Rep. Pressley, Mass. Delegation Demand Support for Commonwealth’s Coronavirus Prevention and Containment Efforts

March 11, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07),  Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Representatives James P. McGovern (MA-02), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), William Keating (MA-09), Joseph P. Kennedy (MA-04), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Lori Trahan (MA-03), sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House Task Force on Coronavirus, urging him to take swift, specific action to support Massachusetts and other states as they combat the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This request comes in the wake of Governor Baker declaring a state of emergency in the Commonwealth.

“As the Task Force continues to respond to COVID-19’s spread, it is essential that it supports and communicates with the state, local, and tribal governments providing on-the-ground responses to the virus,” the lawmakers wrote.

In their letter, the Massachusetts lawmakers highlighted several steps the federal government could take to support Massachusetts during the outbreak, including:

  • Supporting the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s request for assets from the Strategic National Stockpile;
  • Taking all necessary steps to expand access to affordable COVID-19 diagnostic tests;
  • Continually monitoring the supplemental funding needs of Massachusetts public health officials and request supplemental funding from Congress as necessary; and
  • Considering the need for wraparound services for quarantined, sick, and other individuals affected by COVID-19.

“While our request is specific to Massachusetts, we believe that the Task Force should consider taking these actions in support of other states as well,” the lawmakers continued.

Rep. Pressley is intentionally working to maximize the federal government’s assistance in combatting the spread and impact of COVID-19. Earlier this week, she sent a letter to the Bureau of Prisons demanding information on how BOP plans to limit the spread of the virus in federal prisons. Yesterday, during a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee, she asked Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf what the bank is doing to protect the physical and financial health of its employees and third-party contract workers in the wake of the outbreak.

The full text of the letter is below and can be found here.

 

Vice President Mike Pence

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

 

Dear Vice President Pence:

We write to you in your capacity as head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force (Task Force) to urge the Task Force to take every action in its power to support states, including Massachusetts, as they combat the spread of corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

 

It is now clear that COVID-19 has been spreading undetected around the country, as demand for COVID-19 diagnostic tests overwhelmed the limited supply provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in recent weeks. 1 At the time of writing, there are over 117,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, and over 4,200 people have died from the disease. The U.S. has over 700 confirmed cases and 26 deaths, with thousands more under quarantine and surveillance. Massachusetts has reported 92 coronavirus cases, and just yesterday, Governor Baker declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth.

 

As the Task Force continues to respond to COVID-19's spread, it is essential that it supports and communicates with the state, local, and tribal governments providing on-the-ground responses to the virus. As the elected officials representing Massachusetts in Washington, we strongly urge you to:

  • Support the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's request for assets from the Strategic National Stockpile. On March 5, 2020, the Commonwealth submitted a request to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) for access to personal protective equipment, among other resources, from the Strategic National Stockpile. We urge you to provide this access without delay.
  • Take all necessary steps to expand access to affordable COVID-19 diagnostic tests. Massachusetts currently has the capacity to conduct 40-50 COVID-19 tests per day. The state needs expanded capacity to test for COVID-19 as the virus continues to spread. We urge you to take action to expand access to COVID-19 diagnostic tests in Massachusetts. We also urge you to take federal action to ensure those tests are affordable to individuals seeking them.
  • Continually monitor the supplemental funding needs of Massachusetts public health officials and request supplemental funding from Congress as necessary. Last week, Congress approved-and the President signed-an $8.3 billion emergency supplemental appropriations package to help slow the spread of coronavirus, which included $950 million to support state and local agencies.  As COVID-19 continues to circulate nationwide, we urge you to stay in close contact with Massachusetts public health officials to assess their funding needs. As the need arises, we urge you to request the additional supplemental funding from Congress necessary to combat the virus. These funds should be distributed to Massachusetts as fast as possible to ensure the state can respond quickly to COVID-19.
  • Consider the need for wraparound services for quarantined, sick, and other individuals affected by COVID-19. It is essential that individuals affected by COVID19 are able to travel to, access, and pay for the health care services they need, regardless of income. In addition, individuals who rely on state and federal services to access affordable food, housing, and other services will continue to rely on those services, irrespective of COVID-19' s spread. As broader swaths of individuals are impacted by the spread ofCOVID-19, we urge you to consider the transportation, housing, food, and other needs that sick and quarantined individuals- as well of their families- will need as the virus spreads.

 

While our request is specific to Massachusetts, we believe that the Task Force should consider taking these actions in support of other states as well. Thank you for your consideration.

 

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