Senators: “It is well past time to change course…we cannot wish this virus away”

(U.S. Senate) – As coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country and in Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester recently led his colleagues in urging President Trump to use every resource available to increase the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) and improve the nation’s testing and contact tracing capacity to stem the rising tide of infections. 

In a letter to President Trump, Tester and his colleagues wrote that in addition to growing PPE shortages, Congress appropriated $25 billion to bolster testing and surveillance efforts three months ago, but less than half of those funds have been spent, leading to unacceptable shortages and delays in testing results. 

“It was only a few short months ago that the country watched in alarm as the PPE shortage was so severe doctors and nurses were forced to reuse masks and gowns that were meant for one-time use,” wrote Tester and his colleagues. “We saw healthcare workers in garbage bag gowns and reusing the same N95 masks for days on end while they risked their lives to save others. We should not, cannot, and must not go back to those days.” 

Tester and his colleagues also noted that lack of federal leadership and coordination on PPE acquisition or a virus testing strategy has led to confusion and chaos, and urged Trump to implement a centralized purchasing and distribution system to better allocate resources and make sure health care workers have the tools they need to combat the virus. 

“It is clear that the Administration’s failure to lead on procurement and distribution of PPE or to marshal a comprehensive national testing and contact tracing strategy has allowed the virus to spread and left the country in a very vulnerable position,” Tester and his colleagues continued. “If it was not clear to this Administration before, it should be clear now, wishful thinking or denying the problem will not protect the American people or bring our economy back from the brink. It is well past time to change course…we cannot wish this virus away.”

Tester has worked relentlessly to bolster public health in Montana, and to ensure the state is equipped to handle the COVID-19 crisis. Last week, he secured nearly $2 million for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Laboratory to help with testing and immunization support. Earlier this month, he introduced legislation to bolster Montana’s Medicaid program during the crisis, and he recently introduced a resolution condemning the Trump Administration’s reckless effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which rural hospitals and clinics rely on to survive.

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