Category Archives: Health Care

Biden Announces New Steps to Increase Vaccine Supply of Vaccine

In just his seventh day in office, President Joe Biden announced new steps to dramatically increase vaccine supply and enable states to book appointments with greater assurance of knowing how many doses they will have three weeks in advance. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
 

In just his seventh day in office, President Joe Biden announced new steps to dramatically increase vaccine supply and enable states to book appointments with greater assurance of knowing how many doses they will have three weeks in advance.

He announced the purchase of 200 million more doses, which with the doses already purchased from Pfizer and Moderna, would be enough to vaccinate 300 million Americans by summer. But he cautioned that it will take months before the nation achieves herd immunity, the situation will get worse before it gets better, with as many as 100,000 more deaths from COVID-19 by next month.

He emphasized that wearing a mask is still the best way for the foreseeable future to protect lives – as many as 50,000 could be saved by April. Wearing a mask is not just patriotic, he said, but will be mandated in federal property and in interstate transportation, such as airports and depots, and on airplanes, trains, and buses.

Here is more from the Biden administration:

Just over a year since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the United States, the nation has hit another grim milestone in the pandemic, reaching 25 million infections and counting. The pace in which this virus has spread throughout the U.S. is staggering and with new variants emerging, the spread is not slowing any time soon. That’s why it is critical that we vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
 
President Biden has a comprehensive National Action Strategy to put the pandemic behind us and he and the COVID-19 response team are aggressively implementing it.  Today, the President is announcing bold steps that will help meet the goal of administering 100 million shots in 100 days and ramp up vaccine supply as fast as possible. As a result of these actions, the federal government will have enough vaccine supply for the entire U.S. population by the end of the summer.
 
The President is taking the following actions today:
 
An Increase in Weekly Vaccine Supply to States, Tribes and Territories: The Biden-Harris Administration will increase overall, weekly vaccine supply to states, Tribes and territories from 8.6 million doses to a minimum of 10 million doses. This increase of 1.4 million doses per week will allow millions more Americans to get vaccinated sooner than previously anticipated. The Administration is committing to maintaining this as the minimum supply level for the next three weeks.
 
Increased transparency for States, Tribes, and Territories to Help Their Vaccination Efforts: The Biden-Harris Administration is taking action to provide states, Tribes and territories with a reliable three-week supply look-ahead. The Department of Health and Human Services will provide allocation estimates for the upcoming three weeks as opposed to the one week look-ahead that they previously received. This increased transparency will give state and local leaders greater certainty around supply so that they can plan their vaccination efforts and administer vaccines effectively and efficiently.
 
Purchase 200 Million Additional Doses to Be Delivered This Summer, Double the Nation’s Vaccine Supply: President Biden directed his COVID-19 Response Coordinator to work with HHS to increase our total vaccine supply for the American people.  The Biden-Harris Administration is working to purchase an additional 100 million doses of each of the two Food and Drug Administration-authorized vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna.  This increases the total vaccine order for the U.S. by 50%, from 400 million to 600 million with these additional doses expected to deliver this summer. With these additional doses, the U.S. will have enough vaccine to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of this summer.

Nassau County Opens Second COVID-19 Vaccination Site; New York State Expands Eligibility

At the Yes We Can Center in Westbury, which became Nassau County’s second vaccination distribution site, Alex Miller of Port Washington, a special language pathologist, is vaccinated by Dr. Kevin Glassman, a volunteer with Nassau County’s Medical Reserve Corps © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Nassau County, Long Island, opened its second COVID-19 vaccine distribution center, in partnership between the County, Northwell Health and New York State at the “Yes We Can” Community Center in Westbury. The vaccines will be administered by Nassau County Department of Health staff, Members of Nassau County’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) with assistance from Northwell Health, which has been designated by New York State as Long Island’s vaccination HUB.  The center began vaccinations on Saturday, January 9 for residents who met the criteria set by New York State. 

Together with Nassau Community College site, Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, Nassau County Commissioner of Health, anticipates administering up to 1,000 shots a day, depending upon supply of doses.

“Nassau County is leading the way with distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine as we open another vaccine POD,” said Nassau County Executive Curran. “Along with our hospital partners, we have already vaccinated tens of thousands of residents–we are not wasting any time or any doses.

“I am committed to providing equitable access to the vaccine, especially in our hardest hit communities such as the Westbury/New Cassel area,” she said. ”The County will continue to build the infrastructure to dole out this vaccine as quickly and effectively as possible as supply comes in. Thank you to all the volunteers who are the gears keeping our vaccine machine running at full speed.  I encourage all residents who are eligible to roll up their sleeve and get the vaccine.  We can do it, Nassau!”

The site at the “Yes We Can” Community Center in Westbury will be operating 7 days a week to vaccinate eligible residents with an appointment.  The announcement comes less than a week after the first County vaccine center opened at Nassau Community College and inoculated over one thousand people. 

New York State continues to expand the criteria for who can receive the COVID-19 vaccine. For regular updates on who is currently eligible for the vaccine under New York State’s guidance and to make an appointment, residents can visit the County’s vaccine website at www.nassaucountyny.gov/vaccine. Only those who meet the criteria can make an appointment at this time. The vaccine will be provided for free regardless of insurance or immigration status. 

As of Friday, January 8, those who are eligible to be vaccinated are:

  • High-risk hospital staff, affiliates, volunteers and contract staff including State-operated Office of Mental Health (OMH) psychiatric centers
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Personnel
  • Medical Examiners and Coroners
  • Funeral workers who have direct contact with infectious material and bodily fluids.
  • Health care, other high-risk direct care essential staff and agency staff working in Long Term Care Facilities and long-term, congregate settings overseen by Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS).
  • Residents living in Long Term Care Facilities and in long-term congregate settings overseen by OPWDD, OMH and OASAS
  • FQHC staff
  • Urgent Care providers
  • Any staff administering COVID-19 vaccinations
  • All public facing health care workers including those who provide direct in-person patient care or other staff in a position where they have direct contact with patients.
  • Hospice workers and home health aides
  • Law Enforcement with ALS (advanced lifesaving) certification 

But as of Monday, January 11, the state is expanding the list of those who are eligible to be vaccinated, to Group 1B essential workers including education workers, first responders, public safety workers, public transit workers and people 75 and older.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran discusses opening a second county COVID-19 vaccination site at the North Hempstead Yes We Can Community Center, in a community that has been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. Also on hand: Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, Nassau County Commissioner of Health; North Hempstead Councilwoman Viviana Russell, Nassau County Legislator Siela A. Bynoe, and State Senator Anna Kaplan © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“A successful, equitable rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is the key to ensuring New Yorkers are protected from the coronavirus, and our community is able to reopen and recover from the pandemic era,” said State Senator Anna Kaplan. “It’s critical that every community have access to this life-saving resource, and I’m grateful to County Executive Curran and Governor Cuomo for working together to open a vaccination distribution center at the Yes We Can Center in Westbury. I encourage everyone in our community to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated as soon as they are able.” 

“Residents of communities like New Cassel and Westbury have played an indispensable role in Nassau County’s pandemic response through their labor as frontline workers, medical professionals and first responders. By establishing this site at the Yes We Can Center, Nassau County and the Town of North Hempstead are recognizing the valiant efforts of these essential workers,” said Nassau County Legislator Siela A. Bynoe.“Most importantly, we are increasing access to the COVID-19 vaccine by embedding this life-saving service in a residential community that has been greatly impacted by the pandemic.”

“The early emergence of COVID-19 vaccines has brought on much needed optimism for the future,” said North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth.”While availability has been limited, more residents will become eligible to receive the vaccine as distribution centers continue to open and New York’s supply increases. With that said, we are proud to partner with County Executive Curran to make vaccinations available at our facility in Westbury.”

“As a Town we continue to collectively monitor and address the uphill battle of the current pandemic caused by Covid -19 and now the virus’ variant strain of B117. Having access to the newly available Moderna vaccine at a Point of Distribution location set up here at our easily accessible “Yes We Can” Community Center now provides a strong opportunity to keep this deadly virus at bay. As a heavily impacted area, this POD will greatly benefit the community and serve as a strong deterrent against the virus here in New Cassel/Westbury and the surrounding areas,” said North Hempstead Councilwoman Viviana Russell.

Curran said that wide-scale vaccination is key to returning to normalcy, reopening businesses and having kids in school, but until then, and especially with a new, more transmissible strain of the coronavirus now in Long Island, residents must continue to wear masks, keep social distance and wash hands.

How fast a critical mass of people can become vaccinated depends on the supply of the vaccines – so far Pfizer and Moderna are available. It is expected that a third and fourth vaccine, ones that require only a single dose, will also soon be on line.

“We’re putting out doses as fast as we can,” Curran said she said it is likely that by late spring, enough will be available so that anyone who wants a vaccination will be able to get one. I think we will have a relatively normal summer.”

In response to new concerns over the UK strain found in a 64-year old Massapequa man, Dr. Eisenstein said “All viruses mutate. We knew this one would mutate. People should do exactly what they have been doing to protect themselves. We’re not panicked by it. We have the weapon” – the vaccine.

Administering the Moderna vaccination at the Yes We Can Community Center, Westbury, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

State Expands Vaccine Distribution Network

On Friday, Governor Cuomo Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the expansion of the state’s vaccination distribution network to help accelerate the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine to New Yorkers currently eligible under group 1A and begin the vaccination of New Yorkers eligible under group 1B. As part of this effort, thousands of new providers and distribution sites are being identified throughout the state. Essential workers and New Yorkers over the age of 75 can begin to make vaccination reservations at administration sites as early as Monday, January 11.

“Over the past week, we have seen hospitals increase their vaccination rates and I thank them for their efforts, but it’s still not enough, so we’re going to accelerate the distribution,” Governor Cuomo said. “We are establishing a network of thousands of providers statewide to both supplement the work of hospitals to vaccinate health care workers, as well as begin the vaccination of other essential workers and individuals 75 and older. The federal government controls the supply, so as we continue to receive more, New York will not only ensure doses are distributed in the most fair and socially equitable way possible, but that health care workers continue to be prioritized so our hospitals remain safe and staffed.”

Currently, 2.1 million New Yorkers in group 1A have been eligible to receive the vaccine. This includes health care and hospital workers, seniors living in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, and people with disabilities living in congregate settings. Distribution sites were established directly within hospitals to provide direct access to all those eligible. While the speed of vaccinations has increased throughout the past week, further acceleration is still needed.

To further accelerate the vaccination rate of priority health care workers, and begin the vaccination of group 1B essential workers and 75-plus year olds, New York has established a network of additional distribution sites that will supplement the work being done in hospitals to prevent any one hospital from becoming overburdened. The largest group, 3.2 million New Yorkers will be eligible to receive the vaccine in 1B, including:

870,000 Education workers

207,000 first responders

100,000 public safety workers

100,000 public transit workers

1.4 million people 75 and older

This new network will utilize doctors’ offices, Federally-Qualified Health Centers, county health departments, ambulatory centers and pharmacies to get doses in the arms of eligible New Yorkers. More than 1,200 pharmacies have already committed to participating in this network, with nearly 500 scheduled to come on-line next week. Providers across the state will begin accepting vaccination reservations on Monday, January 11 when a centralized state website goes online.

Additionally, the Department of Health is setting up 20 mass distribution sites throughout the state over the next several weeks, with the first of those sites, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, slated to open its doors on Wednesday, January 13.

Prioritization

Under this expanded vaccination network, new providers will prioritize their health care workers and hospitals will continue to prioritize unvaccinated members of 1A: health care workers. Additionally, large union groups, including but not limited to police, firefighters and educators, have been asked to organize plans for vaccinating their members to the extent possible. If viable plans are established, these groups will receive weekly allocations from their local health departments. This will enable other providers in the network to focus on New Yorkers over the age of 75, which represents the largest group in 1B at approximately 1.4 million people.

New York is mandating social equity and fair distribution among the groups included in 1B to ensure fair treatment and proportionate allocations both by group and by region. For example, New Yorkers 75 years of age and older represent approximately 45 percent of the population within group 1B and as such, 45 percent of the 1B vaccine supply will be reserved for them. Similarly, 5.9 percent of New York’s 75+ population reside in the Capital District, so 5.9 percent of the allocation for New Yorkers 75+ will be directed to the Capital District. The state will open distribution sites in underserved areas to ensure social equity.

Staffing

To support the increased staffing needs resulting from the establishment of this vaccination network, the Governor has signed an Executive Order to expand the eligible pool of trainees who can administer vaccinations at distribution sites to include:

Licensed Practical Nurses

Pharmacists

Pharmacy Technicians

Midwives

Dentists

Certain Dental Hygienists

Podiatrists

Emergency Medical Technicians

Certain Eligible Students

The expanded vaccination program is welcome at a time when the county and the state are in the midst of a second-wave surge on top of a surge. As of Saturday, January 9, the seven-day positivity rate was 8.7%, 761 were hospitalized, 115 in ICU – the highest number since May – 66 on ventilators and 10 county residents died.

“Tens of thousands of Nassau residents have already received their first vaccine shots with over 1,000 just at the County’s POD (Point of Distribution) at Nassau Community College since Jan 5 alone,” Curran said.

“I have asked that the State increase eligibility and today it was announced that they are expanding beginning on Monday. Every day is crucial, and we must continue to pick up the pace. We’ve concentrated on vaccinating medical and frontline residents as fast as possible so that we can focus on groups like residents over 75, Police, Teachers, Firefighters, Corrections Officers, and more. The County will continue mobilizing its resources at full scale to expedite the vaccine distribution process, and we expect to open another POD tomorrow.

“With vaccine distribution ramping up and cases surging at the same time, my message to residents is simple: Hold fast and stay strong. Help is on the way.”

To make an appointment for a vaccination, go to www.nassaucountyny.gov/vaccine.

Check if you are eligible to receive the vaccine here

Eligible residents can click here to register to be vaccinated at Nassau Community College through New York State’s system.

Eligible residents can click here to register to be vaccinated at the Yes We Can Community Center, 141 Garden Street, Westbury, NY through New York State’s system.

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President-Elect Biden Names his Health Care, COVID-19 Team, Outlines First 100-Days Strategy: Masking, Vaccinations, Schools

President-Elect Joe Biden introduced the individuals he will nominate to key health and COVID positions in remarks in Wilmington, DE, and declared three key actions he would take in the first 100 days of his administration to turn around the skyrocketing rates of coronavirus sickness, hospitalizations and deaths: promote masking, facilitate vaccinations, and opening schools. (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President-Elect Joe Biden introduced the individuals he will nominate to key health and COVID positions in remarks in Wilmington, DE, and declared three key actions he would take in the first 100 days of his administration to turn around the skyrocketing rates of coronavirus sickness, hospitalizations and deaths: promote masking, facilitate vaccinations, and opening schools.

The key health and COVID members – widely hailed for their expertise and accomplishments – include:

Secretary of Health and Human Services: Xavier Becerra

Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response Team: Jeff Zients

Surgeon General of the United States: Dr. Vivek Murthy

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Dr. Rochelle Walensky

COVID-19 Equity Task Force Chair: Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith

Head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Advisor on COVID-19: Dr. Anthony Fauci

Here are remarks, as prepared for delivery, highlighted:

President-Elect Joe Biden lays out his 100-days strategy to get control of COVID-19 that is devastating lives and livelihoods: masking, vaccinations, schools (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-feetures.com

President-Elect Joe Biden

Today, I am announcing our health care and COVID team at a critical time, as we near the end of one of the toughest years we’ve faced as a nation. 
 
More than 285,000 Americans are dead because of COVID-19 — and counting. 

Last week, COVID-19 was the number one cause of death in America.

For Black, Latino, and Native Americans — who are nearly three times as likely to die from it — COVID-19 is a mass casualty event.

For families and friends left behind, it’s a gaping hole in your heart that will never fully heal. 

And as a country, we’ve been living with this pandemic for so long that we’re at risk of becoming numb to its toll on us. 
 
We’re resigned to feel there is nothing we can do. That we can’t trust one another. That we must accept the death, the pain, and the sorrow.

We are in the midst of this deadly pandemic that has infected almost 15 million Americans — one out of every 22 of our people — often with devastating consequences to their health. 

And at this very moment, what is the outgoing Administration asking the Supreme Court of the United States to do? 
To repeal in its entirety the Affordable Care Act.!

A law that’s on the frontlines against the pandemic.

That protects more than 100 million Americans who live with pre-existing conditions — which now includes lung scarring and heart damage from COVID-19. 

That provides coverage to more than 20 million Americans who get the care they need if they’re showing symptoms of COVID-19.

The law that fulfills our moral obligation that, here in America, health care is a right for all, not a privilege for the few.

But I know that out of our collective pain, we will find our collective purpose — to control the pandemic, to save lives, and to heal as a nation.
 
Today, I am pleased to announce the team that will do just that.
 
It’s a team of world-class experts at the top of their fields. Crisis-tested. Defined by a deep sense of duty, honor, and patriotism.
 
They are ready on Day One to spare no effort and get the pandemic under control, so we can get back to work, back to our lives, and back to our loved ones. 
 
They will lead the COVID-19 response across our government to accelerate testing, fix our supply chain, and distribute the vaccine.
 
They will work with my economic team — because controlling the pandemic, delivering better health care, and reviving the economy go hand in hand.
 
They will work with my foreign policy and national security team — because we can only beat this virus if we beat it everywhere.
 
And today I am announcing that — in consultation with Dr. Tony Fauci — we’ve developed the first three objectives and new initiatives that I am asking this team to complete during my first 100 days in office.  
 
My first 100 days won’t end COVID-19. I cannot promise that. We did not get into this mess quickly, and it’s going to take time to fix.  
 
But I am convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better.
 
First, my 100 day masking plan. 
 
It starts with my signing an order on Day One to require masks where I can — like federal buildings and interstate travel on planes, trains, and buses. 
 
I’ll be working with governors and mayors to do the same in states and cities.  
 
We are going to require masks wherever possible, but this goes beyond government action.  
 
And so, as a new President, I’m going to speak directly to the American people.  
 
We need your help. Wear a mask for 100 days. 
 
It’s the easiest thing you can do to reduce COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.  
 
Help yourself, your family, your community. Whatever your politics or point of view — mask up for 100 days.  
 
100 days to make a difference.  
 
It’s not a political statement — it’s a patriotic act.
 
It won’t be the end of our efforts. But it’s a necessary and easy start.
 
Second, this team will help get at least 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots into the arms of Americans in 100 days.
 
We will follow the guidance of scientists and get vaccines to those most at-risk.
 
That includes health care personnel and people in long-term care; and, as soon as possible, that will include educators.
 
This will be the most efficient mass vaccination plan in U.S. history. I credit everyone who has gotten us to this point, but developing the vaccine is one herculean task.
 
Distributing it is another.
 
And vaccines in a vial only work if they are injected into the arms of people, especially those most at risk.
 
This will be one of the hardest and most costly operational challenges in our history. 
 
We’re going to need Congress to fully fund vaccine distribution to all corners of our country. 
 
I am encouraged by the bipartisan efforts in Congress around a $900 billion economic relief package, which I’ve said is critical now, but this package is only a start for more action early next year.
 
We must also focus significant resources on the direct public health response to COVID-19. 
 
Our preliminary review of the Trump Administration’s vaccine distribution plan confirms media reports.
 
Without urgent action this month by Congress to put sufficient resources into vaccine distribution and manufacturing — which the bipartisan group is working on — there is a real chance that, after an early round of vaccinations, the effort will slow and stall.
 
Let me repeat: We need Congress to finish the bipartisan work underway now or
millions of Americans may wait months longer — months longer — than they otherwise would have to to get their vaccinations. 
 
And then we will need additional action next year to fund the rest of our distribution efforts. 
 
We also need the Trump Administration to act now to purchase the doses it has negotiated with Pfizer and Moderna and to work swiftly to scale manufacturing for the U.S. population and the world.
 
This can be fixed. 
 
If it does, my team will be able to get at least 100 million vaccinations done in my first 100 days.

Third, it should be a national priority to get our kids back into school and keep them in school. 

If Congress provides the funding we need to protect students, educators, and staff, and if states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that the majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days.

That’s right, we will look to have most of the schools open in 100 days if Congress provides the funding we need.

Masking. Vaccinations. Opening schools.
 
These are three key goals for my first 100 days.
 
But we will still have much to do in the year ahead. And sadly, much difficulty, too. We will be far, far from done.
 
Yet, it is possible that after 100 days, we will be much further along in the fight against the pandemic.
 
And I’m grateful for the members of my core COVID team, that I will now introduce, to lead the way.

For Secretary of Health and Human Services, I nominate Xavier Becerra.

He’s currently Attorney General of California, leading the second largest Justice Department in America — only behind the United States Department of Justice.

For nearly 25 years before that, he was a Congressman representing Los Angeles, one of America’s largest and most diverse cities.

Xavier spent his career fighting to expand access to health care, reduce racial health disparities, protect the Affordable Care Act, and take on powerful special interests who prey on and profit off people’s health — from opioid manufacturers to Big Tobacco.

During the pandemic, he’s protected the safety of frontline healthcare workers, rooted out fraud from bad actors taking advantage of people, and stood up for homeowners trying to pay their mortgage during the devastating economic crisis.

And as HHS Secretary, he will skillfully oversee the CDC and FDA, Medicare and Medicaid.

No matter what happens in the Supreme Court, he will lead our efforts to build on the Affordable Care Act. 
 
He’ll work to dramatically expand coverage and take bold steps to lower health care and prescription drug costs.

Xavier is the key leader who will lead the key agency charged with protecting the health and wellness of the American people. 

He will also be the first Latino leading HHS, a son from a working-class immigrant family that came from Mexico. 

A true public servant who has dedicated his career in service to the people, and in service to this country that we all love.

To serve as the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response Team, I’m turning to a world-class manager and leader, Jeff Zients.

I’ve known Jeff for a long time — from the first and last days of the Obama-Biden White House, and throughout the campaign, and now the transition.

There’s no one else you want to help manage some of the most consequential and complex priorities of a country.

Director of the National Economic Council for President Obama.

Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

He was there during the Great Recession, as we went from crisis to recovery to resurgence over eight years.

He was there to lead the team and help implement the Affordable Care Act — to get HealthCare.gov up and working at a critical moment. That was a monumental feat that required vision, patience, and fortitude and expertise.

Well-respected across the aisle, and around the country from business and labor leaders to entrepreneurs and educators.

Chairman of the Board of Children’s National Medical Center, one of the world’s top children’s hospitals.

Jeff knows how to build and lead a team. How to identify and solve problems.

And how to fully mobilize the federal government on behalf of the health, safety, and prosperity of the American people.

For Surgeon General of the United States, I nominate Dr. Vivek Murthy.

A renowned physician and research scientist. A trusted national leader on health care, and for me, a trusted advisor during this campaign and transition.

This will be his second time serving as America’s Doctor, having served in this role under President Obama.

During his tenure, he took on some of the most pressing public health issues we face — from the opioid crisis to threats to America’s mental health.

I’ve asked Dr. Murthy to serve again as Surgeon General — but with expanded responsibilities. 

He will be a key public voice on our COVID response, to restore public trust and faith in science and medicine.

But he will also be a key advisor to me and help lead an all-government approach to broader public health issues — mental health, addiction and substance use disorders, social and environmental determinants of health, and so much more.

Above all, he will help restore faith in this country as a place of possibilities.

A son of Indian immigrants, who raised their children to always believe in the promise of America.

Dr. Murthy will be one of my most trusted public health and medical advisors — and I’m grateful for his continued public service.

For Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I appoint Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

She is the Chief of Infectious Diseases at one of the country’s preeminent hospitals, Massachusetts General in Boston.  

A distinguished professor at Harvard Medical School. A world-class physician.

One of the nation’s foremost experts on the testing, treatment, and eradication of viruses.

She has served on the front lines of the COVID crisis. She has conducted groundbreaking research on vaccine delivery, including how to reach underserved communities that are too often hit first and the hardest.

Dr. Walensky’s work was instrumental in helping the world mitigate one public health crisis — HIV/AIDS. 

It inspired her as a young doctor to pursue her pioneering research in virus containment.

Now, she will bring her experience to bear against COVID-19.

She is uniquely qualified to restore morale and public trust. 

She will marshal our finest scientists and public health experts at the CDC to turn the tide on the urgent crisis facing us today.

Because of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color, I concluded we need a COVID-19 Equity Task Force.

To chair it, I appoint Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. One of the country’s foremost experts on health care disparities.

Associate Professor of Medicine, Public Health, and Management at the Yale School of Medicine.

Founding director of Yale’s Equity Research and Innovation Center.

And co-chair of my COVID-19 Transition Advisory Board.

Dr. Nunez-Smith will lead our efforts to provide care to the communities most in need and most affected by the pandemic and most often overlooked.

She will ensure that fairness and equity are at the center of every part of our response.

This is a central front in our fight against the pandemic, and I am grateful Dr. Nunez-Smith will lead this charge.

And finally, as both head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and my chief medical advisor on COVID-19 — I am pleased that Dr. Tony Fauci will be a member of my core COVID team.

By now, he needs no introduction.

But he will have my gratitude when I’m president, the seventh president he will have served.

We’ve known each other a long time.

I’ve seen him take on HIV/AIDS, H1N1, Ebola, Zika, COVID-19, and every infectious disease in between, over his nearly forty years of service to our country.

Trusted. A truth teller. A patriot.

Like every good doctor, he will tell me what I need to know, not what I want to know.

This is my core COVID and health care team.

Before January 20, we will be adding more leaders to oversee vaccine distribution, supply chain, testing, and other key functions.

To each of you on this team, you have my gratitude for answering the call to serve. And to your families, thank you. We could not do this without them, or without you.

And to the American people, I know we’ve all had a lot of sleepless nights this year. 

So many of you staring at the ceiling late at night, worrying if you’re going to be okay. 

All I can tell you is the truth.

We’re in a dark winter. Things may well get worse before they get better. A vaccine may soon be available. But we need to level with each other.

It will take longer than we would like to distribute it to all corners of our country. 

We will need to persuade enough Americans to take it. 

It’s daunting, but I promise you that we will make progress starting on Day One. 
 
But we didn’t get into this mess quickly, and it’ll take time to fix. 
 
That’s the truth, and telling you the truth is what this team, Vice President-elect Harris, and I will always do.

This is one of the toughest challenges America has ever faced.

But I know that we will overcome — and heal — together as one nation.

To all of the front-line health professionals and first responders, the grocery store workers and delivery truck drivers, the educators, parents, and our children. 

Thank you. 

Thank you for everything you have done to get us through this crisis thus far.

We will never give up on you.

And we will never give up on our country.

We can do this, together.

To all those we have lost in this pandemic, and all those sick and suffering, our hearts go out to you. 

May God bless you all.

May God protect our troops.

Remarks by Attorney General Xavier Becerra

Along with Carolina, my wife, and Natalia, Olivia, Clarisa, and Yvonne: greetings from California.

Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, I am honored and excited to join your team. 

The mission of the Department of Health and Human Services has never been as vital or as urgent as it is today.

The COVID pandemic and its economic fallout have thrust families into crisis. 

Too many Americans are sick or have lost loved ones.

Too many have lost their jobs, and with that, their healthcare and hope.

You have made it clear, Mr. President-elect, that to build back a prosperous America we need a healthy America. That, then, will be Job One for your team at HHS.

Fifty-five years ago, during another time of hardship, former Health Secretary — and fellow Californian — John Gardner said:

“What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.”

Gardner went on to help President Lyndon Johnson build the Great Society — ushering in Medicare, Medicaid, and Civil Rights that brought greater equity, greater opportunity, and greater hope to all Americans.

Now it is our turn to discover the breathtaking opportunities before us in the midst of hardship and pain.

It is our turn to build up and to back up our doctors and medical professionals, our hospitals and clinics, battling the coronavirus; our turn to restore faith and confidence in our leaders to deliver solutions that unite and heal us and inoculate us from fear; our turn to spur our brightest minds to launch the next generation of innovative medicines and cures. 

And, it is our turn to build a nation where, as the President-elect so often says, health care is a right — not a privilege.

At HHS, tackling pandemics, saving lives, and keeping us healthy should be our calling card. 

And we won’t forget that there is a second “H” in HHS…The “human” services — the work we do for our children, seniors, and disabled — they will stand tall in a Biden-Harris HHS. 

Almost a year ago, on New Year’s Day, my father Manuel passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family. We got to celebrate Christmas together. And, when the end came, my dad knew we were there with him. 

No one should ever have to die alone in a hospital bed, loved ones forced to stay away. That seems so contrary to the values of a great nation — the values that drew my parents, like generations before and after them, to come to America. 

Manuel and Maria Teresa had only their health and hope when they arrived in California. A road construction worker with a sixth grade education and a clerical worker who arrived in her teens from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. 

They built a pretty good partnership that lasted 67 years. Along the way they sent four kids to college and the military.

They opened the door for me. I am enormously grateful to them.

Now, President-elect Biden has offered me a breathtaking opportunity to work with his team to shape our healthcare future.

I share the president-elect and vice-president-elect’s determination to rebuild unity and civility in America. We know it takes hard work. We know we must do it together. We know it will be key to building critical momentum and support for the prevention and treatment of the coronavirus.

Those values and priorities will help us emerge from this pandemic a stronger, more just, and more equitable nation. Literally, there are millions of small business owners and tens of millions of workers who are counting on us. 

I am proud to have this chance to implement the president-elect’s vision for a better America through the challenging assignments that are in store for the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Mr. President-elect and Madam Vice President-elect, thank you for this opportunity to serve.

Dr. Vivek Murthy will reprise his role as Surgeon General of the United States © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Remarks by Dr. Vivek Murthy

Mr. President-elect and Madam Vice President-elect, thank you for your trust and confidence.

When I left my role as Surgeon General, I never dreamed I would have an opportunity to serve again. 

And in this moment of crisis, when so many Americans have fallen sick and lost loved ones, when people are losing jobs and struggling with childcare, I feel grateful to be able to do everything I can to end this pandemic. 

While this is a daunting task, we absolutely have what it takes to get the job done. 

We have world class scientists. 

We have courageous medical professionals who are risking their lives to care for the ill. 

We have companies on the cusp of delivering vaccines, and we are blessed with generous, compassionate people all across America who are stepping up to help those who are struggling.

If we all work together, we will overcome this pandemic and return to our lives. 

But COVID 19 is not the only health crisis we face — if anything, it has underscored a host of other epidemics that are devastating families and shortening lifespans: addiction, the opioid crisis, and spiraling mental health concerns; glaring racial disparities and high rates of diabetes and heart disease. 

These challenges are both caused and exacerbated by broader societal issues — from the economic strains families face to the disconnection and loneliness many of us feel.

In my new, expanded role, I will work to bring a health perspective to our policies across government so that  our schools, workplaces, and communities can be forces for strengthening our health and well being.

But the truth is that the best policies — and the best vaccines and treatments — will not heal our nation unless we overcome the fear, anxiety, anger, and distrust so many Americans are feeling right now. 

So more than anything, I will come to this role as a doctor — one who learned the most important lessons about medicine not in medical school, but in the clinic my parents opened when they first came to America as immigrants decades ago. 

As a child, I saw how they took the time not just to diagnose illnesses, but to ask about their patients’ families and lives, happily poring over photos of children and grandchildren taken from wallets, listening deeply to people’s stories and struggles, often running well over the appointment time. 

They taught me that the best doctor is not an authority figure who writes prescriptions, but rather a partner in healing — someone who sees patients in their fullest humanity and empowers them to take control of their health.

That is the kind of doctor I have always tried to be. 

And if confirmed, that is the approach I will take as I serve as America’s doctor. 

I will dedicate myself to caring for every American, driven always by science and facts, by head and heart — and endlessly grateful to serve one of the few countries in the world where the grandson of a poor farmer in India can be asked by the president-elect to look out for the health of the entire nation. 

That is a testament to the promise of America — one that I will work to fulfill every day as Surgeon General.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky is being hailed as Biden’s pick asDirector of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Remarks by Dr. Rochelle Walensky

 Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, I’m honored by the trust you’ve placed in me to serve the American people at this critical moment.

I want to thank my amazing husband and our three wonderful sons for answering this call along with me. 

As all doctors and public servants know, these jobs ask a great deal not only of us, but of our families.

The pandemic that brought me here today is actually one that struck America and the world more than thirty years ago.

Because my medical training happened to coincide with some of the most harrowing years of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

As a medical student, I saw firsthand how the virus ravaged bodies and communities.

Inside the hospital, I witnessed many people lose strength and hope.
While outside the hospital, I witnessed those same patients — mostly gay men and members of vulnerable communities — be stigmatized and marginalized, by their nation and many of its leaders.

A scientific breakthrough came in 1995, when the FDA approved the first AIDS cocktail, and we saw the first glimmers of hope.

I’ve dedicated my career ever since to researching and treating infectious disease and to ending the HIV/AIDS crisis for good.

Now, a new virus is ravaging us.

It is striking hardest, once again, at the most vulnerable — the marginalized; the under-served.

Nearly 15 million Americans have been infected.

Nearly 285,000 of our loved ones are gone.

The pain is accelerating, our defenses have worn down.

We are losing life, and hope, at an alarming rate.

I never anticipated that I would take on a role helping lead our national response.

Government service was never part of my plans.

But every doctor knows that when a patient is coding, your plans don’t matter.

You run to the code.

And when a nation is coding, if you are called to serve, you serve.

You run to take care of people; to stop the bleeding, to stabilize, to give them hope and a fighting chance to come back stronger.


That’s what doctors do.

And I’m honored to get to work with an administration that understands that leading with science is the only way to deliver breakthroughs, to deliver hope, and to bring our nation back to its full strength.

To the American people, and to each and every person at the CDC, I promise to work with you to harness the power of American science — to fight this virus and prevent unnecessary illness and deaths — so that we can all get back to our lives.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Remarks by Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith

 Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, thank you for the opportunity to serve the American people.

I’m proud to go to work with leaders who are deeply committed to science and to centering equity in our response to the pandemic.

Not as a secondary concern, or as a box to check — but as a shared value, woven into all of the work we do and prioritized by every member of the Biden-Harris team.

I’m enormously thankful to my research team, my colleagues, to President Salovey and the leadership at Yale for supporting me in this work.

And I’m grateful to all of the researchers and advocates who’ve blazed the trail, whose work on health equity and racial justice too often went unbelieved or overlooked across the generations.

Most of all, I’m thankful to my family, to Jessie and our three children, for their unwavering support and humor.

And to my mother, and her mother, for modeling kindness, generosity, and courageous leadership through service.

I have wanted to be a doctor since I was six years old, and I am a proud general internal medicine physician today.

But as I grew up, I came to understand that there were deeper dimensions to health, beyond what I saw in the human biology textbooks I borrowed from my mother’s bookshelf.

I grew up on St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A place where people too often died too young — from preventable conditions.

My own father had his first stroke in his forties and was left paralyzed.

I learned there was a term for what we were: an “underserved community” — marginalized by place and by race.

In my medical training, I saw countless patients whose conditions were shaped by factors having nothing to do with science — and everything to do with broader social inequities.

Now, the COVID-19 crisis has laid those inequities bare.

It is not a coincidence, or a matter of genetics, that more than 70 percent of African Americans, and more than 60 percent of Latinx Americans, personally know someone who has been hospitalized or died from COVID-19.

The same disparities ingrained in our economy, our housing system, our food system, our justice system, and so many other areas of our society have conspired, in this moment, to create a ‘grief gap’ that we cannot ignore.

It is our societal obligation to ensure equitable access to testing, treatments, and vaccines.

Equitable support for those who are hurting.

And equitable pathways to opportunity as we emerge from this crisis and rebuild — including for the most marginalized communities: the undocumented, the incarcerated, and the homeless.

I’m grateful for the chance to continue this work, to earn trust and find success through genuine partnerships with the people and communities who’ve been hit the hardest during — and before — this crisis.

On this team, you will be heard, you will be counted, and you will be valued.

Remarks by Dr. Anthony Fauci in a Pre-recorded Message

President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, thank you so much for asking me to be part of this COVID response team.

I hope that you don’t mind that the reason that I am sending this video is because a close friend and colleague at the NIH, Dr. Harvey Alter, is receiving the Nobel Prize in Medicine at the same time, and we wanted to attend the ceremony at the NIH to show our support.

Such an achievement is a reminder of the incredible public servants we have at the NIH and of America’s place as a pioneer in science and medicine.

I believe — as you do — that in the fight against this pandemic, we must lead with science. And that a key piece of our ongoing work is communicating consistently with the American people.

Whether it’s maintaining social distancing and not congregating indoors; or the 100 day challenge you described on masking; or to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

These actions are bold, but they are doable and essential to help the public avoid unnecessary risks, to help us save lives, reopen schools and business, and to eventually beat the pandemic. 

I look forward to advising you on these most urgent priorities and to working with this team of world-class experts whom I have known for many years and deeply respect.

I have been through many public health crises before, but this is the toughest one we have ever faced as a nation.

The road ahead will not be easy. We have got a lot of hard and demanding work to do in the next year.

But, as we have done during previous crises, I also know we can get through this pandemic together, as a nation.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of this effort. 

Jeff Zients, selected to be the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response Team. “There’s no one else you want to help manage some of the most consequential and complex priorities of a country,” Biden said. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Remarks by Jeff Zients

President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris — I am honored by your trust in me and humbled by the task at hand. And I am hopeful because of your leadership. 

As it is for both of you, everything starts with family for me. And I am forever grateful for the love and support of my wife, our children, and our parents. 

Mr. President-elect, we’ve known each other for a long time, and our relationship has been forged under immense pressure: the severity of the Great Recession; the challenge of implementing the Affordable Care Act; and the daily decisions a White House makes that affect the lives of millions of Americans. 

You and President Obama knew how to build a team with the right diversity of backgrounds and views. A team to make progress on difficult situations and capture enormous opportunities. 

That’s what I’ve tried to do throughout my career. 

I am not a doctor or public health expert. In fact, we’ve got the best ones in the world on this team. 

But I know management and execution. And the key part of the role you’ve asked me to take on is the last part, “Coordinator.” 

It’s about empowering experts, developing a culture of teamwork, and maintaining a focus on strategy and execution. 

It’s knowing that leadership requires expertise, transparency, and prioritization. It also requires trust, truth, and integrity. 

To the American people, that’s what this team will provide. 

We will utilize the full capacity of the federal government to get this pandemic under control. 

To harness and examine the data to expand testing. To deliver equipment and PPE to those on the frontlines. To provide resources for schools and businesses to operate safely. To address the racial disparities and inequities of this pandemic. To rejoin the global fight against COVID-19 — because no one is safe until everyone is safe. 

And with our collective expertise, we will oversee the rollout of the vaccine which, as the president-elect said, will be one of the greatest operational challenges our country has ever faced. 

And we will also pull the country together — across governments at the federal, state, and local levels, and across the private sector. 

And as we begin this vital work, Mr. President-elect, I remember what you told me when we were implementing the Affordable Care Act. 

Your message was: I know this is no small task; I know you and the team are feeling tremendous pressure to succeed; and we want and need the team to pull this off. 

You then said, “I know you and the team can do this, but I need you to promise me one thing: That you will always, always, give it to us straight because we have to understand the challenge we’re facing. Because most of all, we are in this together. And together we can do this.”

President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and the American people, this team will always tell it to you straight. 

The work ahead will not be easy. But we know what needs to be done. And we will get it done, together. 

Remarks by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris

Congratulations Mr. President-elect on nominating and appointing this outstanding team to get this pandemic under control.

And thank you to these accomplished physicians, experts, and public servants for answering the call to serve the American people in this hour of need.

Over Thanksgiving, the president-elect and I called health care workers who are on the front lines of this pandemic. Just to thank them.

We wanted to express our gratitude — and our nation’s gratitude — for everything they have been doing. For every sacrifice they have made.

That day, I spoke with a registered nurse named Maureen in Pennsylvania and Talisa in Illinois. 

They shared stories we’ve all heard. 

We’ve all heard the stories about grandmothers and grandfathers, loved ones and friends spending their last moments alone. 

We’ve all heard about nurses and physicians who are physically and mentally exhausted trying to keep up with ever-increasing caseloads. Those on the frontline who say to each other, it’s a matter of when, not if, they get the virus. 

We’ve all heard about health care workers without the supplies and equipment they need to care for patients and save lives. 

So, today, we have a message for Talisa, Maureen, and all Americans: help is on the way.  

And it’s long overdue.

The scale of this pandemic is heartbreaking.

Almost 15 million cases. More than 2,800 deaths. In a single day.

And then, there’s the economic devastation.  The lost jobs. The small businesses shuttered. 

Not to mention what’s happening to our schools. The parents and teachers who are being stretched to their limits. And the toll it’s all taking on the mental health and well-being of our children who risk falling behind.

Opening our schools and economy safely and responsibly, getting this virus under control — all of it starts with listening to experts and leaders like these; Americans who reflect the very best of our nation. 

They are top physicians, public health experts, and public servants. 

And they are the team the American people need and deserve. 

To make sure testing and treatment are free for everyone. 
 
To make sure vaccines are safe, free, and equitably distributed. 

To make sure we are better prepared for future pandemics and other health threats.

And to make sure quality, affordable health care is available to all.

From an early age, I saw the lifesaving work that our health care professionals provide, especially for the most vulnerable among us. 
 
You see, my mother was a breast cancer researcher, and my sister and I spent many hours roaming the halls of the hospital where she worked. 

It’s why I co-founded an auxiliary group to help patients at the county hospital in Oakland more than twenty years ago. 

It’s why we need to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act. 

And it’s why we have to listen to frontline health care workers like Maureen and Talisa. 

During our conversation, Talisa said: 

“We wouldn’t send our soldiers to battle without the gear they need. And we shouldn’t send our doctors and nurses to fight this pandemic without the gear they need.” 

She is right. 

And President-elect Biden and I — along with this world-class team — will make sure we are doing everything we can, to save lives and contain this pandemic once and for all.

Getting this virus under control is one of the defining challenges of our time. 

And we will do what the American people have always done in the face of a great challenge. 

We will stand together and defeat it.

Biden Pays Homage to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Warns Republicans of Lasting Damage to Ram SCOTUS Replacement Through

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the subject of the “Notorious RBG” exhibit at the Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. In a speech in Philadelphia, Vice President Joe Biden paid homage to Justice Ginsburg, “She was a trailblazer, a role model, a source of hope, and a powerful voice for justice. She was proof that courage and conviction and moral clarity can change not just the law, but also the world” and warned Republicans, ”This appointment isn’t about the past. It’s about the future. And the people of this nation are choosing the future right now. To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise in raw political power.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The hypocrisy and shamelessness of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans to now move forward to fill the seat vacated by Ruth Bader Ginsburg with someone who would completely undo all the progress she made toward equality and social justice in the midst of actual voting to replace the president and Congress is only matched by the hypocrisy and shamelessness of the self-professed conservative “originalist” Supreme Court justices who have the audacity to suggest they can fathom what the Founding Fathers meant and disregard all the changes since then, to actually make law. Five justices contradicting the 435 elected members of the House and 100 elected members of the Senate and the president, going further, reaching back into settled law and precedent to overturn women’s rights, civil rights, voting rights, workers rights, environmental protection, to re-form this nation as a Catholic theocracy, not much different than Islamic theocracy.

Just a reminder: McConnell invented this “rule” of not confirming – not even giving President Obama’s nominee a hearing – even though the election was 10 months away (and Scalia’s seat was vacant for 400 days) because it was an election year, and that Obama purposely looked for a moderate, not a progressive, and not someone who could conceivably serve for 50 years on the bench, in choosing Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia. It really was a further demonstration of the disrespect he had for Obama, America’s first Black president, and, when Obama took office in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression,  McConnell said his first priority was not to help Americans seeing their lives come apart but to make Obama a “one-term president.” He stalled hundreds of judicial appointments so that he could fill them all – and hand Trump his only  achievement Trump can crow about. B

McConnell’s does not necessarily see the swift filling of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat as energizing Republican turnout but because he expects to lose the White House and very possibly the Senate. Also, he wants a Supreme Court in Trump’s pocket to decide the dozens of outrageous court suits designed to suppress voting (the only way Trump can eke out a win in the Electoral College).

Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for president, spoke out in Philadelphia, paying homage to Justice Ginsburg’s life and legacy and outrage over yet another theft of a Supreme Court seat that, despite the conservative minority in the country and majority’s rejection of their positions, will control the lives of every American for generations. Presidents may come and go, but these justices serve for life.

”This appointment isn’t about the past. It’s about the future. And the people of this nation are choosing the future right now,” Biden declared. “To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise in raw political power.”

Here are Vice President’s remarks, highlighted, as prepared for delivery on September 20, 2020 in Philadelphia:

 –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Good afternoon.
 
I attended mass earlier today and prayed for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her family.
 
The nation lost an icon, but they lost a mother, a grandmother, and a matriarch.
 
We know how hard that is to watch a piece of your soul absorb the cruelty and pain of that dreadful disease of cancer.
 
But as I spoke with her daughter and granddaughter last night, they made clear that until the very end she displayed the character and courage we would expect of her. She held their hand and gave them strength and purpose to carry on.
 
It’s been noted that she passed away on Rosh Hashanah.
 
By tradition, a person who dies during the Jewish New Year is considered a soul of great righteousness.
 
That was Ruth Bader Ginsgburg. A righteous soul.
 
It was my honor to preside over her confirmation hearings
, and to strongly support her accession to the Supreme Court.
 
Justice Ginsburg achieved a standing few justices do. She became a presence in the lives of so many Americans, a part of the culture.
 
Yes there was humor in the mentions of the “Notorious RBG” and her impressive exercise routines. But it was so much more.
She was a trailblazer, a role model, a source of hope, and a powerful voice for justice.
 
She was proof that courage and conviction and moral clarity can change not just the law, but also the world.
 
And I believe in the days and months and years to follow, she will continue to inspire millions of Americans all across this country. And together, we can — and we will — continue to be voices for justice in her name.
 
Her granddaughter said her dying words were My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
 
As a nation, we should heed her final call to us — not as a personal service to her, but as a service to the country at a crossroads.
 
There is so much at stake — the right to health care, clean air and water, and equal pay for equal work. The rights of voters, immigrants, women, and workers.
 
And right now, our country faces a choice. A choice about whether we can come back from the brink.
 
That’s what I’d like to talk about today.
 
Within an hour of news of her passing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ginsburg will receive a vote in the Senate.
 
The exact opposite of what he said when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace Justice Scalia in 2016.
 
At that time, Majority Leader McConnell made up a rule based on the fiction that I somehow believed that there should be no nomination to the Court in an election year.
 
It’s ridiculous.
The only rule I ever followed related to Supreme Court nominations was the Constitution’s obligation for Senators to provide advice and consent to the president on judicial nominees.
 
But he created a new one — the McConnell Rule: absolutely no hearing and no vote for a nominee in an election year.
 
Period. No caveats.
 
And many Republican Senators agreed. Including then-Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Including the current Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. Who at the time said, and I quote verbatim:
 
I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsay Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination. And you could use my words against me and you’d be absolutely right.”
 
That is what Republicans said when Justice Scalia passed away — about nine months before Election Day that year. Now, having lost Justice Ginsburg less than seven weeks before Election Day this year — after Americans have already begun to cast their votes — they cannot unring the bell.
 
Having made this their standard when it served their interest, they cannot, just four years later, change course when it doesn’t serve their ends. And I’m not being naive.
 
I’m not speaking to President Trump, who will do whatever he wants.
 
I’m not speaking to Mitch McConnell, who will do what he does.
 
I’m speaking to those Senate Republicans out there who know deep down what is right for the country — not just for their party.
 
I’m speaking for the millions of Americans out there, who are already voting in this election. Millions of Americans who are voting because they know their health care hangs in the balance.
 
In the middle of the worst global health crisis in living memory, Donald Trump is at the Supreme Court trying to strip health coverage away from tens of millions of families and to strip away the peace of mind from more than 100 million people with pre-existing conditions.
 
If he succeeds, insurers could once again discriminate or drop coverage completely for people
living with preexisting conditions like asthma, diabetes, and cancer.
 
And perhaps, most cruelly of all, if Donald Trump has his way, complications from COVID-19, like lung scarring and heart damage, could become the next deniable pre-existing condition.
 
Millions of Americans who are also voting because they don’t want nearly a half century of legal precedent to be overturned and lose their right to choose.
 
Millions of Americans who are at risk of losing their right to vote.
 
Millions of Dreamers who are at risk of being expelled from the only country they have ever known.
 
Millions of workers who are at risk of losing their collective bargaining rights.

Millions of Americans who are demanding that their voices be heard and that equal justice be guaranteed for all.
 
They know — we all know — what should happen now.
 
The voters of this country should be heard. Voting has already begun in some states.
 
And in just a few weeks, all the voters of this nation will be heard. They are the ones who should decide who has the power to make this appointment.
 
This appointment isn’t about the past. It’s about the future. And the people of this nation are choosing the future right now.
 
To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise in raw political power.
 
I don’t believe the people of this nation will stand for it.
 
President Trump has already made it clear this is about power. Pure and simple.
 
Well, the voters should make it clear on this issue and so many others: the power in this nation resides with them — the people.
 
And even if President Trump wants to put forward a name now, the Senate should not act on it until after the American people select their next president and the next Congress.
 
If Donald Trump wins the election — then the Senate should move on his selection — and weigh that nominee fairly.
 
But if I win the election, President Trump’s nomination should be withdrawn.
 
As the new President, I should be the one who nominates Justice Ginsburg’s successor, a nominee who should get a fair hearing in the Senate before a confirmation vote.
 
We’re in the middle of a pandemic. We’re passing 200,000 American deaths lost to this virus. Tens of millions of Americans are on unemployment.
 
Health care in this country hangs in the balance before the Court.
 
And now, in a raw political move – this president and the Republican leader have decided to jam a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court through the United States Senate.
 
It’s the last thing we need in this moment.
 
Voters have already begun casting ballots in this country.
 
In just a few weeks, we are going to know who the voters of this nation have chosen to be their next president.
 
The United States Constitution was designed to give the voters one chance – to have their voice heard on who serves on the Court.
 
That moment is now — and their voice should be heard. And I believe voters are going to make it clear – they will not stand for this abuse of power.
 
There’s also discussion about what happens if the Senate confirms — on election eve – or in a lame duck after Donald Trump loses — a successor to Justice Ginsburg.
 
But that discussion assumes that we lose this effort to prevent the grave wrong that Trump and McConnell are pursuing here.
 
And I’m not going to assume failure at this point. I believe the voices of the American people should be heard.
 
This fight won’t be over until the Senate votes, if it does vote.
 
Winning that vote — if it happens — is everything.
 
Action and reaction. Anger and more anger. Sorrow and frustration at the way things are.
 
That’s the cycle that Republican Senators will continue to perpetuate if they go down this dangerous path they have put us on.
 
We need to de-escalate — not escalate.
 
So I appeal to those few Senate Republicans — the handful who will really decide what happens.
 
Don’t vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Senator McConnell have created.
 
Don’t go there.
 
Uphold your Constitutional duty — your conscience.
 
Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country.
 
We can’t keep rewriting history, scrambling norms, and ignoring our cherished system of checks and balances.
 
That includes this whole business of releasing a list of potential nominees that I would put forward.
 
It’s no wonder the Trump campaign asked that I release a list only hours after Justice Ginsburg passed away.
 
It’s a game to them, a play to gin up emotions and anger.
 
There’s a reason why no Presidential candidate other than Donald Trump has ever done such a thing.
 
First, putting a judge’s name on a list like that -could influence that person’s decision-making as a judge — and that’s wrong.
 
Second, anyone put on a list like that under these circumstances – will be the subject of unrelenting political attacks.
 
And because any nominee I would select would not get a hearing until 2021 at the earliest – she would endure those attacks for months on end without being able to defend herself.
 
Third, and finally, and perhaps most importantly, if I win, I will make my choice for the Supreme Court — not as part of a partisan election campaign — but as prior Presidents did.
 
Only after consulting Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate – and seeking their advice before I ask for their consent.
 
As everyone knows – I have made it clear that my first choice for the Supreme Court will make history as the first African American woman Justice.
 
I will consult with Senators in both parties about that pick, as well as with legal and civic leaders. In the end, the choice will be mine and mine alone.
 
But it will be the product of a process that restores our finest traditions – not the extension of one that has torn this country apart.
 
I’ll conclude with this.
 
As I’ve said in this campaign, we are in the battle for the soul of this country.
 
We face four historic crises. A once-in-a-generation pandemic. A devastating economic recession. The rise of white supremacy unseen since the 1960’s, and a reckoning on race long overdue. And a changing climate that is ravaging our nation as we speak.
 
Supreme Court decisions touch every part of these crises — every part of our lives and our future.
 
The last thing we need is to add a constitutional crisis that plunges us deeper into the abyss – deeper into the darkness.
 
If we go down this path, it would cause irreversible damage.
 
The infection this president has unleashed on our democracy can be fatal.
Enough.
 
We must come together as a nation. Democrat, Republican, Independent, liberal, conservative. Everybody.
 
I’m not saying that we have to agree on everything. But we have to reason our way through to what ails us – as citizens, voters, and public servants. We have to act in good faith and mutual good will. In a spirit of conciliation, not confrontation.
 
This nation will continue to be inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but we should be guided by her as well.
 
By her willingness to listen, to hear those she disagreed with, to respect other points of view.
 
Famously, Justice Ginsburg got along well with some of the most conservative justices on the Court.
 
And she did it without compromising her principles – or clouding her moral clarity – or losing her core principles.
 
If she could do this, so can we.
 
How we talk to one another matters. How we treat one another matters. Respecting others matters.
 
Justice Ginsburg proved it’s important to have a spine of steel, but it’s also important to offer an open hand — and not a closed fist — to those you disagree with.
 
This nation needs to come together.
 
I have said it many times in this election. We are the United States of America.
 
There’s nothing we cannot do if we do it together. Maybe Donald Trump wants to divide this nation between Red States and Blue States.
 
Between representing those states that vote for him and ignoring those that don’t.
 
I do not.
 
I cannot — and I will not — be that president.
 
I will be a president for the whole country.
 
For those who vote for me and those who don’t.
 
We need to rise to this moment, for the sake of our country we love.
 
Indeed, for its very soul.
 
May God bless the United States of America.
 
May God protect our troops.
 
May God bless Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Biden Blasts Trump’s Failed Leadership as COVID-19 Cases Rise and Russia Puts Bounties on American Troops

In a series of remarks and fact sheets, Vice President Joe Biden slammed Donald Trump’s abject failure to lead America’s response to COVID-19 — with more than 130,000 Americans now dead, three million infected,  and 20 million people out of work and offered his own plan to save lives and the economy.
 
Trump continues to try to ignore away the threat, even as the U.S. hits record daily levels of new infections and as Dr. Anthony Fauci testified that America is at risk of seeing as many as 100,000 new infections a day if action is not taken now to stop the spread. Indeed, Americans are banned by most countries that have been successful in taking control over the coronavirus pandemic.
 
While Trump flails and refuses to take responsibility, Vice President Biden laid out clear steps that the nation must take to get the virus under control so that we can save lives and get Americans back to work. It’s no surprise then that two new polls show that Americans “overwhelmingly” trust Biden over Trump to lead our country’s response to COVID-19.
 
Likewise, Vice President Biden blasted Trump for his dereliction of duty in failing to hold Russia accountable after numerous reports emerged showing that Trump failed to take action after being briefed by the intelligence community about Russian-backed attacks on our soldiers in Afghanistan.

The plan that Biden advanced, he said, “builds on the roadmap I released back in March that would have saved lives if it had been adopted. It is a plan to save lives in the months ahead. Once again — I encourage him to adopt this plan in its entirety. This is too important for politics.”

He added, “It’s not about you, Mr. President — it’s about the health and well-being of the American public. The American people didn’t make enormous sacrifices over the past four months so you could waste your time with late night rantings and tweets.

“They didn’t make these sacrifices so you could ignore the science and turn responsible steps like wearing a mask into a political statement. And they certainly didn’t do it so you could wash your hands and walk away.

“Maybe there are times this nation needs a cheerleader. Now isn’t one of them. We need a president.”

The Biden campaign offered a fact sheet, contrasting the Vice President’s approach with what Trump has failed to do:

Today, the trajectory of COVID-19 in America is headed in the wrong direction. In some parts of the country, the test positivity rate is climbing, hospitalizations are sky-rocketing, and testing sites are overwhelmed. Donald Trump’s catastrophic failures of governance have led to tens of thousands of needless deaths and economic pain for tens of millions of Americans. We are only four percent of the world’s population, yet we have 25 percent of the world’s cases and deaths. And, the United States is barely better equipped to manage the threat of COVID-19 today than we were six months ago. Every day that Trump wastes not acting, he squanders the sacrifices of the American people and sets our response and recovery back even further.
 
It is impossible to know what the state of the COVID-19 pandemic will be on the day Biden takes office, but if elected, Biden won’t wait to take action. Minutes after he is declared the winner of the election, Biden will make one of his first calls to Dr. Tony Fauci and ask him to extend his unprecedented record of service to six Presidents by serving one more. Dr. Fauci will have full access to the Oval Office and an uncensored platform to speak directly to the American people — whether delivering good news or bad.
 
During his transition, Biden will seek out governors and mayors and other leaders of both parties, from every state, territory, and tribe, and consult with education, technology, business, and labor leaders so he’s ready to hit the ground running and fight the virus as our next President.
 
Over the last four months, Joe Biden has laid out comprehensive plans with five basic elements that he would do as President to address COVID-19: (1) test-and-trace, (2) sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for all, (3) science-based treatments and vaccines, (4) steps to reopen safely and effectively, and (5) protecting those at high-risk, including older Americans.
 
Biden has repeatedly said he hopes that Trump will use these intervening months to adopt the policies he’s outlined. The health of our nation — and our economy — hang in the balance.
 
Today, Biden is updating his Plan to Combat COVID-19 for the current circumstances we face as a result of President Trump’s persistent failures:

Implement Widespread Testing-and-Tracing
 
The Trump Fiasco: The failure to test swiftly and broadly led to the failure to get the virus under control. After deflecting blame for months, Donald Trump has repeatedly doubled down on his orders to slow down testing. It is unacceptable that with cases surging in some parts of the country and Americans urged to go back to work in others, we still do not have the basic capacity in testing and contact tracing we need to sustainably manage this virus. In Arizona, this past week, Americans with COVID-19 have had to wait in baking hot cars in miles-long lines for a test, and those were the lucky ones who had an appointment. In March, Donald Trump claimed that every American who wanted a test could get one. It was a lie then. It’s still a lie.
 
The Biden Plan:

Stand up a Pandemic Testing Board to massively surge a nationwide campaign and guarantee regular, reliable, and free access to testing for all, including every worker called back on the job .

Double the number of drive-through testing sites and increase the numbers until there are no more lines.

Build a national contact tracing workforce, starting by hiring at least 100,000 Americans and equipping sorely under-resourced public health departments with the resources they need to spot and stop outbreaks.  

 
Establish Sustainable Supply Chain for PPE and Supplies and Help for Health Care Workers:
 
The Trump Fiasco: Months into this crisis, our health care workers are still forced to scramble for their own supplies and reuse masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) shift-after-shift. Hundreds of health care workers have died from COVID-19, and tens of thousands have been infected. This is heartbreaking — and a catastrophic failure of leadership. Health care workers put their lives on the line every day, and the risk they face is unacceptably compounded by the inconsistent and politized response to expert guidance, like social distancing and masks. Trump has abdicated responsibility, and turned his back on health care workers in their time of need.
 
The Biden Plan:

Implement a coordinated, country-wide, future-facing national effort to acquire, produce, and distribute PPE, test kits and machines, lab supplies, and other critical supplies, including by fully utilizing the authorities under the Defense Production Action.

Identify tomorrow’s needs for PPE, lab reagents, and test supplies when they run low, as well as replenish depleted supplies in hard-hit areas, especially for federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, safety-net hospitals, and nursing homes, which are typically resource-poor and disproportionately serve vulnerable populations that are bearing the brunt of COVID-19.

Build now toward a future, flexible American-sourced and manufactured capability to ensure we are not vulnerable to supply chain disruptions in times of crisis.

In addition, Biden would ensure the U.S. government steps up for nurses, doctors and other health care workers and first responders, including by providing:

Guaranteed priority access to national supplies of PPE.

Premium Pay for health care workers for putting themselves at risk. There is no substitute for ensuring the safety of health care workers, but as Biden has said, everyone who puts their lives on the line should receive a boost in their paychecks.

Emergency paid leave, which Biden has called for anyone who gets COVID-19 or needs to care for a loved one who has it.

Free, accessible, and safe housing to enable health care workers to quarantine away from their loved ones as necessary.

A Health Care Worker COVID-19 Consultation Hotline and strengthened clinician peer-to-peer learning, so that frontline staff do not have to rely on social media to learn best practices in treating COVID-19 patients.

Access to an array of prevention and early intervention mental health services, including health-status monitoring, emotional-health support and psychological first aid, to every COVID-19 health care worker. Seeking help should not impact your current or future employment, including your ability to get a license. This is in addition to Biden’s robust commitment to ensuring every American has access to mental health insurance coverage and expanding immediate access to telemental health services by requiring all carriers — not just Medicare — to pay for telemental health services. There should be no barrier to mental health care in this crisis – none.

The mobilization of health care workers nationwide, including assessing areas of need, developing a registry of volunteers, and ensuring that staffing gaps are voluntarily filled in a safe, sustainable way.

 
Accelerate the Development of Treatments and Vaccines:
 
The Trump Fiasco: Instead of listening to public health professionals, Trump pushes dangerous, disproven drugs. Our country is now stuck with a massive stockpile of hydroxychloroquine, a drug Trump repeatedly hailed. Trump’s vaccine development effort — “Operation Warp Speed” — lacks sound leadership, global vision, or a strategy for securing the necessary funding to see this mission through or secure trust from Americans who depend on its success. And, the Trump Administration’s management of our government’s critical medical research agencies has been marred by infighting, political pressure and retaliation, and calculated cronyism. We cannot allow the Trump Administration to repeat its continued failures on relatively simple tasks like getting masks to nurses and tests to nursing homes with the harder mission of treatments and vaccines. Too much is a stake.
 
The Biden Plan:
Biden would accelerate a coordinated global approach to develop, manufacture, and distribute a safe, effective vaccine, including:

Ramp up the large-scale manufacturing of as many vaccine candidates as necessary

Help secure COVID-19-related research from cyber threats.

Proactively build a nationwide vaccination campaign, taking the steps now to guarantee the fair distribution of all vaccines.

Immediately restore our relationship with the World Health Organization, which — while not perfect — is essential to coordinating a global response during a pandemic.

Establish and resource an Emerging Infectious Disease Clinical Trial Network to bring scientific talent together behind the most promising drugs instead of having different studies competing with each other for resources and patients.

Ensure everyone — not just the wealthy and well-connected — in America receives the protection and care they deserve, and consumers are not price gouged as new drugs and therapies come to market.

Biden would also get ahead of this year’s seasonal flu by developing capacity now to ensure safe distribution and administration of seasonal flu vaccine — paired with an effective campaign to help people understand why getting a flu shot is so critical, especially this year. This effort must account for distribution in a time of social distancing, when Americans may not have access to providers from whom they normally receive the flu vaccine, including university and workplace clinics. This past flu season led to as many as 62,000 deaths and 740,000 hospitalizations, and the arrival of COVID-19 came to the United States just as the regular flu season was waning. We must prepare now for the possibility of simultaneous outbreaks of flu and COVID-19 that could overwhelm our public health system and confound our efforts to fight COVID-19.
 

Reopen Right:
 
The Trump Fiasco: While urging states to reopen as quickly as possible, Trump abdicated effective federal leadership, leaving state, tribal, and local officials to do their best without help from Washington. He has failed to deliver a unified plan for the country, advocated reopening in areas that couldn’t meet the guidance, and placed Americans at greater risk. Trump has sowed confusion and competition between states and repeatedly refused to serve as a role model or follow the guidance of our top scientists, further sowing chaos.
 
The Biden Plan: A stronger, more effective reopening recognizes that we won’t be able to solve the economic crisis in our country without a rigorous public health response. It requires clear, science-based, and nationwide public health guidance — including a clear, consistent message from the very top of our government on the importance of mask wearing — because we are one country with one population to protect. In addition to testing, contact tracing, and protecting older Americans, it would:

Guarantee paid leave for all who get sick and for workers caring for family members or other loved ones sick with COVID-19.

Ensure worker protection and accountability, including tasking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with setting and enforcing a rigorous emergency temporary standard so employers follow a clear set of rules to keep workers safe from COVID-19.

Create a “Safer for Shoppers” program that gives compliant businesses a sign for their window so shoppers know they have done what they can to minimize the risk of exposure.

Equip small business with an ambitious “restart package” that provides small business owners support for retaining and rehiring workers and covering other costs of restarting in this challenging environment.

Assist schools and child care programs with re-opening, perhaps the single most important step to get parents back to work, including scaling-up NIH-funded COVID-19 pediatric research, building a Safer Schools Best Practices Clearinghouse, and providing the resources child care providers and schools — particularly Title I schools — need to safely reopen and help students who have fallen behind.

 
Protect Older Americans and Others at High Risk
 
The Trump Fiasco: Trump’s failure to organize a coherent and timely response to the crisis has placed older Americans and others at high-risk in even more vulnerable circumstances and left them behind without effective support or real options except to quarantine indefinitely. It is unconscionable that over 52,000 residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died of COVID-19. The massive shortfall in COVID-19 testing and contact tracing has particularly heightened the risk of exposure, increased social isolation, and made more difficult the efforts to return all Americans – and especially older Americans – to something resembling normal life as safely and quickly as possible.
 
The Biden Plan:

Ensure evidence-based guidance for each phase of reopening and an easy-to-read Nationwide Pandemic Dashboard that Americans can check in real-time to help them gauge whether local transmission is actively occurring in their zip codes. This information is critical to helping all individuals, but especially older Americans and others at high risk, understand what level of precaution to take.

Ensure enough testing capacity so that people in nursing homes and long-term care facilities are able to receive visitors safely.

Boost Social Security payments by $200 a month and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by 15 percent in order to ensure that people on fixed incomes can weather the long arc of the pandemic. [Read Joe Biden’s previously released Plan for Older AmericansPlan for Supporting People with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic, and Fact Sheet on How Joe Biden Would Help You Get Health Insurance Coverage During The COVID-19 Crisis.]

Biden Rips Trump a New One over Cruelty in Seeking to Overturn Obamacare Leaving Millions Without Healthcare in Middle of Pandemic, Recession

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, in a speech in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, decried Trump’s latest move to have the Affordable Care Act declared “unconstitutional” and instead, stated how he would move toward universal more affordable and accessible health care and be a president who cares for all Americans. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, in a speech in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, decried Trump’s latest move to have the Affordable Care Act declared “unconstitutional,” despite having been ruled constitutional several times by the Supreme Court. The latest move, based on the dubious claim that the ACA’s “individual mandate” is unconstitutional, and therefore negates the entire law (duly passed by Congress in 2010, which enabled 30 million to access health care without being cut off because of preexisting conditions and no lifetime caps, and requiring at least 80% of premiums to go to patient care, and for the first time reversed the explosive annual increases in premiums), was inspired when the Republican 2017 tax law made the fine zero, the warped logic a right wing Texas judge used to therefore declare the entire law unconstitutional.

Instead, Biden spoke up for the crucial benefits of the Affordable Care Act and said if he were president, he would expand the public option, ensure premiums are never more than 8.5% of income, end surprise billing for medical care. “My plan lowers health care costs and gets us to universal coverage quickly when Americans desperately need it.”
In Biden’s remarks, he distinguished his approach to the presidency from Trump’s – essentially, Biden intends to serve the people, while Trump, clueless in how to actually solve problems, is solely focused on what benefits himself politically.

“That’s what the presidency is — a duty to care for everyone. Not just those who voted for us…And no trust is more sacred, no responsibility is more solemn, no purpose is more fundamental, than for a President to do absolutely everything he or she can to protect American lives.
“So I want every single American to know: if you’re sick, if you’re struggling, if you’re worried about how you’re going to get through the day — I will not abandon you. I will not leave you to face these challenges alone.  We are going to get through this — together.”

Here are Biden’s remarks: — Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Today, in the middle of the worst global health crisis in living memory, Donald Trump will file a brief in the Supreme Court to attempt to strip health coverage away from tens of millions of families, and to strip the peace of mind away from more than 100 million people with pre-existing conditions.

If he succeeds, more than 23 million Americans could lose their coverage outright— including nearly a million Pennsylvanians.

Insurers could once again discriminate, or deny services, or drop coverage for people living with preexisting conditions like asthma, diabetes, and cancer.

And perhaps most cruelly of all, if Donald Trump has his way, complications from COVID-19 could become a new pre-existing condition. 
 
Some survivors will experience lasting health impacts — like lung scarring and heart damage.
 
And if Donald Trump prevails in court, insurers would be allowed to strip away coverage or jack up premiums — simply because of their battle with the coronavirus.
 
Those survivors, having struggled and won the fight of their lives, would have their peace of mind stolen away at the moment they need it most.
 
They would live their lives caught in a vise between Donald Trump’s twin legacies: his failure to protect the American people from the coronavirus, and his heartless crusade to take health care protections away from American families.

I have called on Donald Trump many times to withdraw his lawsuit. Today, I am renewing that call.

Mr. President, drop the lawsuit. Stop trying to take away people’s health care.

Now more than ever, stop trying to steal their peace of mind. I cannot comprehend the cruelty that is driving him to inflict this pain on the very people he is supposed to serve.

One of the families the Affordable Care Act has delivered peace of mind to is the Ritters—who live not far from here in Manheim, Pennsylvania.

Jan and Madeline Ritter were just four years old when their mom, Stacie, heard some of the most devastating words that a parent can ever hear. Both of her twins had been diagnosed with leukemia.

I promise you — that news — it stops your heart. It wrenches your entire world off of its axis. And the very last thing on your mind — the very last thing that should be on your mind— is whether you can afford treatment.

But when Stacie’s twins got sick, there was no Affordable Care Act.

So, after the draining days and the endless nights, the harrowing stem-cell transplants, the fickle waves of hope and fear, after enduring more than any parent should have to endure, the Ritters still faced a future where their twins could be denied coverage
for the rest of their lives.

The Affordable Care Act was created to put a stop to that inhumanity — to ensure that people like Stacie, thrust into the worst nightmare of their lives, could focus on the fight that matters.

Stacie’s twins won their fight. They beat cancer — and now, they’re 22 years old. Jan is studying early education at Elizabethtown College. Madeline just graduated from Arcadia University with a degree in international studies. And because of the law, insurance companies can no longer deny them coverage because they’re survivors of cancer.

I’m proud of the Affordable Care Act.

In addition to protecting people with pre-existing conditions, this is a law that delivered vital coverage to more than 20 million Americans.

It’s a law that bars insurance companies from capping Americans’ benefits— and from charging women more simply because they are women.

It’s a law that reduced prescription drug costs for nearly 12 million seniors, who would see their those costs spike — because the Medicare ‘donut hole’would have suddenly reopened.

It’s a law that saves lives.

But now, in the middle of the worst public health crisis in modern history, Donald Trump is suing to take the Ritters and millions more Americans — back to the way things were. 

It’s cruel, it’s heartless, and it’s callous. 

And it’s all because he can’t abide the thought of letting stand one of President Obama’s greatest achievements.

We’ve seen that same callousness in his handling of the coronavirus.

Just over three months ago, as most Americans were first coming to grips with the unprecedented scale and danger of the pandemic, President Trump publicly claimed that, “Anybody that wants a test can get a test.”

That wasn’t true. And he knew it.

Then, five days ago, at his campaign gathering in Tulsa, he admitted telling his people to, slow the testing down, please.” At first, his spokespeople tried to say he was joking. But then Trump himself said he wasn’t joking. 

He called testing, “a double-edged sword.” Let’s be crystal clear about what he means by that. 
 
Testing unequivocally saves lives, and widespread testing is the key to opening up our economy again — so that’s one edge of the sword. 
 
The other edge: that he thinks finding out that more Americans are sick will make him look bad.
 
And that’s what he’s worried about. He’s worried about looking bad.

Well, Donald Trump needs to stop caring about how he looks and start caring about
what’s really happening in America.


The number of cases is increasing in 29 states. We are going to be dealing with this for a long time. Trump can’t wish it away. He can’t bend it to meet his political wishes. There are no miracles coming.

We are going to have to step up as Americans — all of us — and do both the simple things — and the hard things — to keep our families and neighbors safe, to re-open our economy, and to eventually put the pandemic behind us.

And sadly — we are going to have to do it without responsible leadership from the White House. So it is up to us. All of us.  

We’re going to have to wear masks. And I know as Americans it’s not something we’re used to. But it matters. All the evidence from all over the world tells us it just might be the most effective thing we can do. 

We’re going to have to socially distance. It’s not easy. It seems so strange to us. Not as Americans, but as human beings. We’re built to talk, to laugh, to hug, to gather with other people. I know I am. I know you are. But for now, we have to socially distance. It matters.

We’re going to have to find a way to keep our economy running as we bring the number of cases down. The president wants you to believe this is a choice between the economy and the public’s health. He still hasn’t grasped the most basic fact of this crisis: to fix our economy, we have to get control of the virus. 

He’s like a child who just can’t believe this has happened to him. It’s all whining and self-pity. This pandemic didn’t happen to him. It happened to all of us. 

And his job isn’t to whine about it. His job is to do something about it. 

If I have the honor of becoming President, I promise you I will lead.

I will do everything I can to take responsibility  and ease that burden on you and your families. I will put your family first. And that will begin with a dramatic expansion of health coverage and bold steps to lower health care costs.

We need a public option now more than ever — especially at a time when more than 20 million people are unemployed.

That public option will allow every American— regardless of their employment status —  the choice to get a Medicare-like plan.

It will force private insurers to keep premiums low and offer better coverage because, for the first time, they’ll have to compete for your business against a public insurer that doesn’t have a profit motive.

We’re going to lower premiums for people buying coverage on their own by guaranteeing that no American ever has to spend more than 8.5 percent of their income on health insurance — and that number will be lower for lower-income families.

We’re also going to further reduce costs by making it less expensive for Americans to choose plans with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses by lowering prescription drug prices and by ending the practice called “surprise billing,” which can leave you with an unexpectedly high bill after you leave a hospital.

Here’s the bottom line: my plan lowers health care costs and gets us to universal coverage quickly when Americans desperately need it.

Families are reeling right now — enduring illnesses, forced into risky choices, losing their employer plans in droves.

They need a lifeline now. That’s what the families here today deserve. That’s what families all across this nation deserve.

They don’t need a president going into court to deny them health care. They need a president going into the White House who will fight for the health care they need.

If Donald Trump refuses to end his senseless crusade against health coverage, I look forward to ending it for him. And working quickly with Congress to dramatically ramp up protections, get America to universal coverage, and lower health care costs as soon as humanly possible.

This is my promise to you. When I am President, I will take care of your health coverage the same way I would for my own family. This is personal to me.

I was sworn into the United States Senate next to a hospital bed. My wife and daughter had been killed in a car crash— and lying in that bed were my two surviving little boys.

I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like if we didn’t have the health care we needed immediately.

Forty years later, one of those little boys, my son Beau, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only months to live.

I couldn’t imagine an insurance company coming in and saying, “for the last six months of your life, you’re on your own” — which is exactly what happened to so many families before the Affordable Care Act.

So Amy, I understand.

And when I say I’ll take care of your health coverage the same way I would for my family — there is nothing I take more seriously.

That’s my promise to Stacie and Victoria and Amy and to every American.

That’s what the presidency is — a duty to care.

A duty to care for everyone.

Not just those who voted for us.

For all of us.

And no trust is more sacred, no responsibility is more solemn, no purpose is more fundamental, than for a President to do absolutely everything he or she can to protect American lives.

So I want every single American to know: if you’re sick, if you’re struggling, if you’re worried about how you’re going to get through the day — I will not abandon you.

I will not leave you to face these challenges alone.

We are going to get through this — together.

And we are going to build our health care system, our economy, and our country back better than it has ever been before.

Thank you. God bless you, and God protect our troops.

Biden Bursts Trump’s Bubble Over Jobs Report: ‘The public health crisis, job crisis, and crisis of inequity and indignity are connected’

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, delivered remarks on the economy and the May jobs report which unexpectedly showed 2.5 million jobs added and an unemployment rate dipping slightly to 13.3%, instead of rising to as much as 20%.  (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, delivered remarks on the economy and the May jobs report which unexpectedly showed 2.5 million jobs added and an unemployment rate dipping slightly to 13.3%, instead of rising to as much as 20%. But that 2.5 million jobs reflects the fact that states have begun reopening; there were 40 million people who have filed for unemployment, so an unimaginable 37 million are still without jobs. And 13.3% is still higher than at any time during the 2008 Great Recession. Moreover, the Trump administration apparently changed the way certain numbers are calculated, so the actual unemployment rate could be 3 points higher, or 16.3%, which would be closer to what economists forecast. Trump also manages to ignore the fact that the stimulus program pushed by Democrats over Republicans’ objections, worked to keep the economy from descending into a Great Depression. He also ignored the disproportionate unemployment rates among Blacks and Hispanics, groups that are also suffering disproportionately from COVID-19. But Trump is desperate to put a rosy face on an economy while ignoring the fact the coronavirus pandemic is still spreading and his administration has done virtually nothing to provide a national program for testing, tracing and isolating, nor even set standards for workplaces and schools only some tepid guidelines. And Trump was desperate to shift attention from his Fascistic overreach of using military power used against peaceful protesters calling for an end to race-based police brutality.

Instead, Vice President Biden took Trump to task and offered his own analysis of the depth of harm to the economy and public health caused by Trump’s failure of leadership and his preoccupation with Wall Street over Main Street, wealth over wages.

Here is a transcript of Biden’s remarks: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 Good afternoon.

Before I speak to the economic situation, I have to take a moment to address something the President said this morning.

Toward the end of his remarks today, Donald Trump said he hopes that George Floyd “is looking down and seeing this is a great day for our country.”

He was speaking of a man who was brutally killed by an act of needless violence — and by a larger tide of injustice — that has metastasized on this President’s watch.

George Floyd’s last words — “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” — have echoed across our nation.

For the President to try to put any other words in the mouth of George Floyd — is frankly despicable.

And, the fact that he did so on a day when Black unemployment rose and black youth unemployment skyrocketed — tells you everything you need to know about who this man is and what he cares about.


Today, like all Americans, I was glad to see that two-and-a-half million Americans have gotten their jobs back.

For those families, that’s a sigh of relief.

And for all of us, it’s a reminder of the resilience of the American people.

To those Americans, I’m so proud of you, and so happy for you and your families.

I was disturbed, however, to see the President crowing this morning — basically hanging a “mission accomplished”’ banner when there is so much work to be done — and so many Americans are still hurting.

More than twenty million Americans — one out of every seven U.S. workers — are still out of work.


For an enormous swath of our country, their dreams are still on hold. They are still struggling to put food on the table. The unemployment rate remains the highest it’s been in nearly a century.

As I said, Black unemployment went up this month. Latino youth unemployment jumped to over 37 percent. Hispanic unemployment overall is four times higher than it was before the President botched his response to the pandemic. And I’m worried, when you look deeper at the data, that while temporary layoffs went down,permanent layoffs went up.

Donald Trump still doesn’t get it.


He’s out there spiking the football — completely oblivious to the tens of millions of people who are facing the greatest struggle of their lives. Those folks aren’t feeling any less pain today than they were yesterday.

People who’ve lost their health care in this crisis, they’re not celebrating today — especially when Donald Trump is still in court fighting to strip away health care protections from even more Americans. 

The fact is, there are about 13 million less jobs today for American workers than the day that President Obama and I left office.


So while it’s wonderful to see ten percent of the families who lost their jobs due to Trump’s disastrous pandemic response start to make their way back — the President’s behavior makes me deeply worried for the 90 percent who haven’t.

So to all those families — who are scared, and hurting, and wondering what’s going to happen next: I want you to know I see you. I won’t ever forget you. And I won’t be satisfied – until this economy starts working for all of you.

Let’s be clear about something. The depth of this job crisis is not attributable to an act of God — but to the failure of a President. The truth is every country dealt with job losses due to the pandemic, but America was hit much harder out of the gate due to Trump’s complete mismanagement of the response.

This morning, he tried to compare our response to Germany’s and South Korea’s.

Okay, let’s compare. Germany has one-third of the deaths per capita that we do. South Korea has less than 300 deaths — total. America has four percent of the world’s population — and more than a quarter of the world’s deaths from this pandemic.

It’s no secret why that is.

Let’s get something straight: he did not act quickly. 

For months, he downplayed the threat — falsely promising us that anyone could get a test — and claiming that “like a miracle it will disappear.”

He repeatedly praised China’s containment response – despite a litany of public appeals — including from me — not to bet American lives and the U.S. economy on the word of the Chinese government.

He refused to take action to get adequate testing in place — allowing the virus to spread further than it should have.

Columbia University found that 54,000 lives could have been saved if the administration had acted just two weeks earlier.

His failure didn’t just cost lives. It cost jobs.

New studies this week from Moody’s and Brookings confirm that half or more of those who lost their jobs would still be employed had Trump mounted a competent response like Germany and South Korea and other countries did.

We know why this happened. Donald Trump was more focused on the stock wealth of the biggest corporations than he was on the well-being of the American people.

It’s why he had his top economic advisors telling people to buy stocks instead of preparing our nation to brace for the pandemic. 

Now — after 110,000 deaths and more than 20 million people still out of work — the consequences are clear.

We are still facing devastating unemployment, an historic health crisis, and a continuing crisis of violence, injustice, and indignity that is devastating Black Americans and diminishing the soul of our country.

These are some of the sternest challenges our nation has ever faced, and Trump is patting himself on the back. 

He just has no idea what’s really going on in this country. He has no idea the depth of pain that people are facing. He remains completely oblivious to the human toll of his indifference. It is time for him to step out of his bunker and take a look around at the consequences of his words and actions.


Let’s be clear — a president who takes no responsibility for costing millions and millions of Americans their jobs deserves no credit when a fraction of them return. 

But there’s a deeper concern here. As we recover, some of the temporary job losses we are still not on track to grow back in a way that will actually serve working people.

President Trump is still rewarding wealth over work.

All we hear coming out of the White House is calls for more tax cuts for big investors and big corporations. Well, they didn’t build this country. The middle class did — that’s who I fight for.

And if Trump continues to put the interests of CEOs and shareholders ahead of American workers, we’ll never get to where we need to be as a country.

Look, every American has a choice to make this November. Not simply what kind of President we want , but what kind of country we want. What kind of economy we want — and who that economy serves.

In the coming weeks, I will lay out in detail my comprehensive plan— not just to build things back to the way they were before COVID-19, but to build back better.

To create millions of new, good-paying jobs with benefits where people get a fair return for work and we make our country stronger, more resilient, and more just.

That plan will be anchored in job-creating investments, in small businesses, infrastructure – innovation, manufacturing, and caregiving, and in rewiring the faulty structures of our economy to ensure the dignity and equity of all American workers.

The public health crisis, the job crisis, and the crisis of inequity and indignity being endured by African Americans — those three challenges are deeply connected to one another.

The solutions must be, as well.


Any economic plan must start with a public health plan to make sure tests are available, to get our society functioning, to build back the confidence we need to truly bring back jobs and small businesses.

But that is only the first step.

My jobs plan will also be about restoring dignity to the American people.

In addition to pursuing badly-needed reforms, we need to be growing wages, leveling the playing field, and creating tens of millions of the new jobs we need to build a better American future.

There is a monumental amount of work to do to repair the damage that has been done. And simply tweeting slogans like “transition to greatness” won’t solve anything for families who are hurting.

I look forward to introducing and implementing a real jobs plan that will meet this challenging moment.

Americans can’t afford to have any more of their time wasted.

They need an economy that works for them — now.

They need jobs that bring dignity — now.

They need equal justice — and equal opportunities — now.

They need a president who cares about them, and cares about helping them heal — now.

Thank you.

God bless you — and may God protect our troops.

Former Google CEO to Help Cuomo Build New York Back Better From COVID-19

Eric Schmidt, former CEO and Executive Chairman of Google, founder Schmidt Futures, joined coronavirus briefing online at Northwell Health, Manhasset, Long Island, with Governor Andrew Cuomo, Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling  and Dr. Jim Malatras of Empire State College. Schmidt has agreed to chair a 15-member blue-ribbon commission to figure how to use technologies in a reimagined economy of the future, resilient to the next pandemic or crisis. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

The vast majority of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in New York State, still with the greatest number of cases in the world, are now coming from people at home, not from work, not from among essential workers, and not people taking public transportation. The majority are over 51 years old, retired, minorities and from downstate.

The finding comes from hospitalization data gathered in a new targeted effort to further reduce the number of new hospitalizations per day by trying to figure out the source of the new cases. The state received 1,269 survey responses from 113 hospitals over three days.

Governor Cuomo noted that the findings underscore the importance of social distancing, hand-washing, and wearing face masks when out in public to cut down transmission. The lockdown and mitigation protocols have helped the state avoid the worst projections: over 100,000 hospitalizations when the state only had capacity for 50,000.

At the same time, Cuomo is preparing the state to reopen, and looking beyond, to make the state’s public health and economy resilient should this pandemic or some other crisis strike again.

“As we begin re-opening parts of the state and re-imagining New York in the new normal, we should take this moment in history to use what we’ve learned and actually build our systems back better,”Governor Cuomo said.”I don’t want to replace what we did – I want to set the bar higher and actually improve our situation so we are prepared for the future. We’re working with some of the nation’s great business leaders to ensure we are thinking outside the box and improving and modernizing our systems for the future.”

“As we begin re-opening parts of the state and re-imagining New York in the new normal, we should take this moment in history to use what we’ve learned and actually build our systems back better,”Governor Cuomo said (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Cuomo today announced that Schmidt Futures will help integrate New York State practices and systems with the best advanced technology tools to build back better. Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and Executive Chairman and founder of Schmidt Futures, will lead the state’s 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission and use what the state has learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with new technologies, to improve telehealth and broadband access.

Among the areas that Cuomo is targeting for greater resiliency in the economy and society against the next pandemic or crisis are public health, public transportation, and public education, using the lessons learned from the current crisis, in which many things have had to be innovated and implemented that had never before been done.

He noted “Hospitals must be organized to operate as one system in a public health emergency.” During the current crisis, the only way to accommodate the influx of patients needing hospitalization – at one point predicted at over 100,000 beds when the entire state only has 50,000 – was to “flex/surge” equipment, personnel and capacity among public/private/nonprofit hospitals, staffs, equipment, downstate and upstate.

“Reimagining” a better healthcare system will require analysis of how to ensure telemedicine is available to all; how to better allocate healthcare resources statewide; how to harden the healthcare system against future challenges; and how to better protect and support healthcare workers.

“This crisis presents a unique opportunity for us to learn and better ourselves: better transportation, social equity; better public safety; better housing; better economy; better education,” Cuomo said.

The day before, Cuomo announced that New York State is collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a blueprint to reimagine education in the new normal. As New York begins to develop plans to reopen K-12 schools and colleges, the state and the Gates Foundation will consider what education should look like in the future, including:

How can we use technology to provide more opportunities to students no matter where they are;

How can we provide shared education among schools and colleges using technology;

How can technology reduce educational inequality, including English as a new language students;

How can we use technology to meet educational needs of students with disabilities;

How can we provide educators more tools to use technology;

How can technology break down barriers to K-12 and Colleges and Universities to provide greater access to high quality education no matter where the student lives; and

Given ongoing socially distancing rules, how can we deploy classroom technology, like immersive cloud virtual classrooms learning, to recreate larger class or lecture hall environments in different locations?

The state will bring together a group of leaders to answer these questions in collaboration with the Gates Foundation, who will support New York State by helping bring together national and international experts, as well as provide expert advice as needed.

The Governor also announced that, on this, National Nurses Day, JetBlue is donating 100,000 pairs of round-trip flights for medical personnel and nurses to honor their efforts, beginning with 10,000 pairs of tickets for New York medical professionals. Additionally, three painted JetBlue planes honoring New York’s frontline workers will do a flyover above New York City on Thursday, May 7th, at 7:00 p.m.

Governor Cuomo also announced a new contest asking New Yorkers to create and share a video explaining why people should wear a mask in public. The winning video will be used as a Public Service Announcement. Videos should be less than 30 seconds long, should show a mask properly worn over the mouth and nose and must be submitted by May 30th. Interested New Yorkers can learn more at WearAMask.ny.gov.

“The last few months have been an incredibly stressful time full of change, but we have to learn and grow from this situation and make sure we build our systems back better than they were before,” Governor Cuomo said. “One of the areas we can really learn from is education because the old model of our education system where everyone sits in a classroom is not going to work in the new normal. When we do reopen our schools let’s reimagine them for the future, and to do that we are collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and exploring smart, innovative education alternatives using all the new technology we have at our disposal.”

NYS Health Commissioner Howard Zucker (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Meanwhile, the state’s health experts, including Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, said there were still many questions to be answered about this novel coronavirus. The CDC has only recently determined that the virus that came to New York, New Jersey and Illinois came through Europe, not China, and is somewhat different and also appears to be more infections. Dr. Zucker was unable to say whether having antibodies, as determined with new testing, which means the person had been infected, is also immune from the other coronavirus or even immune from new infections, and if immune, for how long.

The Governor detailed the preliminary results of new hospitalization data, in a new targeted effort to further reduce the number of new hospitalizations per day by trying to figure out the source of the new cases. The state received 1,269 survey responses from 113 hospitals over three days and found that the majority of individuals were:

Not working or traveling;

Predominately located downstate;

Predominately minorities and older individuals;

Predominately non-essential employees; and

Predominately at home. 

Finally, the Governor confirmed 2,786 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 323,978 confirmed cases in New York State. Of the 323,978 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:

CountyTotal PositiveNew Positive
Albany1,32127
Allegany350
Broome3457
Cattaraugus541
Cayuga510
Chautauqua381
Chemung1282
Chenango1022
Clinton690
Columbia29162
Cortland280
Delaware620
Dutchess3,19241
Erie4,008117
Essex300
Franklin160
Fulton1003
Genesee1623
Greene18822
Hamilton52
Herkimer681
Jefferson630
Lewis90
Livingston893
Madison2318
Monroe1,65532
Montgomery632
Nassau37,350198
Niagara54941
NYC178,3511,477
Oneida5795
Onondaga1,05654
Ontario992
Orange9,21571
Orleans1034
Oswego702
Otsego670
Putnam1,0409
Rensselaer3478
Rockland12,20460
Saratoga3713
Schenectady55114
Schoharie450
Schuyler70
Seneca460
St. Lawrence1802
Steuben2232
Suffolk35,543268
Sullivan99612
Tioga964
Tompkins1290
Ulster1,38326
Warren1931
Washington1891
Wayne780
Westchester30,426186
Wyoming700
Yates190

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© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Biden: Reopening Economy Hinges on Expanding Public Health Infrastructure, Testing

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, offers the starkest contrast possible in terms of leadership and strategy for addressing the most dire crisis the nation has faced in a century. The Biden for President Public Health Advisory Committee on Testing offered a strategy for reopening the economy starting first with public health and expanded testing. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, offers the starkest contrast possible in terms of leadership and strategy for addressing the most dire crisis the nation has faced in a century. Today, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi endorsed Biden saying, “Elections are about the future. Now more than ever, we need a forward-looking, battle-tested leader who will fight For The People: a President with the values, experience and the strategic thinking to bring our nation together and build a better, fairer world for our children. For these and other reasons, I am proud to endorse Joe Biden for President: a leader who is the personification of hope and courage, values, authenticity, and integrity,” the Biden for President Public Health Advisory Committee on Testing offered a strategy for reopening the economy starting first with public health and expanded testing. Here is their statement:

We all agree on the need to reopen the economy and allow some semblance of normalcy as soon as possible. The economic pain and suffering are simply too great to delay unnecessarily. But it is wrong to talk about “choosing” between our public health and our economy. That’s a false choice. If we don’t beat the virus, we will never get back to full economic strength. And the experience of other nations and past pandemics is teaching us that we have to be prepared for a resurgence of cases that could once again stretch the capacity of our health care system and threaten lives.
 
Public health experts agree there are several keys to safely re-opening the economy and rebuilding the confidence of the American people in their government’s ability to protect them. We need to boost the capacity of our health care system and better protect our health care workers by ramping up the production — and ensuring the fair distribution — of critical equipment like masks and other personal protective equipment, as the Biden for President campaign has repeatedly called for. We need to test and trace contacts of people who have been infected with COVID-19. And we need clear guidance, oversight, and resources for workplaces to keep employees as safe as possible. Are those elements in place? What will it take to put them in place?
 
So far, the United States has conducted 5 million COVID-19 tests for our population of 330 million people. In recent days the number of tests has climbed, but no one who has studied the facts thinks this is sufficient. We are still seeing a massive shortfall and extensive disparities between states in testing — that’s unacceptable. And those failures are in no small part due to the federal government mishandling and delaying the pandemic response. We are now several months into this crisis, and this administration refuses to own up to the original sin of its failed response – the failure to test. Failed leadership, bureaucracy, and a lack of urgency have slowed the testing production process and continue to put us behind nations like Italy, Canada, and Germany in terms of per capita testing. Last week, we marked the deaths of 50,000 people from COVID-19 in the United States — each one a life cut tragically short. Our nation is now the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic with more known cases than any other nation in the world.
 
This isn’t rocket science. It just takes investment and execution — both of which have been gravely lacking. Vice President Biden has repeatedly called for President Trump to stand up a Pandemic Testing Board, just as FDR created a War Production Board to massively scale up the production and allocation of equipment and supplies we needed to fight and win World War II. The Board should have members from the public and private sectors — and involve state and local leaders, too. It would oversee a nationwide campaign to provide both diagnostic and antibody tests, which includes surging the production of test kits and lab supplies; coordinating the distribution to every state, tribe, and territory; identifying testing sites and sufficient trained personnel to staff them; ensuring adequate lab capacity and the swift reporting of results; and providing clear guidance on who needs a test. A nationwide campaign has to be well-coordinated and highly agile — able to adjust quickly to accommodate new scientific developments or respond to sudden bottlenecks by evaluating a variety of approaches, from rapid point-of-care tests to in-home sample collection, as Seattle has done.
 
We should better utilize our great university and medical school research laboratories, which spent precious resources equipping their facilities to run COVID-19 tests, yet now sit idle. Let’s harness that capacity to help drastically ramp up our capacity to process these tests
 
And we shouldn’t just test more, we should test smarter. Right now, because of shortages of tests and personnel protective equipment and related challenges, we are still only largely testing the sickest people we suspect have COVID-19, so they can be isolated and cared for. Smart testing would focus on individuals who are at heightened risk, like nursing home residents, as well as those who interact with many people each day, including health care workers, grocery store workers, public safety officials, public transportation employees, and others.
 
Time is not on our side. It is urgent we get these pieces in place and functioning smoothly at full capacity before flu season arrives in the fall, when experts say we could experience a second wave of COVID-19 cases. Testing alone is not enough. We also need Apollo-like moonshots to develop and deploy proven therapeutics and vaccines globally if we are ever to gain the upper hand on this virus. We cannot allow this administration to repeat its failure on testing with therapeutics and vaccines. We must let science — not politicians — lead. We should set the goal of identifying safe, effective therapeutics within 100 days by building on long-standing, proven clinical trial networks — which helped save millions of lives in the fight against AIDS — with a new enduring Emerging Infectious Disease Clinical Trial Network and equipping it with every resource at our disposal. Instead of having different studies competing with each other for resources and patients, this new clinical trial network would bring scientific talent together behind the most promising drugs. And, we should be working now to accelerate a coordinated global approach to develop a safe, effective vaccine and the manufacturing capacity for the doses and related materials like syringes that we will need at home and around the world. The only way to stop COVID-19 here, is to stop it everywhere.
 
In the meantime, however, testing is the springboard we need to help get our economy safely up and running again. Trump could make this happen. He hasn’t. Instead, he’s pushed sole responsibility to governors, while telling them to fly blind without the critical data we derive from testing. If the Biden Administration were in office today, it would have prioritized this testing issue months ago. Since the Trump Administration both can’t and won’t, Congress should step in and establish the Pandemic Testing Board, giving it the authority and funding it needs to succeed.
 
Once we identify COVID-19 infected people, we need to isolate them and identify those to whom they might have unwittingly spread the disease. This is called contact tracing, and our public health professionals do it every day to halt the transmission of infectious diseases already in our midst, including for tuberculosis and measles. To battle a pandemic as large as COVID-19, it will require not just new privacy-protecting technology, but also trained people.
 
Through tough times in our past, generations of Americans have stood up and selflessly answered the call to serve their fellow citizens. We need to harness this spirit of empathy, decency, and unity today and form a new U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps of at least 100,000 people to mobilize Americans across the country, including AmeriCorps and Peace Corps Volunteers and those laid off by the crisis. Massachusetts has already launched its own. The U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps could serve in a variety of important functions, including ensuring contact tracing reaches every underserved community in America — ideally by members of those communities themselves. Already the data shows these communities are being left behind, even as they are suffering the brunt of the pandemic. Perhaps even more importantly, the U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps would become the permanent foundation for a stronger national community public health service that could eventually transition to fight the opioid epidemic and address other national public health priorities.
 
Finally, we need to be working right now on the conditions under which the private sector, industry by industry, can reopen safely. During the H1N1 epidemic, the Obama-Biden Administration tasked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control with issuing detailed guidance for how employers should protect their workers. Then OSHA enforced the law based on those guidelines. And it didn’t stop there. After the epidemic, it spent years preparing for the next one with a comprehensive and specific permanent infectious disease standard that would have required health facilities and certain other high exposure workplaces to permanently implement infection control programs to protect their workers. The Obama-Biden Administration handed this standard to the Trump Administration, but instead of moving it to rulemaking, the Trump Administration shelved it. 
 
Today, the Trump Administration is still not driving a serious enforcement effort, putting the health and safety of workers at risk every day. We should immediately double the number of OSHA investigators to enforce the law and existing standards and guidelines, release and enforce an Emergency Temporary Standard to give employers and employees more comprehensive and specific guidance on what to do to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and get to work bringing a permanent standard to conclusion and expanding it to include all relevant workplaces, from manufacturing plants to grocery stores.
 
We want our country to get moving and healthy again. But we must take the necessary, rational steps, grounded in science, to do so safely, so COVID-19 doesn’t come roaring back, shredding our still-fragile health care system and the green shoots of an economic reopening. Donald Trump says he’s a wartime president. It’s time for him to take responsibility and act like one.
 
Biden for President Public Health Advisory Committee Members:

  • Dr. Zeke Emanuel, Vice Provost of Global Initiatives and University Professor, Perelman School of Medicine and The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania
  • Dr. Rebecca Katz, Associate Professor, the Department of Microbiology & Immunology and Co-Director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University
  • Dr. David Kessler, Former Commissioner, U.S. Food & Drug Administration and Professor of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco
  • Dr. Nicole Lurie, Distinguished Health Policy Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI), The University of Pennsylvania
  • Lisa Monaco, Former Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor to President Obama
  • Dr. Vivek Murthy, 19th Surgeon General of the United States

Note: University affiliations are for identification purposes only.

Bernie Sanders Releases Priorities for Next Coronavirus Stimulus Package: Calls for ‘Boldest Legislation Ever Written in Modern History’

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday released a list of priorities to ensure the next coronavirus legislation passed by Congress is the boldest legislation in history, matches the scale of the crisis, saves lives and ensures working Americans are not left behind. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday released a list of priorities to ensure the next coronavirus legislation passed by Congress is the boldest legislation in history, matches the scale of the crisis, saves lives and ensures working Americans are not left behind.  

“We are in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that could lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of Americans and infect millions of others, and we are entering an economic downturn that could be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.” Sanders said. “In this unprecedented moment in modern American history, it is imperative that we respond in an unprecedented way. That means that Congress must pass, in the very near future, the boldest piece of legislation ever written in modern history. Today, I am outlining a set of six core provisions that must be included in new Congressional legislation to support working people during this horrific crisis.” 

Sanders’ priorities include:

Keep workers on payroll – make sure that every worker in America continues to receive their paycheck, retroactive to the beginning of the crisis. An important precedent was set by keeping airline workers on payroll in the last bill

Use Medicare to make sure no one has to pay for health care during the crisis

A $2,000 monthly emergency payment to every person in the country until the crisis has passed

The forceful use of the Defense Production Act to direct the production of all of the personnel protective equipment, ventilators and other medical supplies

Hazard pay for workers on the frontlines of the emergency

$600 billion in direct fiscal aid to states and cities

Freezing monthly rent and mortgage payments

Emergency food for millions of families who would otherwise go hungry

In a mailing to supporters, Sanders described his priorities in more detail:

Our country is now facing its worst crisis in modern history. We are in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that could lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of Americans and infect millions of others, and we are entering an economic downturn that could be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Last week, 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment. This week that number doubled to 6.6 million claims — ten times higher than any other week on record. It is certain that well over 10 million people have lost their jobs — more than in the Wall Street crash of 2008.

In this unprecedented moment in modern American history, it is imperative that we respond in an unprecedented way. And that means that Congress must pass, in the very near future, the boldest piece of legislation ever written in modern history.

There are many, many issues that must be addressed in our response to this pandemic, and working together, we will make sure they are addressed.

1. Addressing the Employment Crisis and Providing Immediate Financial Relief

There is little doubt in my mind that we are facing an economic crisis that could be even worse than the Great Depression. The St. Louis Federal Reserve has projected that 47 million more people may become unemployed by the end of June, with unemployment reaching 32 percent. In my view, we must make sure that every worker in America continues to receive their paycheck during this crisis and we must provide immediate financial relief to everyone in this country.

An important precedent for that approach was taken in the recent stimulus package in which grants were provided to the airlines for the sole purpose of maintaining the paychecks and benefits of some 2 million workers in that industry through September 30. We must expand that program to cover every worker in America and we must make it retroactive to the beginning of this crisis. This is not a radical idea. Other countries, such as the UK, Norway, Denmark, France, and others have all come up with similar approaches to sustain their economy and prevent workers from losing their jobs.

Our primary goal during this crisis must be to prevent the disintegration of the American economy. It will be much easier and less expensive to prevent the collapse of the economy than trying to put it back together after it collapses.

To do this, we must also begin monthly payments of $2,000 for every man, woman, and child in our country, and guarantee paid family leave throughout this crisis so that people who are sick do not face the choice of infecting others or losing their job.

2. We Must Guarantee Health Care to All

Let’s be clear: we were facing a catastrophic health care crisis before the pandemic, and now that crisis has become much, much worse. Already, 87 million people are uninsured or underinsured. Layoffs will mean tens of millions of people more will lose their current insurance — which will result in countless deaths and bankruptcies. Already in the last two weeks, an estimated 3.5 million people have lost their employer-sponsored insurance.

And as the pandemic grows, we are seeing more and more reports of people who have delayed treatment due to concerns about cost. In this pandemic, uninsurance will lead to deaths and more COVID-19 transmissions.

Therefore, during this crisis, Medicare must be empowered to pay all of the deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for the uninsured and the underinsured. No one in America who is sick, regardless of immigration status, should be afraid to seek the medical treatment they need during this national pandemic. Let me be clear: I am not proposing that we pass Medicare for All in this moment. That fight continues into the future. But, for the moment, we must act boldly to make sure everyone can get the health care they need in the coming months.

3. Use the Defense Production Act to Produce the Equipment and Testing We Need

Unbelievably, in the United States right now, doctors and nurses are unnecessarily putting their lives on the line treating people suffering from the coronavirus because they lack personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, and surgical gowns. The CDC has directed health professionals to use homemade gear like bandanas or scarves and some workers at the VA are being told to re-use one surgical mask for a week at a time. HHS estimated that our country needs 3.5 billion masks in response to this crisis.

President Trump has utilized the Defense Production Act thousands of times for the military and for enforcement of his immigration policies, yet he has resisted using its power to save lives during the pandemic. That is unacceptable. We must immediately and forcefully use the Defense Production Act to direct the production of all of the personal protective equipment, ventilators and other medical supplies needed.

We must also utilize this power to produce antibody tests so we can begin figuring out who has already contracted the virus and has developed some immunity to COVID-19.

In addition, OSHA must adopt a strong emergency standard to protect health care workers, patients, and the public during this crisis. We must crack down aggressively on price gougers and hoarders, and use any means necessary to secure supplies.

4. Make Sure No One Goes Hungry

Even before this crisis hit, one in every seven kids in America was going hungry and nearly 5.5 million seniors in our country struggled with hunger. Already in this crisis we see lines at food banks and growing concern that our most vulnerable communities and those recently unemployed may struggle to feed their families.

As communities face record levels of food insecurity, we must increase SNAP benefits, expand the WIC program for pregnant mothers, infants, and children, double funding for the Emergency Food Program (TEFAP) to ensure food banks have food to distribute, and expand Meals on Wheels and School Meals programs. When necessary, we must also develop new approaches to deliver food to vulnerable populations — including door-to-door drop offs.

5. Provide Emergency Aid to States and Cities

Even as state and local employees like police officers, firefighters and paramedics work on the front lines of this pandemic, states and cities that pay their salaries are facing enormous budgetary pressures.

Congress must provide $600 billion in direct fiscal aid to states and cities to ensure they have the personnel and funding necessary to respond to this crisis. In addition, the Federal Reserve must establish programs to provide direct fiscal support and budgetary relief to states and municipalities.

6. Suspend Monthly Payments

Even before this crisis, half of the people in our country were living paycheck to paycheck. In America today, over 18 million families are paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing. Now, with growing unemployment, families are facing financial ruin if we do not act quickly and boldly.

That’s why we must suspend monthly expenses like rent, mortgages, medical debt and consumer debt collection for 4 months. We must cancel all student loan payments for the duration of this crisis, and place an immediate moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut-offs.

Brothers and sisters: In this unprecedented moment in our history it is easy to feel like we are alone, and that everyone must fend for themselves. But that would be a mistake and a terrible tragedy. Now, more than any other moment in our lives, we must remember that we are all in this together — that when one of us gets sick, many more may get sick. And when my neighbor loses their job, I may lose my job as well.

Further, we cannot wait until our economy collapses to act. It will be far easier and less expensive to act now, in a very bold way, than to try to rebuild our country later.

If we work together and unite behind these basic principles of economic and health justice, I am confident that we will not only get through this unprecedented crisis together but that we will lay the groundwork for a better and more just America in the future.

But today, I am outlining a set of six core provisions that must be included in the next legislation Congress passes to support working people in this country during this horrific crisis. Please read them and add your name to say that you agree:

(Read the priorities here.)

The proposal put forward by Sanders today is backed by several progressive groups.  

“Half of Veterans are over age 65, and we disproportionately suffer from preexisting conditions and economic challenges which make the COVID-19 pandemic particularly devastating for our community,” Common Defense Director Alex McCoy said. “Meanwhile, countless workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs are making extraordinary sacrifices to save lives, while going without sufficient protective equipment. Senator Sanders’ plan for Phase 4 of COVID-19 response takes the bold steps which are absolutely essential to saving countless lives and preventing immeasurable economic hardship. We must immediately implement his proposals to provide Americans with a financial lifeline, and pivot our industrial capacity to produce sufficient supplies. We applaud Senator Sanders for demonstrating real leadership in this crisis and centering the tangible needs of ordinary people, while Donald Trump downplays the threat and weaponizes aid to give favors to his political allies and bail-outs to his favorite corporate CEOs.”

“Senator Sanders’ economic rescue principles speak to the bold, fast action needed to protect and support people, and prevent corporations from consolidating economic and political power amidst a crisis,” People’s Action Director George Goehl said. “We urge him to build on this strong framework by including a Rent Zero policy in the short term: no rent or mortgage payments during the crisis, no late fees, and no debts from housing obligations during the crisis.”

“Bernie’s plan for the fourth phase of a federal legislative response centers people, not corporations. It is about helping us survive with the cash assistance, healthcare, nutrition, worker safety we need, and relief from monthly payments we cannot make. It speaks to the needs of frontline workers who are battling the pandemic and making it possible for the rest of us to shelter in place, said Ana Maria Archila, Co-Director of Center For Popular Democracy Action. “Bernie is uniquely courageous in demanding and lifting up the inclusion of immigrants, recognizing that low-income communities of color will bear the worst of this crisis. His plan provides urgent and direct relief to those most vulnerable — addressing the gaps left by previous relief bills and creating a foundation for long-lasting recovery.” 

“Governments all around the world are keeping people employed and on payroll by covering salaries if businesses commit to not cutting wages or laying people off,” Justice Democrats Executive Director Alexandra Rojas said. “Senator Sanders is leading the fight to bring that common sense model to our country when so many workers and small business owners are confronting a complicated Rube Goldberg machine just to get a little relief.”

“This moment of crisis exemplifies the detrimental impact failing to account for the needs and extend protections to the most vulnerable has on the health of all within our communities, said Javier H. Valdés, Co-Director of Make the Road Action. “Only through a comprehensive response that covers the immediate and future healthcare, economic and maintenance needs of all members of our society can we prevent greater loss of life and a deeper economic downturn. Make the Road will continue to fight alongside Senator Sanders to ensure the next phase of COVID-19 legislative response includes these provisions and an eye towards justice.” 

“The current government response has left behind some of our most vulnerable neighbors including the homeless, the undocumented, the unbanked, and those without internet connections, said Marisa Franco, Founder and Director of Mijente. “The priorities outlined by Senators Sanders for the next Coronavirus Stimulus Package are what our country needs to ensure everyone in our community can access the financial and medical support needed to withstand this crisis. We stand with Senator Sanders in demanding a $2,000 monthly emergency payment, emergency food, and Medicare to every person in our country regardless of their housing situation, immigration status or whether they have a bank account or internet connection.”