McCollum Statement in Response to Growing Coronavirus Concerns
[UPDATE: Please note that as of Wednesday, March 18, 2020, my St. Paul office is CLOSED TO VISITORS. Due to the State of Minnesota, Ramsey County, and City of Saint Paul State of Emergency declarations in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, my offices have suspended in-person meetings to protect public health. My office in St. Paul will remain open with limited staff. Our priority will be to assist constituents stranded abroad and with other issues related to the pandemic. Constituents with other casework matters are also encouraged to contact my office by phone or through my website. Please contact my office at (651) 224-9191 or through my website at mccollum.house.gov.]
Since January when we first learned of the coronavirus emerging in China, we’ve been watching it spread to other parts of the world, reaching the United States and Minnesota. My staff and I have been following updates closely and are all feeling healthy, however many of us have met with individuals and groups from around the U.S. and the world over the last few weeks. The World Health Organization now classifies the coronavirus as a pandemic, and because of that, we’re taking additional safety measures and will be limiting our interactions with the public.
What I’m doing:
I’m following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation to avoid large gatherings, and I encourage you all to do the same. While I’m working on an ongoing federal emergency response, I’m also monitoring the situation at home closely: speaking with Governor Walz, our Minnesota hospitals, and public health officials regularly to stay informed. As this matter continues to evolve, I will remain in close communication with stakeholders on a local, state, and federal level.
What my staff is doing:
My Washington D.C. office has suspended in-person meetings for the time being. However, meetings may continue as scheduled via phone, email, or FaceTime, depending on staff capacity and availability. Please call my Washington, D.C. office at 202-225-6631 to cancel or reschedule existing meetings.
What Congress is doing:
There’s a lot of work that must be done at the federal level to address this pandemic. President Trump’s initial proposal of $2.5 billion would have taken funds set aside for fighting the opioid epidemic and from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Taking funds from public health programs to combat an emergency is not leadership, as each of these programs plays an important role in keeping Americans healthy.
Thankfully, Democrats and Republicans rejected this proposal and instead came together to pass an $8.3 billion emergency supplemental to protect public health, which President Trump signed into law.
This package of new funding contains:
- $2.2 billion in public health funding for prevention, preparedness, and response to keep Americans safe,
- $950 million to support state and local health agencies, and
- $3 billion for the development of a vaccine, therapeutics, and diagnostics to prevent and treat the coronavirus
It also makes $7 billion in low-interest loans available for small businesses that have suffered due to the coronavirus.
And on early Saturday morning, the House passed additional legislation to provide economic and additional health care relief to American families and health workers.
The Family First Act ensures free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured. It also provides:
- Paid emergency leave with two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave;
- Enhanced unemployment insurance that extends protections to furloughed workers;
- Strengthened nutrition security initiatives to ensure students, seniors, and low-income families are able to keep food on the table; and
- Increased federal funds for Medicaid to support local, state, tribal, and territorial governments and health systems to ensure everyone has the resources to combat this crisis.
The Senate must be ready to take up this legislation as soon as possible so it can be signed into law by the president.
What you can do:
Follow doctor’s orders: continue to wash your hands, use social distancing best practices (like avoiding handshakes and large gatherings), and stay home if possible. For the latest health care guidance and updates on the status of COVID-19 in Minnesota, please visit the MDH website early and often.
As we move through this critical time, thank you for your cooperation as an engaged member of our community. We can all do our part to protect each other and stay informed and I know that we are ready to take this on together. Thank you!
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