Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Steve Scalise (1st District of Louisiana)
Republican Whip and Ranking Member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Steve Scalise (R-La.) opened today’s Select Subcommittee hearing on “The Administration’s Efforts to Procure, Stockpile, and Distribute Critical Supplies,” by thanking Americans across the country who have been working around the clock to ramp up production of personal protective equipment (PPE), even as China hoarded global supplies.
Whip Scalise highlighted the progress we’ve made in fighting this virus, but stressed the need to apply hard-won lessons and rapidly find a cure. He specifically blasted Democrats for their bill on the House floor this week to slow research into life-saving cures in the middle of a pandemic. We cannot stand in the way of an America that wants to get back to work.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Chairman, thank you. I want to start by thanking our witnesses. America has been through a lot these past few months. We’ve seen the best our people – front line workers risking their own safety to care for the sick, doctors struggling, innovating and educating, small business owners struggling to make payroll, researchers reaching for a cure. But I don’t think enough credit and thanks have gone out to the teams you are here representing.
“We faced an unprecedented logistical challenge. A global pandemic hit our shores while China was hoarding needed medical supplies. I had experience with Katrina – this was like Katrina hitting the whole country at once. Your teams have done incredible work to ramp up the production and distribution of PPE and testing equipment and facilities. We owe the men and women on your teams a debt of gratitude and please let them know we are proud of them.
“Mr. Chairman, as America celebrates the Fourth of July holiday, we also confront an important moment in the Coronavirus pandemic. We have learned a lot and those lessons have saved lives. As you know, my home state of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans got hit early in the pandemic. New Orleans faced some of the earliest hospital capacity scares – the reason we shut down the economy to flatten the curve. At the time, we thought we might run out of ventilators. Rear Admiral Polowczyk, I remember talking to you and FEMA Director Gaynor about getting needed ventilators to New Orleans. The Administration delivered them and thankfully, we never reached capacity.
“I recall that story not only to say thanks. The point is – we now know more about the disease of COVID-19 and how to treat it. Doctors learned how to safely treat patients without necessarily putting them on ventilators. Doctors are not intubating as aggressively – using high flow oxygen instead, because doctors have learned that intubation does damage to the lungs – and they learned how to keep health care workers safe with other treatments. While some still need ventilators, demand has dropped and patients are seeing better outcomes. The use of simple blood thinners is saving lives because autopsies showed patients were getting massive blood clots in the lungs. Steroids and Remdesivir are showing great promise. Even as we see a spike in cases in areas of the country – the death rate has dropped.
“We have also learned more about who is most vulnerable and how we can protect those people. For example, we know a policy of prohibiting COVID-positive patients from returning to nursing homes saves lives. Sadly, we also know that policies mandating COVID-positive patients return to nursing homes was a death sentence for many seniors. We still need more answers and I again ask the majority to join us in demanding answers from the five governors about what led to these disastrous policies. We must demand answers because one lesson is abundantly clear: the more we know and the more we learn, the more we can manage this disease and save lives.
“The hard-won lessons – including the lesson that we need to keep learning – are underscored by the spike in cases in particular areas of the country. The virus continues to spread. It is not an even spread – in fact, cases are dropping in many areas of the country. We have learned this virus tends to spike in concentrated areas and does so rapidly. We have a lot to learn and apply with that simple recognition.
“First, I would say to the young people of America: you have worked hard and your lives have been turned upside down just as you are starting out on your own. It is not fair. You have earned your freedom. But with freedom comes responsibility. Please be responsible. We have learned that lots of people hanging out in crowded indoor spaces for hours at a time spreads the virus. Avoid it if you can. If you can’t, stay away from your grandmother, and others that may see your grandma.
“Young people, old people – all Americans – should follow CDC guidance and wear masks when it is not possible to maintain recommended social distance. We need to all do our part to slow the spread of the virus.
“We must also recognize that America is better prepared than we were in February and March. From zero tests to over 31 million. We are now conducting over 500,000 tests a day – and that number continues to grow. On June 25th, we conducted 637,000 tests. Look at this chart. We are making incredible progress on testing. The U.S. federal and state governments are continuing to provide supplies. FEMA, HHS, and the private sector have delivered 167 million N95 respirators, 682 million surgical masks, 27 million face shields, 300 million surgical gowns, and 17 billion gloves.
“Operation Warp Speed continues to make rapid progress on therapies and vaccines. Operation Warp Speed is focused on the development, manufacture, and distribution of needed drugs. The Energy and Commerce Committee Minority staff just issued an 88-page report yesterday on the progress of all efforts from the administration on therapies and vaccines. This is important and exciting stuff.
“In stark contrast, House Democrats brought a bill to the floor this week that would devastate research into lifesaving therapies in the middle of a pandemic. That is crazy. House Democrats even rejected the simple amendment that their bill should not take effect unless the Secretary certifies it would not slow a cure for COVID. Why would anyone possibly oppose that amendment? This subcommittee needs to stand forcefully on the side of research and cures.
“Mr. Chairman, while some states are experiencing rapid spikes that are concerning and need to be watched closely – all Americans need to know the following:
- No state has reached hospital capacity.
- Our doctors have a better understanding of how to treat patients.
- We know how to better protect our most vulnerable populations
- Tremendous progress continues to be made on vaccines and therapies
- The role and responsibilities of individual Americans in stopping the spread is better understood.
“America must continue to move forward. Schools must open, businesses need to operate. We all must protect the most vulnerable – with sound policies and responsible behavior.
“I look forward to a good discussion today on the rapid progress on testing and how we can continue to ramp up capacity and apply lessons learned. And I yield back.”