As we have united when tested in the past, Americans are working together to fight coronavirus
As we face the pandemic’s many challenges, Americans are stepping up and working together to help equip our medical professionals with the masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) they need on the front lines of the fight.
President Trump said on Sunday that “cargo planes have delivered almost … 300 million gloves, almost 8 million masks, and 3 million gowns” – just in a week.
As chairman of the U.S. Senate Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), I applaud President Trump’s dedication to doing everything possible to streamline this process and get Americans what they need to confront this pandemic right away.
In my own state, Kentuckians’ efforts have included our universities donating ventilators and thousands of PPE items, as well as using 3-D printers to make hundreds of face shields. Our distilleries are also joining others across the nation to manufacture hand sanitizer (and I recently urged the Food and Drug Administration to get roadblocks out of the way so they can reach maximum production).
I’m also proud of the role Kentucky is playing in helping ensure we can get PPE items and other needed supplies to as many places as possible as fast as possible. I will continue to do my part to ensure that the federal government is working well with states including Kentucky. Cooperation should prevail over competition between state and federal authorities.
Last month, UPS, whose Worldport is based at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, announced it would provide support for efforts including Project AirBridge, a partnership among FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and several health care companies to obtain and distribute more equipment via plane shipments from overseas to multiple airports.
Also on Sunday, a flight landed in Louisville that the government reported carried millions of medical swabs, over a million surgical masks, and several hundred thousand surgical gowns.
“Speed” is not exactly synonymous with “government,” making this effort, which requires extensive, around-the-globe coordination between public departments and private companies, all the more impressive.
I am especially pleased to see it as someone who has fought hard in Congress to guarantee a strong, fast-moving federal response to the novel coronavirus.
This has included pushing to extend limited liability protections to encourage manufacturers to produce more masks, a reform that passed Congress, as well as working to make sure government does not tie laboratories’ hands again and cause the same kind of delay that cost us precious weeks of testing for this virus.
I will continue fighting to make this latter change, which would trust community, academic, and public health labs to do what they are already trained and certified to do and make tests more widely and quickly available in health emergencies.
I have also partnered with fellow Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa on legislation to abolish the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, which has seen a massive decrease in popularity among taxpayers, and use its over $360 million balance to provide even more tests, masks and other personal protective equipment.
Though the task before us still seems daunting, and the virus’ effects break our hearts, may we be encouraged by how Americans are looking out for one another and pulling together to face this latest challenge – just as we have united so often when tested in the past.
In this dark time, light still shines.
Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky.