From the Desk of Congressman Tom Suozzi: Be prepared not scared

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When confronting coronavirus, we need a comprehensive approach that addresses the healthcare issues and the economic issues. Working together we can beat this and come out the other side stronger than ever.

When looking at the healthcare issues we must focus on 1) prevention, 2) testing, 3) treatment and 4) a long-term vaccine solution.

When looking at the economic issues we must focus on 1) individuals, 2) small businesses, 3) critical industry and 4) the overall economy.

This is a complex, all-encompassing challenge that requires a comprehensive game plan that includes healthcare, government, not-for-profits, and the private sector working together with you and every American citizen.

First and foremost, we must prevent the spread of coronavirus.

We must all practice social distancing by limiting physical contact with others and avoiding large gatherings. For everyone that thinks they know better or are invincible, stop now! Much of America will be infected, but we must slow the rate so that hospitals and the healthcare system are not overwhelmed.

I do not want my friends or family unable to access a ventilator because just too many people are infected at once. Practice safe social distancing to help flatten the curve.

Second, we need to continue to ramp up testing across the nation.

Gov. Cuomo has done exceptionally well to increase the availability of testing across the state. New York State is testing more than 16,000 people a day, which is more tests per capita than any other state and most other countries.

The increasing number of confirmed cases in our state was inevitable as testing ramped up. As more people get tested, the numbers will continue to mount. In Washington, I have discussed the need for increased testing at the highest levels of government, including with Dr. Anthony Fauci and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, so that we can most effectively locate hot spots of contagion, develop a comprehensive containment plan, and deploy resources accordingly.

While the governor is doing the job we need him to do, the president needs to implement and enforce the Defense Production Act now by ordering companies to produce testing kits, masks, gowns, ventilators, and more.

The medical supply chain is under tremendous stress and the DPA will help boost production of the necessary supplies to be distributed to the states that need it – like New York. States are currently competing against one another to bid for these critical supplies. We need to do everything we can do to help doctors, nurses, EMTs, social workers, food bank volunteers, police, firefighters, and so many others who are on the front lines.

Third and Fourth, we need treatments that can save coronavirus victims’ lives and a vaccine to prevent coronavirus in the future.

If we slow the spread and develop treatments, then this will be much like dealing with the flu. If people get sick and we have a treatment, crisis averted. In Congress’ “phase three” negotiations, we must also give hospitals and healthcare institutions increased funding so they can provide quality care for all those who are sick and ensure first-responders and healthcare workers have access to personal protective equipment.

We also need a long-term plan for a vaccine. That is why one of the first things Congress did weeks ago was to allocate $3 billion to help discover a vaccine. It will take 18 months, but the process has started, and the money is there.

As we try to manage the healthcare issues, we must also address the economic effects of this crisis.

Democrats and Republicans must come together, put aside ideological purity, and deliver immediate solutions for our country, for individuals, and for businesses. Hopefully, by the time you read this, the deal will have been made by the Congress and signed by the President.

During the “phase three” negotiations, I have made it clear that we must protect everyday working individuals, families, small businesses, critical industries, and the economy across our nation. While the first two legislative phases, which have now been signed into law, were positive first steps, there is much more that needs to be done.

For individuals, we must give families assistance through direct payments so they can pay their bills, expand existing tax breaks everyday Americans rely on to make ends meet, bolster unemployment insurance for those who lose their jobs, grow the scope of paid family and medical leave (including those caring for our seniors), and make coronavirus treatment affordable for patients.

For our small businesses, we must give them hundreds of billions of dollars in grants and interest-free loans so they can stay afloat during this crisis.

The government must also support critical industries that are essential for our security such as transportation, food, and manufacturers of medical equipment (for example, a big part of the mask shortage is that we do not have mask manufacturers here in the United States).

Finally, in the long-term, we must invest in the economy as a whole through massive infrastructure reform, which would spur investment and provide good-paying jobs in countless American communities.

We will get through this difficult time, but it will take all of us. Keep calm, wash your hands, heed the advice of public health experts by practicing social distancing, be prepared, not scared, and most importantly, if you can, stay home!

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