stock buybacks and executive pay packages.
 
They wouldn’t have to make commitments to keep workers employed.
 
They wouldn’t even have to tell Americans where the money goes for months. 
 
Today, there are active efforts to fix this bill so it focuses on workers and families and small businesses rather than no-strings corporate bailouts.
 
Here’s my bottom line: Millions of small businesses, like the family-run restaurant that is trying to stay open and pay its workers – they should get the funds they need.
 
Big companies will need help, too — but no blank checks.

 
If corporations take money from taxpayers, they have to make a commitment that they will keep workers on payroll.
 
The worker who is seeing their wages slashed — they need to be made whole. 
 
Those who do lose jobs – they need strong, sustained, unemployment benefits, whether they are a gig worker or a full-time employee. 
 
The family that will go hungry tonight – they need food on the table. 
 
Social Security checks need to be boosted.
 
Student debt should be forgiven. 
 

Cash relief needs to go out fast to all of the people who need it the most. 
 
We can act quickly and together. 
 
We can put the politics aside to meet this moment, like Governors all across the nation.
 
Mike Dewine in Ohio, Larry Hogan in Maryland, Charlie Baker in Massachusetts.
 
Gavin Newsom in California, Jay Inslee in Washington, Gretchen Witmer in Michigan.
 
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s briefings are a lesson in leadership.
 
Republicans and Democrats — all are rising to the moment, putting aside politics to do what needs to be done. 
 
But they all are looking to the federal government for more help.
 
Finally, it’s worth noting that today is the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act. I’m proud of the role I played, alongside President Obama, in bringing Obamacare into law. And I’m proud of its record of achievement. 
 
But also today, in the middle of one of the biggest public health emergencies in generations, the White House and Republican attorneys general are actively pursuing a lawsuit to invalidate the ACA in court. 
 
They are working to strip millions of Americans of their health care and tens of millions of their protections for pre-existing conditions.  

 
I sent them a letter this morning, with a simple request: Withdraw this lawsuit. End this effort to take away people’s health care. 

This is not the moment to add additional uncertainty and fear in this nation or to let politics trump doing what is right. Give Americans peace of mind.
 
In a crisis, character is revealed — and each day we are seeing the courage and heart of Americans shine through.  
 
Our military, our first responders, our doctors, nurses and health care workers, of course. 
 
But also those who we don’t think about as much: the grocery store workers; the mail and package carriers; the workers manufacturing the gear we need, keeping delivery trucks on the road, cooking meals to deliver, and tending our elderly loved ones; the journalists who keep us up to date and hold leaders accountable; the government officials working on this problem, and so many more.
 
They are putting it all on the line for us. We need to give them all the help they need now. And we need to be sure we never forget what they’ve done.
 
Let me close with this thought: Deep in the heart of every American, there burns a flame. It’s an inheritance from every generation of Americans that has come before us. It’s why we have overcome every crisis we have ever faced before. It’s what makes this nation special and why we stand apart.
 
That flame is not going to be extinguished in this moment.
 
If our leadership does its part, the American people will do their part.
 
Because here’s the simple truth: The American people have never, ever let this country down.
 
So, we need to get moving, and moving fast. 

This is the United States of America, and there’s not a single thing we can’t do — if we do it together. Thank you.

NYS Governor Cuomo: ‘We’re working on every level. Every pistol is firing. Everything that can be done is being done.’

Governor Andrew Cuomo tours Northwell Health Laboratories on Long Island to urge CDC to allow private labs to test for coronavirus using automated systems to better monitor and contain the spread of COVID-19 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Cuomo: “My last point is practice humanity. We don’t talk about practicing humanity, but now if ever there is a time to practice humanity the time is now. The time is now to show some kindness, to show some compassion to people, show some gentility – even as a New Yorker.”

Trump has played a pathetic game of catch-up to the actual task of getting Americans through the coronavirus pandemic as best as possible, with as few deaths and as little destruction to the economy and society as possible. While he has proved a mendacious inept clog, true leadership has been demonstrated by Governors, especially New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. His press availability today, in which he gave updates on his nonstop effort to increase hospital capacity and obtain necessary protective equipment and medical supplies in anticipation of a surge of patients, was heartening to New Yorkers. It was a speech that hearkened to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was Governor of New York before he was President, leading the nation through the Great Depression and later through World War II.  This is a rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks:

Good morning. Happy Saturday. Welcome to the weekend. I want to give you an update and briefing on where we are today and then we’re going to go out and do some real work, get out of this building before we get cabin fever. You know the people who are here today. From my far right, Simonida Subotic who is in charge of managing supplies which is a major function for us, Robert Mujica, Director of Division of the Budget, Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor, the great James Malatras who has been a tremendous help here.

Go through the facts, the numbers are still increasing. We have been seeing that. That’s the line that we’re tracking. This is all about the increase in the number of cases and managing the increase in the number of cases to the capacity of our health care system. What are we doing? We’re reducing the spread and the rate of the spread to match the increase in the number of cases and increasing hospital capacity at the same time – just how do our hospitals manage the rate of the spread.

We’re trying to reduce the spread to over a period of months. Over a period of months our healthcare system can deal with the numbers. We have moved to zero non-essential workers. You can’t go below zero so we’re doing everything we can there and we put out new rules on personal conduct and what people should be doing and how they should be behaving and where they should be.

Matilda’s Law which is for the vulnerable population, senior citizens, people with compromised immune systems, underlying illnesses – that was very specific. As I mentioned we named it for my mother Matilda because I went through this with my own siblings. How do we help mom? Where do we bring mom? There was a difference of opinion. The best health professionals put together guidelines that not only help senior citizens but also their families who are trying to deal with this. I know it was helpful to my family and the question among siblings these laws and guidelines answered. I don’t want to mention which sibling but it turns out that he was wrong.

The personal conduct rules and regulations are also very helpful. I want to thank Dr. Fauci who is really an extraordinary American and has given me great guidance and help and assistance in putting together these policies so I’d like to thank him and we’re doing those.

We’re working on every level. Every pistol is firing. Everything that can be done is being done. New Yorkers are lucky. We have a very experienced team that’s doing this. This is not their first rodeo. They’ve been through a number of emergencies on a number of levels.

Increasing hospital capacity – we want to get the capacity of 50,000 thousand up to a minimum of 75,000. We told the hospitals we’re going to be ending elective surgeries. We are now working with hospitals to reconfigure the space in the hospital to get more beds and to find more staff to manage those beds. We’re working on building new beds. We’re going to go out and review a number of sites today. I’d like to give the final list to the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers today but we’re looking at Javits, SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Westbury, the Westchester Convention Center, and I’m going to go out and take a look at those sites today or the ones I can get to. That would give us a regional distribution and a real capacity if we can get them up quickly enough and then increasing supplies which is one of the most critical activities.

We are literally scouting the globe looking for medical supplies. We’ve identified 2 million N-95 masks which are the high protection masks. We have apparel companies that are converting to mask manufacturing companies in the State of New York in all sorts of creative configurations and I want to thank them. I put out a plea yesterday to ask them for help and we’ve been on the phone with all sorts of companies who are really doing great work. We’re also exploring the State of New York manufacturing masks ourselves.

We’re going to send 1 million N95 masks to New York City today. That’s been a priority for New York City and 1 million masks won’t get us through the crisis but it’ll make a significant contribution to New York City’s mask issue and I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for working in partnership. We’re sending 500,000 N95 masks to Long Island. We’ve been working with County Executive Laura Curran and County Executive Steve Bellone and I want to thank them.

We’re gathering ventilators. Ventilators are the most important piece of equipment and the piece of equipment that is most scarce. We’re gathering them from all different health facilities across the state and then we’re going to use those in the most critical areas. We also identified 6,000 new ventilators that we can actually purchase so that’s a big deal.

From the federal government’s point of view I’ve spoken to the President a number of times. I spoke to the Vice President a number of times. They’ve issued a federal disaster declaration which is a technical act by the federal government but what it basically does is it allows the federal emergency management agency called FEMA to step in and assist financially. By that declaration FEMA would pay 75 percent of the cost of a disaster. New York State would pay 25 percent of the cost. The federal government can waive the 25 percent of the cost. I’m asking them to waive that 25 percent in this situation. I’ve worked on many disasters, FEMA has waived the 25 percent. If there’s any situation where FEMA should waive the 25 percent, this is the situation.

We’re also working with the federal government. We’re requesting 4 field hospitals at 250 capacity each. That would give us 1000 field hospital beds. We’re going to be looking at Javits as a location for those field hospitals. We’re also requesting 4 Army Corps of Engineers temporary hospitals. Those are the sites I mentioned earlier that I’m going to take a look at. The SUNY Stonybrook, Westbury, Westchester Convention Center and also Javits. Javits is so big that it can take the 4 field hospitals and an Army Corps of Engineers temporary hospital. We’re also requesting assistance with medical supplies which has been a very big topic of conversation all across the country. 

We’re also asking our federal congressional delegation to fix a law that was passed on the coronavirus federal aid because of a technical issue the way the bill was written, New York State does not qualify for aid. That’s over $6 billion, that is a lot of money and we need the federal delegation to fix that bill otherwise New York State gets nothing. New York State has more coronavirus cases than any state in the United States of America. That we should not be included in the bill, obviously makes no sense. 

We’re also going to conduct immediately trials for the new drug therapy which we have been discussing. I spoke to Dr. Zucker about it. There is a theory that the drug treatment could be helpful. We have people who are in serious condition and Dr. Zucker feels comfortable, as well as a number of other health professionals, that in a situation where a person is in dire circumstance, try what you can. The FDA is going to accelerate to New York 10,000 doses. As soon as we get those doses we will work with doctors, nurses and families on using those drugs and seeing where we get. 

I spoke to the President, he spoke to this drug therapy in his press conference yesterday and I spoke to him afterward. I said that New York would be interested and we have the most number of cases and health professionals have all recommended to me that we try it, so we’ll try it.  We’re also working on a number of other drug therapies, an anti-body therapy, a possible vaccine. We have a company here in New York called Regeneron that’s really showing some promising results. I exempted them from the no work order, because they couldn’t possibly have a really significant achievement for us. The new numbers, the more tests you take, the more positives you find, and I give this caution because I think people misinterpret the number of new cases. They take that number of new cases as if it is reflective of the number of new cases, the spread. It is not. The number of new cases is only reflective of the number of cases you are taking, right. Where our goal is to find the positive cases, because if we find a positive case we can isolate that person, and that stops the spread. So we’re actually looking for positives. The more tests you take, the more positives you will find.

We are taking more tests in New York than anyplace else. We’re taking more tests per capita than China or South Korea. We’re also taking more tests than any state in the United States of America. That is actually a great accomplishment. Because if you remember back, two weeks, which seems like a lifetime now, the whole question was coming up to scale on tests. How do we get the number of tests up and how do we get it up quickly? I spoke to the president and the vice president and said decentralize the testing, let the states do it. I have 200 labs. I can mobilize quickly. Let us do the tests. They agreed. We’re doing more tests than any state, so for example, we’ve done 45,000 tests. California has done 23,000, Washington has done 23,000, so you see how many more tests we are doing. And again, I credit the team that’s working here, because this is exactly what the mandate was. Perform as many tests as quickly as you can, and that’s the drive-thrus we’ve put in place, the hospital management, et cetera. So our numbers should be higher. And they are.

Total number of positive cases now is up to 10,000, number of new cases has increased by 3,000, let’s go back in case you can’t read as fast as I can read. 6,000 New York City, 1,300 Westchester, 1,200 in Nassau. You see the Westchester number is slowing. We did a New Rochelle containment area. The numbers would suggest that that has been helpful. So I feel good about that. You see Nassau increasing, you see Suffolk increasing. So that’s just the wide spread increase that we have been anticipating. But our hotspot of Westchester is now slowing, and that’s very good news. New York City, it is the most dense environment. This virus spreads in density, right. And that’s what you’re seeing in New York City, obviously, has many more people than any other specific location in the state. Number of counties are increasing. You see the blue. I said to you early on that blue is going to take over the whole state, just the way every state in the United States has now been covered. Most impacted states, you look at the cases in New York is 10,000, Washington, California, 1,000 each. Does that mean that we have ten times the number of cases as California or Washington? Or does that mean we’re doing more tests than California or Washington? The truth is somewhere in the middle, and nobody can tell you. Total number of people tested, we’re up to 45,000. Number of new tests. This is a rate that we watch. What is the rate of hospitalization? Again, because this is all about hospital capacity, right, 1,500 out of 10,000, it’s roughly 15 percent of the cases. It’s been running about 14, 15. It’s gone as high as 20 percent, 21 percent. So actually 15 percent rate of hospitalization is not a bad number. It’s actually down from where it was. The more refined number is, of those who are hospitalized, how many require the ventilators, because the ventilators are the piece of equipment that is most scarce. That’s the next refinement of these numbers that we have to do.

And again, the context on the numbers is important. We’re talking 10,000 et cetera. You look at any world health organization or the NIH, or what any of the other countries are saying. You have to expect that at the end of the day, 40 percent to 80 percent of the population is going to be infected. So the only question is, how fast is the rate to that 40 percent, 80 percent, and can you slow that rate so your hospital system can deal with it. That is all we’re talking about here. If you look at the 40 to 80 percent, that means between 7.8 million and 15 million New Yorkers will be affected at the end of the day. We’re just trying to postpone the end of the day. Again, perspective, Johns Hopkins, this is not a science fiction movie. You don’t have to wait to the end of the movie to find out what happens. Johns Hopkins has studied every case since it started, 284,000, 11,000 deaths, almost 90,000 recoveries, 183,000 still pending. Which tracks everything we know in the State of New York. Our first case, first case, healthcare worker, 39-year-old female who was in Iran. She went home, she never went to a hospital, she recovered, she’s now negative. You get sick, you get symptoms, you recover. That is true for the overwhelming number of people. Again, context, people who died in the flu, from the flu, in 2018-2019: 34,000 Americans. 34,000, so when you hear these numbers of deaths, keep it in perspective. 34,000 people died of the flu. Over 65, 74 percent of the people were over 65. 25 percent were under 65. So, if you have an underlying illness, you catch the flu, you can die. More likely if you have an underlying illness, senior citizens, et cetera, but not necessarily. You have 25 percent under 65 years old die from the flu.

Also, in terms of context, perspective. Don’t listen to rumors. I mean, you have such wild rumors out there, and people call me with the craziest theories. Just, I understand there’s anxiety and stress, but let’s remember some basic context and facts. Society functions. Everything works. There’s going to be food in the grocery stores. There’s no reason to buy a hundred rolls of toilet paper. There really isn’t. And by the way, where do you even put a hundred rolls of toilet paper? The transportation system functions. The pharmacy system functions. These things are all going to work. Nonessential workers, stay home, but the essential workers are staying home, especially the healthcare workers. There is not going to be any roadblock when you wake up in the morning that says you can’t leave this place, you can’t leave that place, right? So if you have a real question, because you think there’s a real concern from a credible source, contact my team. We have a special website: coronavirus.health.ny.gov, and ask the question and you will get a real, truthful, factual response.

I have not hidden anything from the people of this state. I have not tilted facts. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the American people deserve the truth, they can handle the truth, give them the truth. When they don’t get the truth and if you don’t get the facts, that’s when people should get anxious. If I think I’m being deceived or there’s something you’re not telling me, or you’re shading the truth, now I’m anxious. Everything I know, I’ve told you, and I will continue to tell you, and these are facts, and you hear a rumor, and you want to check it out, go to that website, these are people who work for me directly, and you will have the truth. We do have an issue with younger people who are not complying, and I’ve mentioned it before but it’s not getting better. You know, you can have your own opinion. You cannot have your own facts – you want to have an opinion, have an opinion, but you can’t have your own facts. “Well young people don’t get this disease.” You are wrong – that is not a fact. 18-49 years old are 54 percent of the cases in New York State. 54 percent. 18-49 years old. So you’re not Superman, and you’re not Superwoman, you can get this virus and you can transfer the virus and you can wind up hurting someone who you love or hurting someone wholly inadvertently. Social distancing works and you need social distancing everywhere. There’s a significant amount of non-compliance, especially in New York City, especially in the parks – I’m going to go down there today, I want to see what situation is myself, but it has to be stopped because you are endangering people and if it’s because of misinformation, if it’s because of noncompliance, I don’t care frankly – this is a public health issue and you cannot endanger other people’s health. You shouldn’t be endangering your own. But you certainly have no right to endanger someone else’s.

This is my personal opinion, this is not a fact, you know to me it’s very important in a situation like this, tell me the facts and then tell me your opinion – this is my opinion. We talk about social responsibility, especially young people talk about social responsibility and they should – we pass a lot of legislation in this building, groundbreaking legislation, national firsts, on economic rights, highest minimum wage in the United States of America, human rights, first state to pass marriage equality, which I believe was a human rights issue, we talk about environmental responsibility and this state has the most aggressive environmental laws in the United States of America and I am proud of it, but I also want people to think about the social responsibility when it comes to public health. We haven’t talked about it before, not really a field, it’s not really an issue, it’s not really a hashtag, but social responsibility applies to public health just as it applies to human rights, and economic rights and environmental rights – public health, especially in a moment like this, is probably most critical.

So let’s think about that and let’s act on that. In this crisis, think of yourselves, we are all first responders – your actions can either save or endanger a life, so we are all first responders. What’s going to happen? We’re going to get through this. We don’t know how long it’s going to take us to get through this. Fact is we’re trying to slow the spread of the virus to a number of months so the healthcare system can deal with it, so therefore by definition it’s going to be a number of months. I know people want to hear, “It’s only going to be a matter of weeks and then it’s going to be fine.” I don’t believe it’s going to be a matter of weeks. I believe it is going to be a matter of months, but we are going to get through it, and how long and how well it takes us to get through it is up to us. It depends on what we do – you know when you’re sick and you say to the doctor, “Well how long until I get better?” And the doctor says, “It depends on what you do. If you follow the advice, you’ll get healthy faster, but it depends on what you do.” This depends on what we do. China is now reporting no news cases. Let’s assume that’s true – look at that trajectory, look at that turnaround, look at what they did, we do have data we can follow. So how long is it going to take? It depends on how smart and how we responsible are and how diligent we are. You tell me the percentage of compliance and intelligence and discipline on social disciplining et cetera? I’ll tell you how long it takes for us to get through it.

Also something that people aren’t really talking about but I think we should start talking about – we talk about the economic consequences of this situation and they are going to be significant, and we are going to have to deal with it and New York will be right on top of it and as aggressive as we are with everything else. But economic consequences come second – first, is dealing with this crisis. We talk about the economic consequences but we also need to talk about the social consequences. There is no Dow Jones index that we can watch on the screen that is measuring the social consequences and the social decline. But the stress, the anxiety, the emotions that are provoked by this crisis are truly significant, and people are struggling with the emotions as much as they are struggling with the economics. And this state wants to start to address that. I’m asking psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists who are willing to volunteer their time to contact the state and if this works out I would like to set up a voluntary network where people can go for mental health assistance where they can contact a professional to talk through how they are feeling about this. They are nervous, they are anxious, they are isolated. It can bring all sorts of emotions and feelings to the surface. When you are isolated you do not have people to talk to.

So I am asking the professional mental health establishment to contact us. Let us know that you are willing to volunteer time. It would obviously be all electronic. It would not be in person. It would be telephone, it would be Skype, etc. But I would ask you to seriously consider this. Many people are doing extraordinary things during this public health crisis. I ask the mental health community, many of them are looking for a way to participate, this is a way to participate. And if we get enough mental health professionals willing to volunteer their time, we will set up a mental health electronic help center. And we will talk more about that the next few days.

What happens besides how long? What happens? The bigger question to me is what do we learn about ourselves through this? As a society, we have never gone through this. We have never gone through a world war. We have not gone through any great social crisis. Here in New York, we went through 9/11 which I think is relevant in terms of some feelings that people are now experiencing. 9/11 transformed society. I was there. I was part of it. You were never the same after 9/11. You had a sense of vulnerability that you never had before which I feel to this day. There was a trauma to 9/11. But as a society, as a country, we have been blessed in that we have not gone through something as disruptive as this.

So what do we learn about ourselves? I think what we are saying already is a crisis really brings out the truth about ourselves first of all and about others. And your see people’s strengths and you see people’s weaknesses. You see society’s strengths and you see society’s weaknesses. You see both the beauty and the vulnerability. You see the best in people and you see the worst in people. You see people rise to the occasion and you see people fall from the burden of the emotion. So, I think – You take a step back.

NYS Governor Announces Efforts to Dramatically Increase Hospital Capacity, Medical Supplies to Address Anticipated Surge in Covid-19 Patients

Governor Andrew Cuomo, with Dr. Howard A. Zucker, the state’s Health Commissioner, and Northwell Health’s CEO Michael J. Dowling. The Governor announced new efforts to expand hospital capacity and increase the state’s supply of personal protective equipment © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor Will Visit Sites – Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Old Westbury & Westchester Convention Center

Announces New Actions to Increase State’s Supply of Personal Protective Equipment

Issues Executive Order Temporarily Closing DMV In-Office Transactions; Online Transactions Still Available

Announces FEMA Granted New York’s Request for Major Disaster Declaration

Asks New York’s Congressional Delegation to Fix the Coronavirus Federal Aid Law that Currently Exempts New York from Receiving Aid

Department of Health Commissioner Recommends Trials for New Drug Therapy

New Yorkers Can Sign Up for Email Updates Here and Ask Questions About COVID-19 Here

New Yorkers Can Find More Information About the New COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Law Here

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the recommendation of the Army Corps of Engineers regarding four initial sites in New York State for locating temporary hospitals – the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, and locations at SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Old Westbury and the Westchester Convention Center. Over the past days, an inspection team led by the Army Corps of Engineers, and including state officials from the Office of General Services, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, the Department of Health and the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, has visited more than a dozen sites to review for temporary hospital use. Upon the Governor’s determination, the Army Corps is expected to immediately begin work to construct the temporary hospitals. The Governor is also requesting FEMA designate four field hospitals with 250 beds each for the state, intended for use in the Javits Center in addition to the temporary hospital to be constructed by the Army Corps.

Governor Cuomo also announced that the state is taking new actions to increase the supply of personal protective equipment – or PPE. The state has identified two million N95 masks for purchase and will send one million to New York City and 500,000 to Long Island. Apparel manufacturers in the state are converting their operations to begin manufacturing masks and other medical equipment, and the state is also exploring manufacturing masks. Additionally, the state is gathering ventilators from different health facilities from across the state to be used in the most critical areas and has already purchased 6,000 additional ventilators.

The Governor also issued an executive order temporary closing the Department of Motor Vehicles for all in-office visits. Online transactions, including for license renewals, are still be available. License and permit expirations will be extended.

The Governor also announced that federal government approved New York’s request for a major disaster declaration that allows FEMA to step in financially and assist the state. Under the current declaration FEMA will pay 75 of the funding and New York is responsible for 25 percent. The Governor is urging the President and his administration to grant a 100 percent federal cost share under this declaration. The Governor urges the federal government to quickly grant the state’s pending request to support homeowners through additional individual assistance programs and statewide hazard mitigation assistance.

The Governor is also asking New York’s Congressional delegation to modify federal coronavirus legislation to ensure New York is eligible for $6 billion in aid. Due to a current technical issue in the bill, New York State is not eligible to receive aid.

Additionally, the Governor announced that State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Zucker has recommended trials for new drug therapy to help combat COVID-19. The FDA is acquiring 10,000 doses of Hydroxychloroquine and Zithromax for New York State to use on a trial basis.

New Yorkers can sign up to receive daily email updates on the evolving COVID-19 situation here and can ask questions about COVID-19 here. New Yorkers can also find more information about the new COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Law here.

“Every day we see the number of cases of novel coronavirus continue to rise, and we know that by all projections we’re going to have more hospitalizations than we can deal with in our healthcare system,” Governor Cuomo said. “We have a plan of action to help stop the spread of this virus, including expanding hospital capacity and identifying new hospital beds, and after meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers and hearing their recommendations, we stand ready for the building of temporary hospitals at four facilities in New York State. This is a public health crisis, but worse than the virus is the fear, but we have a plan and we are doing everything we can to keep the people informed and save lives.”

Hospitality Industry Faces Catastrophic Impact of Coronavirus Crisis

America’s hotels, supporting one out of ever 25 jobs, face catastrophe because of the coronavirus health crisis (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com.

Leading hotel CEOs met with the White House on March 17 to discuss urgent economic recovery solutions needed to protect millions of U.S. hotel employees and 33,000 small businesses as travel grinds to a virtual halt across the country because of the coronavirus health crisis.  From Main Street to major cities across the country, hotels everywhere are on the verge of shutting their doors in the coming days – many by the end of this week. With 1 in 25 jobs supported by the hotel industry, the rapid pace of booking cancellations is having an immediate, negative ripple effect that risks seeing mom and pop hotel owners shutter, furlough their employees, hurting community businesses.  

The hotel industry is an industry of people and the current human toll is proving to be catastrophic. Based on current occupancy estimates, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) says four million total jobs have been eliminated already or are on the verge of being lost in the next few weeks. In certain affected markets, including Seattle, San Francisco, Austin and Boston, hotel occupancy rates are already down below 20 percent and individual hotels and major operators have already shut down operations. 

The AHLA, the nation’s leading and largest trade association for hotel industry, made the case that the economic impact on the hotel industry is already more severe than 9/11 and the 2008 recession, combined. “The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our 33,000 small business owners who operate 66 percent of hotel properties across the country has been extremely severe with many considering shuttering and closing their doors for good within days if they haven’t closed already.”

Chip Rogers, AHLA President and CEO, said the burgeoning COVID-19 health crisis is unprecedented in its size and scope, and it represents the single largest decline in travel in modern times.

“The impact to our industry is already more severe than anything we’ve seen before, including September 11th and the great recession of 2008 combined,” stated Rogers. “The White House and Congress can take urgent action to protect countless jobs, provide relief to our dedicated and hardworking employees, and ensure that our small business operators and franchise owners – who represent more than half of hotels in the country – can keep their doors open.”

According to an Oxford Economic Study, a 30 percent decline in hotel guest occupancy could result in the loss of nearly 4 million jobs, with $180 billion of wages and a $300 billion hit to the GDP – crippling the hotel industry, the local communities they serve and the U.S. economy.  

“This unprecedented public health crisis has quickly become a catastrophic economic crisis as well,” said Roger Dow, President and CEO, U.S. Travel Association President. “The losses for the travel industry alone are projected to double the unemployment rate over the next two months and plunge the country into recession. Small businesses, which make up 83% of travel businesses, need relief right now if they’re going to be able to keep paying their employees.”

The Oxford study estimates the hotel industry supports 1 in 25 American jobs, totaling 8.3 million jobs, paying more than $97 billion in wages and salary income, and contributes nearly $660 billion to the U.S. GDP annually.  In addition to major hotel brands, the hotel industry includes more than 33,000 small businesses, which represent 61 percent of hotel properties in the U.S.

Top hotel industry leaders laid out several immediate actions the White House and Congress could take to help the hotel industry protect jobs and help small business operators. The group focused on two critical goals – retaining and rehiring employees and keeping hotels from shutting down through access to liquidity and low interest loans, including for small businesses. 

Hotel CEOs who participated in the roundtable discussion today at the White House were hopeful that President Trump and Members of Congress will work together urgently to provide relief and ensure the industry is positioned to rebound from the unprecedented impact from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Best Western Hotels & Resorts President and CEO, David Kong said, “For nearly 75 years, Best Western has been a brand with small family businesses at our core. Most of our hotels are owned and operated by hardworking men and women with their children growing up in the business. For them, their hotels represent their families’ legacy and their future. Many are being forced to close their doors with no assurance of when they will be able to reopen. Their employees are left with no gainful employment and the resultant financial hardship. It is imperative that the government step in immediately with loan programs that provide capital and liquidity to help small businesses survive as well as other employment programs to help the impacted employees. The situation is dire.”

Choice Hotels International President & CEO, Pat Pacious said, “The majority of our 13,000 franchisees are small business hotel owners who have to meet payroll, pay their mortgages every month, and support their families during this crisis – as well as take care of their guests. As I told the Administration today, while Choice Hotels is acting to assist our franchisees, the federal government has a critical role to play in helping minimize the impact and disruption to the livelihoods of small business hotel owners and their employees, as well as stabilizing the economy during this difficult and unprecedented time.” 

Hilton President and Chief Executive Officer, Christopher J. Nassetta said, “In Hilton’s 100-year history, we have never seen anything like the current situation. I am hearing directly from hotel employees concerned about their mortgage payments and hotel owners worried about making payroll. Nearly eighty percent of the hotels in our U.S. network are franchise properties that employ less than 50 people, and we are using every tool in our toolkit to keep these small businesses viable. Ours is an industry of people serving people, and that’s why we’re asking Congress and the Administration to help shield them from the economic impact of the coronavirus, so they can be part of the recovery that will follow.”

Hyatt president and CEO, Mark Hoplamazian said, “In our industry, success depends entirely on the passion and dedication of our people. It is critical that we take swift action to ensure that our workforce is protected with the proper healthcare and financial support so that the industry can return in full force following this unprecedented degree of business interruption.”

InterContinental Hotels Group CEO Americas, Elie Maalouf said, “The coronavirus represents a global economic emergency as well as a global health emergency, and the impact it will have on the hospitality industry is unprecedented. Even as we’re currently managing this issue to keep our guests and colleagues safe, and hotel owners secure, we’re committed to doing everything we can to protect the future of the millions of Americans employed by the hotel industry and prepare to expedite a return to normal once this crisis passes. We appreciate the administration’s engagement in this issue and look forward to continuing this important discussion in the weeks ahead.”

Marriott International President and CEO, Arne Sorenson said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented decline in demand impacting our hotels and our associates. We are looking to government to support the hospitality industry through this period of time so we can assist our associates and hotel owners, many of whom are small businesses.”

MGM Resorts International Chairman & CEO, James Murren said, “Within days we have transformed from a vibrant industry welcoming people from around the world, to one experiencing a total shutdown of business.  Addressing this public health emergency required major collective action which is why MGM shut down our operations. But it comes at a cost to our tens of thousands of employees, small businesses and communities who depended on us.  We look forward to a productive dialogue on how to ensure that when it is safe, the gaming industry can be in a position to open our doors so that we and the 2 million jobs that depend can be part of the economic recovery that is to come.”

“Pebblebrook Hotel Trust is a REIT with 54 hotels with over 13,000 rooms and over 8,000 employees around the country. Our hotels are in most of the hardest hit cities – Seattle, San Francisco, here in Washington, DC, NYC, Boston, Chicago and more. As of today, we have had to make the difficult decision to let go over 4,000 employees,” noted Jon Bortz, Board Chair, AHLA and Chairman & CEO, Pebblebrook Hotel Trust.

“By the end of the month, we expect another 2,000 employees will also be let go, representing over three quarters of our employees. We are looking at closing the doors at more than half of our properties,” Bortz said. “This is the reality we, and countless other owners and operators around the country are facing in the wake of this public health situation.”

NYS Guarantees Jobs, Paid Sick Leave for Workers Quarantined by Covid-19, suspends Collection of Medical, Student Debt

Governor Andrew Cuomo tours Northwell Health Laboratories on Long Island to urge CDC to allow private labs to test for coronavirus using automated systems to better monitor and contain the spread of COVID-19 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a three-way agreement with the Legislature on a bill guaranteeing job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined as a result of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. The program bill also includes the permanent comprehensive paid sick leave policy first advanced in the Governor’s FY 2021 Executive Budget proposal.

This follows the Governor’s announcement last week that the state will guarantee two full weeks of paid leave for all state workers who are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine as a result of the novel coronavirus.

The Governor announced that the state’s drive-through COVID-19 mobile testing facility opens today on Long Island. The Governor also authorized the State to open drive-through COVID-19 mobile testing facilities in Suffolk County, Rockland County and on Staten Island. This follows the success of the New Rochelle mobile testing center, which opened March 13th. Drive-through mobile testing facilities help keep people who are sick or at risk of having contracted coronavirus out of healthcare facilities where they could infect other people. These facilities are a critical part of the Governor’s nation-leading program to test thousands of people per day for COVID-19 by this week.

The Governor also announced that the state is reaching out to qualified former doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to supplement the personnel at hospitals. The State Department of Health and the State Education Department have sent letters to retired health care professionals and all schools of nursing, public health and medicine encouraging qualified health care personnel to sign up for on-call work during the COVID-19 crisis. Healthcare professionals who wish to sign up can contact the State Department of Health at health.ny.gov/assistance.

Governor Cuomo also directed the Greater New York Hospital Association and the Healthcare Association of New York State to work with 1199 SEIU to develop a plan to create drop-in child care opportunities and expand child care facilities at their hospitals to ensure child care for hospital workforce. They will submit a joint plan to the state by Friday.

“The single most effective way to contain the spread of this virus is to ensure people who may have come into contact with it do not interact with others. Last week I said we would lead by example by guaranteeing two weeks’ pay for state workers who have been quarantined as a result of covid-19,” Governor Cuomo said. “The paid sick leave measure we’ve agreed to today expands those protections to all new Yorkers – because no New Yorker should lose their job or income for following a critical public health order. This is an extraordinary time in this nation’s history, and it will go down in the history books as one of those moments of true crisis and confusion. So my message to New Yorkers is this: Be a little bit more sensitive, understand the stress, understand the fear, be a little bit more loving, a little bit more compassionate, a little bit more comforting, a little bit more cooperative. We are going to get through it and we are going to get through it together.”

To address the immediate need of employees affected by COVID-19 who are subject to mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation, the Governor’s legislation will provide the following:

Employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income less than $1 million will provide job protection for the duration of the quarantine order and guarantee their workers access to Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000.

Employers with 11-99 employees and employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income greater than $1 million will provide at least 5 days of paid sick leave, job protection for the duration of the quarantine order, and guarantee their workers access to Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000.

Employers with 100 or more employees, as well as all public employers (regardless of number of employees), will provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave and guarantee job protection for the duration of the quarantine order.

The provisions of the quarantine legislation are set to take effect immediately upon passage, ensuring that New York workers will be able to take advantage of these benefits.

The legislation also includes the comprehensive paid sick leave proposal that was advanced by the Governor as part of his State of the State and FY 2021 Executive Budget, which will be effective 180 days after enactment. Specifically, the legislation provides:

Employers with 4 or fewer employees and a net income less than $1 million will provide at least 5 days of unpaid sick leave each year.

Employers with 5-99 employees and employers with 4 or fewer employees and a net income greater than $1 million will provide at least 5 days of paid sick leave each year.

Employers with 100 or more employees will provide at least 7 days of paid sick leave each year. 

NY  Suspends Collection of Medical, Student State Debt

In a separate action, Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James today announced that — effective immediately — the state will temporarily halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the Office of the Attorney General for collection, for at least a 30-day period, in response to growing financial impairments resulting from the spread of 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Countless New Yorkers have been impacted — directly or indirectly — by the spread of COVID-19, forcing them to forgo income and business. In an effort to support these workers and families and ease their financial burdens, the OAG will halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the OAG for collection from March 16, 2020 through April 15, 2020. After this 30-day period, the OAG will reassess the needs of state residents for a possible extension. Additionally, the OAG will accept applications for suspension of all other types of debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the OAG for collection.

“As the financial impact of this emerging crisis grows, we are doing everything we can to support the thousands of New Yorkers that are suffering due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Governor Cuomo said. “This new action to temporarily suspend the collection of debt owed to the state will help mitigate the adverse financial impact of the outbreak on individuals, families, communities and businesses in New York State, as we continue to do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus.”

“In this time of crisis, my office will not add undue stress or saddle New Yorkers with unnecessary financial burden,” said Attorney General James. “New Yorkers need to focus on keeping themselves safe and healthy from the coronavirus, and therefore can rest assured that state medical and student debt referred to my office will not be collected against them for at least 30 days. This is the time when New Yorkers need to rally around each other and pick each other up, which is why I am committed to doing everything in my power to support our state’s residents.”

The OAG collects certain debts owed to the State of New York via settlements and lawsuits brought on behalf of the State of New York and state agencies. A total of more than 165,000 matters currently fit the criteria for a suspension of state debt collection, including, but not limited to:

Patients that owe medical debt due to the five state hospitals and the five state veterans’ home;

Students that owe student debt due to State University of New York campuses; and

Individual debtors, sole-proprietors, small business owners, and certain homeowners that owe debt relating to oil spill cleanup and removal costs, property damage, and breach of contract, as well as other fees owed to state agencies.

The temporary policy will also automatically suspend the accrual of interest and collection of fees on all outstanding state medical and student debt referred to the OAG for collection, so New Yorkers are not penalized for taking advantage of this program.

New Yorkers with non-medical or non-student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the OAG, may also apply to temporarily halt the collection of state debt. Individuals seeking to apply for this temporary relief can fill out an application online or visit the OAG’s coronavirus website to learn more about the suspension of payments. If an individual is unable to fill out the online form, they can also call the OAG hotline at 1-800-771-7755 to learn more. 

Finally, the Governor confirmed 432 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 1,374 confirmed cases in New York State. Of the 1,374 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:

New York City: 644 (187 new)

Westchester County: 380 (157 new)

Nassau County: 131 (24 new)

Suffolk County: 84 (21 new)

Albany County: 23 (11 new)

Rockland County: 22 (9 new)

Dutchess County: 16 (6 new)

Orange County: 15 (4 new)

Monroe County: 10 (1 new)

Saratoga County: 9 (4 new)

Ulster County: 8 (1 new)

Erie County: 7 (1 new)

Schenectady County: 5 (1 new)

Allegany County: 2

Greene County: 2

Onondaga County: 2 (1 new)

Putnam County: 2

Tompkins County: 2 (1 new)

Broome County: 1

Clinton County: 1 (1 new)

Delaware County: 1

Herkimer County: 1

Montgomery County: 1

Ontario County: 1

Rensselaer County: 1 (1 new)

Sullivan County: 1 (1 new)

Tioga County: 1

Wyoming County: 1

G7 Leaders Issue Joint Statement on Covid-19 Pandemic: ‘A Human Tragedy and Global Health Crisis’

G7 Leaders issued a joint statement acknowledging the COVID-19 pandemic as a “human tragedy and a global health crisis, which also poses major risks for the world economy,” committed to “acting together, to resolve the health and economic risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and set the stage for a strong recovery of strong, sustainable economic growth and prosperity.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
We, the Leaders of the Group of Seven, acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic is a human tragedy and a global health crisis, which also poses major risks for the world economy.  We are committed to doing whatever is necessary to ensure a strong global response through closer cooperation and enhanced coordination of our efforts.  While current challenges may require national emergency measures, we remain committed to the stability of the global economy.  We express our conviction that current challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic need a strongly coordinated international approach, based on science and evidence, consistent with our democratic values, and utilizing the strengths of private enterprise.

We are committed to marshalling the full power of our governments to: Coordinate on necessary public health measures to protect people at risk from COVID-19; Restore confidence, growth, and protect jobs; Support global trade and investment; Encourage science, research, and technology cooperation. By acting together, we will work to resolve the health and economic risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and set the stage for a strong recovery of strong, sustainable economic growth and prosperity.

Accelerate Our Response to COVID-19

We will work hard to protect the health and safety of everyone in our countries.  Stepping up the response to the outbreak remains our foremost priority.  We will coordinate our efforts to delay the spread of the virus, including through appropriate border management measures.

We will enhance our efforts to strengthen health systems in our countries and globally.  We fully support the World Health Organization in its global mandate to lead on disease outbreaks and emergencies with health consequences, leaving no geographical vacuum, and encourage all countries, international organizations, and the private sector to assist global efforts such as the Global Preparedness and Response Plan.

We stress the value of real-time information sharing to ensure access to the best and latest intelligence, improving prevention strategies and mitigation measures.

We will pool epidemiologic and other data to better understand and fight the virus.

We will increase coordinated research efforts, including through voluntary support for the global alliance Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation.  We will support the launch of joint research projects funded by both public and private resources, and the sharing of facilities, towards rapid development, manufacture and distribution of treatments and a vaccine, adhering to the principles of efficacy, safety, and accessibility.

We will make efforts to increase the availability of medical equipment where it is most needed.

We will coordinate with online platforms to maximize public access to the latest correct and relevant official information, in recognition that millions of citizens receive information and news via social media.

To implement these objectives, and adapt measures if necessary, will require efforts across all parts of our governments, and we ask our health ministers to continue to coordinate on a weekly basis.

Forcefully Address the Economic Impact of the Outbreak

We resolve to coordinate measures and do whatever it takes, using all policy tools, to achieve strong growth in the G7 economies, and to safeguard against downside risks. 

To this end, we are mobilizing the full range of instruments, including monetary and fiscal measures, as well as targeted actions, to support immediately and as much as necessary the workers, companies, and sectors most affected. This is particularly important for small and medium businesses and working families.

We also ask our central banks to continue to coordinate to provide the necessary monetary measures in order to support economic and financial stability, and to promote recovery and growth.

We ask our finance ministers to coordinate on a weekly basis on the implementation of those measures and to develop further timely and effective actions.

We reinforce the importance of coordination among international organizations even in the face of challenges to business continuity.  We call on the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group and other International Organizations to further support countries worldwide as part of a coordinated global response, focused on this specific challenge.  We also ask our finance ministers to work closely with International Organizations to design and implement swiftly the international financial assistance that is appropriate to help countries, including emerging and developing economies, face the health and economic shock of COVID-19.

We will address disturbances to international supply chains and continue our work to facilitate international trade.

Restore and Expand Growth

We will continue to work together with resolve to implement these measures to respond to this global emergency.  In facing the economic challenge, we are determined not only to restore the level of growth anticipated before the COVID-19 pandemic but also to build the foundation for stronger future growth.  We will continue to coordinate through the G7 Presidency including at the G7 Leaders’ Summit and call upon the G20 to support and amplify these efforts.

NY, NJ, CT Unify Regional Approach to Combat Spread of Coronavirus

New York, New Jersey, Connecticut have unified on policies regarding closures, including public schools, to combat the spread of coronavirus (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Amid a lack of federal direction and nationwide standards, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont today announced a regional approach to combating the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the tri-state area, in announcing closures of restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters and gatherings over 50 people, as well as public schools.

But the governors all called upon the federal government – the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA – to assist with building emergency hospitals and providing medical equipment and protective gear for health workers.

In what may be the first regional coalition in the country to slow the spread of the infection, these uniform standards will limit crowd capacity for social and recreational gatherings to 50 people, effective 8 PM tonight. This follows updated guidance that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued yesterday recommending the cancellation or postponement of in-person events consisting of 50 people or more.

The three governors also announced restaurants and bars will close for on premise service and move to take-out and delivery services only. These establishments will be provided a waiver for carry-out alcohol. These measures will take effect at 8 PM tonight.

Finally, the three governors said they will temporarily close movie theaters, gyms and casinos, effective at 8 PM tonight. 

This uniform approach to social distancing is meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. 

“Our primary goal right now is to slow the spread of this virus so that the wave of new infections doesn’t crash our healthcare system, and everyone agrees social distancing is the best way to do that,” New York Governor Cuomo said. “This is not a war that can be won alone, which is why New York is partnering with our neighboring states to implement a uniform standard that not only keeps our people safe but also prevents ‘state shopping’ where residents of one state travel to another and vice versa. I have called on the federal government to implement nationwide protocols but in their absence we are taking this on ourselves.”

New Jersey Governor Murphy said, “With all we are seeing in our state – and across our nation and around the world – the time for us to take our strongest, and most direct, actions to date to slow the spread of coronavirus is now. I’ve said many times over the past several days that, in our state, we are going to get through this as one New Jersey family. But if we’re all in this together, we must work with our neighboring states to act together. The work against coronavirus isn’t just up to some of us, it’s up to all of us.”

Connecticut Governor Lamont said, “The only way to effectively fight the spread of COVID-19 is by working together as states. We have shared interests, and a patchwork of closures and restrictions is not the best way forward. I know that because of this collaboration, we will save lives.”

But the governors called upon the federal government to quickly assist to address what is anticipated as a critical shortage of hospital capacity, medical equipment and protective gear for health workers.

 “The best way to [add hospital capacity] is the Army Corp of Engineers – they build airports, bridges,” said Governor Cuomo. “They have the personnel, equipment and do it well. They have the medical equipment and experience setting up hospitals. The state doesn’t have existing workforce. We could contract out –and expedite contracting, which is very expensive – but we still don’t have the medical equipment. It is very, very hard for a state to get this equipment. Everybody wants ventilators, oxygen tanks. The federal government has a stockpile of emergency medical equipment. [But], if the federal government doesn’t step up and doesn’t step up quickly, states will be forced to do what they can on own, and New York will do exactly that” – use its own construction authority and Dormitory Authority to build.

New Jersey Governor Murphy said that to expand his state’s hospital capacity, “we are looking at host of contingency plans in similar light. We have had constructive conversations with FEMA, but more about testing. We will take all the help we can get. Our big needs from the federal government alongside testing is personal protective equipment. In long term, we will need help with economic recovery – states can’t do that on own. But our immediate need on personal protective equipment.

 “We need hospital beds and within a couple of weeks,” Connecticut Governor Lamont said. “We are woefully short, especially if a surge comes, even if we flatten the curve in the most optimistic way, we are badly outgunned. We saw what happened in China, where built new hospitals, added capacity in short order.”

The governors said they were not going to shut down public transportation, but to “right size the equipment to ridership,” Governor Murphy said. “There are huge focuses on hygiene, cleanliness, making sure all the equipment is as clean and germ free as possible.”

Meanwhile, the governors are looking to increase telecommunications capacity, to enable people to telecommute, to maintain education online and medical assistance, as well as stay in touch with family.

“We’re working with telecom service providers ,upping capacity, taking away caps, to learn at home, telehealth at home, so people get out of cars and stay closer at home,” Said Governor Lamont. “Ridership on rail is way down.”

“New York also,” Cuomo added. “We want people  to stay home, so we need capacity for telecommuting.”

The three states, acting in concert, are shutting down bars and restaurants except for take out and delivery. The exceptions will be supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and other essential retailers.

New Jersey is strongly discouraging nonessential travel between 8 pm & 5 am on any given day beginning tonight.

Other states may join New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in a wider regional coalition for coordinated action – including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Asked about the downsides to closing public schools – including loss of food service for needy children, and child care for workers, Cuomo said, “We will do it in a way that accentuates the upside and negates the downside. The downside is people lose childcare, first responders may not be able to go to work, especially healthcare workers if there isn’t child care, so the crash will be on the healthcare system. So we said that schools can close but must provide child care for essential workers, first responders, healthcare workers. Schools close but we will not stop the food for breakfast, lunch, dinner. Educational opportunities lost but we are planning to continue to teach through telecommuting or summer school if this has abated to that point by summer.

“There are few easy calls on this one,” Governor Murphy said. “There is enormous pressure on the economy, small businesses going forward. In schools, the three issues referenced- food security (we have a couple of hundred thousand kids who depend on schools for a hot meal), child care, remote learning  (250,000 New Jersey kids don’t have access to device). So we are preprinting monthly syllibi. None of these decisions are easy, without offsets. But we believe strongly this is right path to pursue.

As for tribal casinos in New York and Connecticut, which as sovereign nations, the states cannot order to close but Governor Cuomo said “This is a ‘do the right thing’ situation.”

Earlier, Governor Cuomo had issued a ruling to close schools in New York City, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk, and instructed New York City to develop a plan within 24 hours to ensure children who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs will continue to receive that support, and parents – especially critical healthcare workers and first responders – will be provided access to child care as needed.  

“Our goal is to slow the spread of the virus to a rate that the healthcare system can manage, and one of the ways to do that is to reduce density,” Governor Cuomo said.”Closing the schools is a good idea but you have to anticipate and correct any unintended consequences – we have to ensure children who rely on free school meals continue to get them and that there’s adequate child care, especially for healthcare workers and first responders who are parents of young children. We will close these schools but it needs to be done with these contingencies in mind so that children are not harmed and our hospitals aren’t understaffed – otherwise we cut off our nose to spite our face.”

The Governor also called on 1199 SEIU President George Gresham, New York State Nurses Association President Judy Sheridan Gonzalez, Greater New York Hospitals Association President Ken Raske and United Federation of Teachers President Mike Mulgrew to work together to ensure children who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs will continue to receive that support, and parents will be provided access to child care as needed, including temporary daycare centers. These centers would prioritize care for children of healthcare workers and first responders to ensure these school closures do not strain the hospital and emergency response systems.

Earlier today, the Governor tasked SUNY Empire State College President Jim Malatras with working with counties to develop contingency plans in preparation for school closings, including how to provide meals to food insecure children and ensuring families have adequate access to childcare.

County executives from Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau joined a conference call with Governor Cuomo to discuss the school closures.: 

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, “Our county has been coordinating with the State to ensure an effective means of slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Cancelling group events and meetings, limiting access for non-essential social contacts and anticipating additional testing and healthcare needs are all part of our response in concert with the Governor and his administration. Closing schools – with adequate childcare and nutrition provisions – is the next step we will undertake this week. We deeply appreciate the leadership shown by Governor Cuomo.”

“Over the last several days we have worked with our state and local partners on the potential closure of schools as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued to increase around the state,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. “As part of our larger social distancing efforts, we came to the conclusion that closing schools is the right thing to do at this time. I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership as we deal with this crisis as well as our school districts for their partnership and swift action to protect Suffolk families.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, “I thank Governor Cuomo for fully supporting our decision to close all public and private schools and for his unwavering commitment to ensure every child in Nassau County is fully taken care of while this crisis continues to unfold. We all agree that nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our children.”

Sanders: Coronavirus Crisis Points to Urgent Need for Fundamental Changes to Economy, Healthcare System

Senator Bernie Sanders on the coronavirus pandemic: “In this moment of crisis, more and more people understand that we need fundamental changes to our economy, and we need fundamental changes to our healthcare system.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Sen. Bernie Sanders gave remarks regarding the lessons we can learn from the growing coronavirus outbreak.  This is a rushed transcript provided by the Sanders campaign:

Good afternoon everyone, thank you for being here. In the midst of a major healthcare and economic crisis currently facing our country, I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about the lessons we can learn long-term about what we are experiencing today.  

As I discussed yesterday, our country is facing, as everybody knows, a medical and economic crisis, the likes of which we have not seen for generations. And we must prepare for this response in an unprecedented way, making certain that our government responds effectively, and protects the interests of all our people regardless of their income, or where they live. In other words, this is not just about giving tax breaks to large corporations, but about remembering the people today who don’t have much money, who are nervous about their economic futures and healthcare prospects. 

Needless to say we must massively increase the availability of test kits for the coronavirus and the speed at which the tests are processed. We need to anticipate significant increases in hospital admissions, which means that we will need more ICU units and ventilators, we will need more doctors, nurses, and medical personnel of all kinds – and we must make sure that these frontline personnel are well protected from the diseases they are treating. I have talked to nurses recently who worry very much about whether they are getting the kind of knowledge and equipment they need so that they do not get sick. 

We need to significantly improve our communications and collaboration with other countries to ensure that we are learning everything that we can about the successes and failures of other countries as they deal with this crisis. And furthermore, we must be honest with the American people and communicate as effectively and directly as we can with all of the scientific information that we can provide. 

Further, and most importantly, our response to this entire crisis must be guided by the decisions of doctors, scientists, and researchers, not politicians.  

But as we struggle with this crisis, it is also important that we learn the lessons of how we got to where we are today, and what we must do in the future so that we are better prepared for similar crises that may come.  

Poll after poll already shows us that the American people understand that we must do what every other major country on earth does, and that is to guarantee healthcare to all of our people as a human right, not a privilege. As we begin to see the failures and vulnerabilities of the current healthcare system, my guess is that those numbers and the demand for universal healthcare will only go up. 

The American people are asking: how is it possible that we spend twice as much per capita as the people of Canada and other major countries, while 87 million of us are uninsured or underinsured.  

And obviously, in this crisis, and unbelievably, it means that people who are sick today, people who woke up this morning with symptoms of the coronavirus, are saying, “you know I feel sick but I cannot afford  to go to a doctor.”  And when somebody is not treated for the virus – somebody who is unable to afford to go to that doctor – that means that that infection can spread to many others, putting us at risk.

So it’s not just a question that in normal times – tragically, unbelievably – that we lose 30,000 people a year because they don’t get to doctor on time, but now the lack of healthcare threatens other people as well. 

How could it be, that when we spend so much more than what other countries are spending, we have millions of people who may be dealing with the virus but they cannot go to the doctor because they can’t afford it? That is a question that must resonate in every American’s mind.   

If this isn’t a red flag for the current dysfunctional and wasteful healthcare system, frankly I don’t know what is. 

For the benefit of all of us, we must make sure that every person in this country who needs to seek medical treatment can go to a doctor free of charge regardless of their income. That is obviously what we must do now in the middle of a crisis, but it is what we must do as a nation in the near future. 

Here are just a few instances about how absurd and dysfunctional our current healthcare system is. 

It has been estimated that a full battery of tests for the coronavirus costs over $1,300.  First of all, take a look at that – $1,300 to get the test people need to have to know if they have the virus or not. 

In America today, 40% of our people don’t have $400 in the bank to pay for an emergency expense. We have half of our people living paycheck to paycheck. 

If their car breaks down they can’t afford to get it fixed, and if somebody tells them it costs $1,300 for the test to determine whether you have the coronavirus if they’re sick, what are they supposed to do? What happens to them?  

How can someone without insurance afford to pay $1,331 to get tested when they don’t even have $400 in the bank? What are they supposed to do? What happens to them?  Do they go to a payday lender where the average interest rate is over 390%? Do they borrow money from their family? Or do they go without the test? Which every doctor in the world will tell them is a test they should have.  

And while the Trump administration says it may cover co-pays to cover the cost of testing for those who have insurance, they will not cover the cost of treatment – which could cost tens of thousands of dollars.  

How cruel is that? How absurd is that? To say to people, “we’re sorry you have coronavirus, we covered the cost of the test, but now you’re on your own and it’s going to cost tens of thousands of dollars to get treated.” That is totally absurd. 

Clearly what we need to do is to make sure that if someone has the coronavirus that person gets the treatment that they need.  

In other words, our current system leaves people uninsured, but even if you have insurance you may not even have the ability to travel to a doctor near you. 

Because now we’re talking about a system in which many rural hospitals have closed down and they cannot find a doctor in their communities. 

The reality today, and this is an issue we must to deal with, is that we don’t have enough doctors, we don’t have enough hospitals, and we don’t have enough clinics in rural communities and inner cities.   

Further, we are in a situation when we desperately need affordable prescription drugs, yet we have a pharmaceutical industry that continues to make billions in profits by charging outrageous prices for prescription drugs, sometimes 10x more in this country than in other countries.   

In my view, the most cost effective way to reform our dysfunctional and cruel system is to move to a Medicare for All, single-payer healthcare system.

And I think in the midst of this crisis, more and more Americans understand the truth of that.  

It is nearly impossible to believe that anyone can still think it’s acceptable to continue with a healthcare system that leaves tens of millions of people uninsured. The cruelty and absurdity of that view is more obvious in the midst of this crisis than it has ever been.   

And let’s be clear. Lack of healthcare and affordable medicine does not only threaten the healthcare and well-being of the uninsured. It threatens everyone who comes in contact with them.

In fact, what this crisis is beginning to teach us is that we are only as safe as the least insured person in America. 

Further, we are the only major country on earth that does not mandate paid family and medical leave. And we’re seeing how that crisis is impacting where we are today.  

As we speak, there are millions of workers — right now — who are being told to go to work, yet they may be ill and should be staying home. 

But these very same families will face financial ruin if they don’t go to work. These are workers in the restaurant industry, transportation industry, tourism, retail — in other words the people who interact with the public every single day.  

Right now, at a time when half of our people live paycheck to paycheck, and at a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we must directly address the economic desperation facing a huge number of Americans. 

So we must finally pass a paid family leave program in the United States to keep this virus from spreading and to keep Americans healthy.  

We must do it right now. 

People should not be going to work when they are sick, it is unfair to them, it is unfair to the people they are in contact with. And yet, that reality exists, because we are the only major country on earth not to guarantee paid family leave and sick time.

Finally, from a national security perspective, it is incomprehensible that we are dependent on China and other countries for masks, for prescription drugs, for rubber gloves, and for key parts needed to make advanced medical equipment like ventilators.

As a result of globalization and our disastrous trade policies, we have been outsourcing millions of jobs and factories overseas that have gutted our economy. Now we are seeing another tragic and devastating result of those policies, as we find ourselves dependent on other countries to provide the most essential things we need to combat a pandemic and protect the lives of the people in our country.

Now trade is a good thing, but it has to be based on common sense principles. It has to be based on protecting American workers and protecting our national security, making sure we are producing what we need in this country in the event of a national crisis.

Now is the time to begin bringing back production and manufacturing to the United States and enact fair trade policies so that we are never in this position again. 

Now here is the bottom line. As we are dealing with this crisis, we need to listen to the scientists, to the researchers, and to the medical professionals, not politicians. 

We need to move quickly to prepare for the exponential increase of cases we will be seeing here in our country.

But as we do that, we must begin thinking about how, as a society, we can create a healthcare and economic system that is humane, that is compassionate, and that works for all people, not just the wealthiest.

Now that is an issue that people have had to think about for a long time, but I think in this moment of crisis more and more people understand that we need fundamental changes to our economy, and we need fundamental changes to our healthcare system.