Readers Write: Congress fails to prioritize health care over economy

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The city that never sleeps has gone quiet. There is no more rush in rush hour. A night out with friends is now a night in over Zoom.

The Covid-19 pandemic has quickly and ferociously swept across New York. And the worst of it is quickly approaching. Schools and many businesses are closed and only essential employees are reporting to work. What we are experiencing is unprecedented.

 Our communities are doing their best to adapt.

For the most part, we are sheltering in place, with the occasional family walk while maintaining social distancing from the others we pass. There is no denying the challenges New Yorkers are facing during this transition or the lasting impact it will have on all of us.

 To the credit of Congress, elected officials got right to work on a stimulus plan. Their quick action is commendable, but their priorities have been way off.

This is a pandemic. Each day in New York we see rises in the number of positive cases and rises in the number of hospital beds needed to address this crisis. Each day, we are told that the number of ventilators we need have not been acquired.

Each day medical professionals on the frontlines are forced to break protocol and reuse personal protective equipment or PPE and are forced into the impossible situation of treating patients without the required tools.

I spent my career in population health. The first steps in improving the health of a population are assessment and triage. You look at all parameters, assess strengths and weaknesses, identify the goals, build a plan, measure and reassess. After examining the stimulus plans, it is clear that we do not all share the same goals.

Congress missed the mark, choosing to prioritize the economy over public health.

Let’s be clear, the economy is important, but certainly not more important than human lives. The number one priority right now is containing Covid-19.

Scientists and medical professionals have been very clear on what we need to do to slow the spread: stay home and practice social distancing. There is no vaccine and this virus does not discriminate. We are all in this together and we must protect one another.

Containing this virus and the future success of our economy depends on ensuring our people have the resources they need to weather this storm. Congress must prioritize the health and safety of the people, not the profits of corporations.

That means a moratorium on rent, mortgages and utilities, funding for people who have lost their jobs adjusted for cost of living, and healthcare for all.

Our economy will not come roaring back until this virus is contained. In order to do that we must make sure we are making it as easy as possible for New Yorkers to stay home, get testing if needed and treatment that is free if they become infected.

Containing this virus will also depend on maintaining healthy frontline hospital workers and medical staff.

We need our government to fully enact the Defense Production Act, which would allow the government to require certain businesses to use their machinery to create gloves, masks, gowns, eye shields, shoe covers, ventilators and medical supplies necessary to treat COVID-19 patients.

Doctors, nurses and health-care workers are our only line of defense and we are sending them to battle defenseless. Donald Trump has placed short-term business gains over human lives by not using his presidential authority to help hospitals and medical staff get the supplies they need.

Congress must come together to push Donald Trump to put people first. H.R. 6390, a bill proposed in the House of Representatives would require the president to use his authority under the Defense Production Act to provide much-needed PPE and ventilators to states currently feeling the deadly effects of Covid-19.

With New York dealing with over half the known positive Covid-19 patients in the country, it is imperative that you call your representatives and tell them to prioritize people and protect our healthcare workers.

We will get through this with and for each other.

Melanie D’Arrigo

Candidate for U.S. Congress, District 3

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