Navigating the COVID-19 Crisis

To protect the safety of every Minnesotan in the Second Congressional District, I want to make sure that everyone has access to the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe. Here is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website on COVID-19. The Minnesota Department of Health website is also available here. If you are struggling with stress, fear or anxiety due to the crisis, please take advantage of the Department of Health’s Mental Health Support resources. You can sign up for the CDC’s email updates here.

Our country is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis – a public health emergency that represents one of the most serious threats we have faced as a nation in more than a generation. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every American in one way or another and has taken the lives of more than 200,000 Americans, while destroying the livelihoods of many millions more. If we want to finally get our lives back then we need to get serious about fighting this virus.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been working with my colleagues in both parties to pass legislation that is focused on combatting and containing the virus, protecting public health, supporting struggling Minnesota families, rebuilding our damaged economy and restructuring our nation’s supply chains so that we are never caught unprepared again.

Containing the Virus

Since we cannot all live in the ‘wubble’ with the Minnesota Lynx and the rest of the WNBA, we need different strategies to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19. The most important thing we can do is to develop a comprehensive national rapid testing strategy to curb the pandemic until a vaccine is developed, tested and made available to every American. Why do we need to test even people who do not feel sick? The scientists tell us that some people carry the virus and not know it, and they spread it to other people even if they themselves feel just fine. The more we test people and the faster we learn the results, the more we can find these asymptomatic carriers and isolate them, determine who they have come into contact with and test them too. The more we invest in rapid testing and contact tracing, the more will can stop people from getting the virus.

In order to continue safely reopening our economy and keep our kids in school, we need the testing capacity and contact tracing systems necessary to identify hotspots and prevent widespread transmissions. We currently do not have that capacity. That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Suppress COVID-19 Act, which would finally end testing shortages and provide states with the tools they need to identify and suppress outbreaks. Our bill would distribute $25 billion to individual states to purchase testing supplies and allow states to work together to plug gaps in testing capacity.

Protecting Public Health

Our health care heroes are working hard every day to help people who have gotten sick with this virus. In Congress, I have fought to secure the resources that our nation’s health systems need to combat the virus and keep Minnesotans safe and healthy. The bipartisan CARES Act, which I cosponsored, made a tremendous investment in America’s health care industry, providing critical funding to support hospitals and frontline health care providers in Minnesota and across the country. That means money for personal protective equipment and testing supplies. If our nurses, doctors and nursing home attendants get sick it makes it even harder to fight this virus. The bill I cosponsored also secured billions of dollars in resources to increase our national testing capacity and provided resources directly to Minnesota’s nursing homes, to protect the most vulnerable among us.

You may have heard some folks talk about allowing Americans to contract the virus so that we can develop herd immunity. That might sound appealing because it seems easy and would allow everyone to return to work and school, with only some folks getting sick. But there are two serious issues with that approach. First, establishing herd immunity would require roughly 60% of Americans to become infected with the virus. Even the most optimistic projections show that will mean millions of Americans would die and millions more would have lasting health complications. That is simply too high a price to pay.

Rebuilding Our Economy

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota has found itself in the midst of the worst economic crisis in generations. In May, Minnesota’s unemployment rate rose to nearly 10%, the highest level ever recorded in the state. As the virus spread throughout our communities and the economy ground to a halt, it became clear that Congress needed to extend a lifeline to struggling families – which is why I helped deliver $1,200 economic stimulus checks to every qualifying adult in America. And when relief wasn’t being distributed to young adults still dependent on their parents, I stepped up and made sure they were included as well.

In the months since, I have advocated for additional support for struggling families. In the early days of the crisis, I was instrumental in providing robust funding for Small Business Administration Loans, Economic Injury Disaster loans and enacting the Paycheck Protection Program – which has been critical to helping employers keep people on payroll. When the PPP program ran dry, I helped fight to add more resources to the fund. And when the program was about to expire, leaving countless small businesses in Minnesota without access to economic relief – it was my bill that the President signed to extend the program. Keeping workers on employers’ payroll will allow Minnesota to ramp up quickly and bring folks back to the workplace as soon as its safe to do so. As the economic fallout from the pandemic continues, I am committed to keeping up the fight to ensure every Minnesotan has the support they need in these difficult times. Throughout the pandemic, I have continued to travel throughout the Second District to keep in direct contact with small business owners and employees to make sure that the policies I’m fighting for in Congress will provide the support they need to remain open and make it to the other side of this crisis.

With state budget season fast approaching it has become clear that diminished sales tax revenue is going to make it hard for Minnesota and local county governments to retain crucial employees like police, firefighters and teachers. Our taxes are the primary source of income for local governments, and falling revenue from COVID-19 has put state budgets in a precarious position. By law, state and county budgets must be balanced – which means that budget gaps could force government officials to make difficult decisions about cutting employees. We cannot afford to lose our critical frontline workers and public safety professionals. To help bridge the gap, I voted for the HEROES Act, which provides crucial funding to local governments so they can retain our valued government employees. Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate so far has failed to take up that bill.

Fixing the Supply Chain

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, hospitals and state governments across the country have been frustrated by unfilled orders, delayed deliveries and sharp price hikes that have priced many communities out of the market. Clinics and hospitals do not have enough personal protective equipment, medicines and testing supplies to keep our communities safe. We have all seen the heartbreaking images of our hardworking nurses forced to wear trash bags over their uniforms, reuse disposable masks and improvise their own protective equipment just to keep themselves safe from the virus. When it came to locking down our supply chains and distributing critical medical supplies to those who needed it most, the Administration’s response was convoluted, slow and ineffective. As the co-founder of the bipartisan Congressional Supply Chain Caucus, I worked with her colleagues in both parties to ensure greater transparency in the FEMA supply chain to make sure that desperately-needed medical supplies were distributed on-time and in the right quantities. My work has also helped to strengthen the national supply chain for materials like ventilators, masks and medicines – to make sure we are never caught unprepared again. That means making sure that American companies are making that equipment so that we can be sure of the quality and increase job growth. But there is still much work that remains to be done. In Congress, I am working tirelessly to ensure the security and stability of our supply chains not only for the duration of this crisis, but for years to come.

What You Can Do:

We’re all in this crisis together, and we all have a role to play in overcoming this pandemic and returning to our normal lives as quickly as possible. By wearing a mask in public places, practicing good hygiene, and limiting our exposure to large crowds, we not only protect ourselves – we show respect for our neighbors and fellow Minnesotans by protecting them from a virus that has proven deadly for many folks in our communities. We must all do our best to keep ourselves safe and to care for the welfare of people in our community. This is a chance for us to show the best of who we can be. You can support our local small businesses by ordering takeout from a local restaurant. Look in on your neighbors – even a small, socially-distanced chat can really make a difference for someone feeling isolated. We must all do our best to keep ourselves safe and to care for the welfare of people in our community.