Schumer: With Hudson Valley COVID cases more than tripling this month, Orange County cannot risk inadequate free testing & a repeat of desperately low stocks of masks; situation must be addressed now by Feds to avoid major consequences for Hudson Valley residents & health care workers; senator pushes two-pronged plan to deliver fed help for Hudson Valley docs, nurses, hospitals, & providers get influx of testing, masks, & other PPE
A consistent champion for the Hudson Valley's healthcare, frontline health care workers, and small businesses during the pandemic, Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer, standing at Cornerstone Family Healthcare in Middletown, New York, unveiled his two-pronged plan to ramp up testing availability and domestic production of PPE, including N-95 masks, with the help of the Hudson Valley's small businesses. First, Schumer demanded that the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) release the $9 billion for testing they are sitting on that Schumer secured for a national, coordinated, and robust testing regime. Second, Schumer revealed the Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020, which provides $11 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to purchase critical PPE like N-95 masks and support small businesses in expanding domestic production of critical PPE. Specifically, the legislation provides $1 billion in federal, Small Business Administration (SBA) grants for small businesses to retool domestic facilities to produce critical PPE over the next two years. Schumer also said he intends to continue fighting for Hudson Valley communities, like the City of Middletown, across New York State as the newest wave emerges and as the next COVID relief deal continues being negotiated.
"With flu season upon us and COVID cases tripling in the Hudson Valley this month, to keep everyone safe, we're going to need the feds to step up and fund more rapid tests and PPE in the Hudson Valley, and we're going to need them quickly," said Senator Schumer. "Right now, Hudson Valley residents have some free testing available to them and health care workers have a little bit of PPE stored. Here at Cornerstone Family Healthcare, the hardworking frontline staff has tested hundreds of patients this week with a shocking 13.7% of those tests coming back positive. However, there are major concerns about whether the community is equipped to get through the emerging second wave of this pandemic. We must use all federal resources available to ramp up free testing for Hudson Valley communities and increase PPE production to protect our fearless healthcare workers like those at Cornerstone."
Schumer added, "We all remember the early days of the crisis, when COVID tests were scarce and results took days to receive if you could find one, and when health care professionals in some parts of the country were forced to jury-rig masks and gloves from spare clothing and bits of string. The recent surge in cases here in the Hudson Valley might hit, or even exceed, the peak levels we saw earlier this year, which is why the federal entities must do everything in their power to avoid a repeat of the widespread testing and PPE shortages, particularly rapid testing, gloves, disinfecting wipes, and N-95 masks."
Schumer negotiated $9 billion for a national testing regime into the CARES Act, which HHS has yet to allocate. The funding would provide millions of rapid test kits and hundreds of rapid testing machines across the U.S., boosting the ability of Hudson Valley communities, like those in Orange County, to combat this latest wave of COVID-19. The senator said releasing the funding was a high priority, with testing and contact tracing being important tools to containing the virus.
The Senator explained that Cornerstone Family Healthcare has administered 10,114 COVID-19 tests to date with 1,224 or 12.1% of those tests coming back positive. Just this past week, Cornerstone has administered 613 tests with 84 positive cases at a 13.7% positivity rate. Additionally, according to data from the New York State Department of Health, positive cases in the Hudson Valley have more than tripled this month with 285 positive cases on November 1, 2020 compared to 911 positive cases as of November 22, 2020. Given these alarming numbers that are on the rise, the senator explained that Hudson Valley residents and the frontline workers administering tests need quick and decisive action by HHS to release the critical testing money that was already secured in the CARES Act.
"From the earliest days of this pandemic, the frontline heroes at Cornerstone Family Healthcare have worked tirelessly to care for our 48,000 patients here in the Hudson Valley. Cornerstone was one of the first providers in the region to offer COVID-19 testing at our care sites and at mobile testing sites in the communities hit hardest by this virus. This pandemic has caused many struggles for both our community and our health center, including significant financial setbacks. Now, with a second wave of COVID and cases rising each day, we need to give our Hudson Valley healthcare workers and first responders the PPE and testing kits needed to weather this storm. We thank Senator Schumer for his continued support of Cornerstone and other Community Health Centers across the state," said Linda Muller CEO of Cornerstone Family Healthcare.
Furthermore, the senator crafted and introduced the Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020, which, in addition to providing $1 billion for small businesses, authorizes $10 billion for the SNS to purchase critical PPE, including N-95 masks, nitrile gloves, gowns, face shields, surgical masks, and more. This investment will provide certainty to Hudson Valley manufacturers that there will be a market when they scale up their production. The plan also uses the Defense Production Act (DPA) as well as authorities in the Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to spur the development, investment, and production of critical PPE, addressing requests from governors.
Finally, the bill requires the federal government to release reports regularly on the supplies needed to fight COVID-19 and provide direction for bolstering domestic manufacturing to provide those supplies. It also mandates that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) provide recommendations on how the President may use existing authorities to purchase a sufficient supply of PPE to combat this virus.
Specifically, the Protect Our Heroes Act will:
Provide $10 billion in funding for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to purchase large quantities of PPE, including N-95 masks, gloves, gowns, face shields, and surgical masks.
Allows the Defense Production Act (DPA) and other existing authorities to expand the industrial capacity of domestic PPE production, while requiring the Comptroller General of the United States to develop recommendations on further using these authorities.
Create a $1 billion grant program to help small businesses retool domestic facilities to produce critical PPE, with priority given to minority-owned and other underserved small businesses as well as those owned by service disabled veterans with considerations for other veteran-owned small businesses. This proposal also prioritizes small businesses that receive grants through this program when reviewing purchasing order decisions for the SNS.
Require the federal government to release regular reports on the critical supplies needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including an assessment of the SNS and other stockpiles, direction for bolstering domestic manufacturing to provide critical supplies, plans to meet forecasted needs to combat the virus, a review of the PPE supply chain, and a detailed explanations of the authorities used under the DPA and other authorities to purchase PPE for the SNS.
Mandate an annual Government Accountability Office report on the country's access to the medial supplies needed to respond to this and future pandemics, as well as the health of the U.S. supply chain.
Cornerstone Family Healthcare is a federally funded community health center that serves 48,000 patients in Orange, Ulster, Rockland, and Broome counties. Senator Schumer has long been a champion for Community Health Centers (CHCs) across New York, like Cornerstone, and is currently pushing for an additional $7.6 billion for CHCs in the HEROES Act to support these critical safety-net providers in the Hudson Valley and beyond. Furthermore, with CHC funding set to expire on December 11, 2020, the senator explained that the funding for these critical services must be reauthorized in the coming weeks and pledged to fight tirelessly for Cornerstone and other critical New York CHCs.