**In New Letter To President Trump, Shaheen, Hassan and Senate Democrats Call For Increased Coronavirus Testing Capacity & Release And Full Implementation Of A National Strategic Plan To Allocate Funds, Increase Lab Capacity And Public Health Workforce**
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) sent a letter with 40 Senate Democrats to President Trump, calling on his administration to develop a comprehensive national strategic plan of action by May 24th to ensure states have sufficient tests to begin safely re-opening.
The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was diagnosed in Washington state on January 20, 2020. After 12 weeks, and the appearance of more than 1.1 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 67,000 deaths, the United States still lacks a national testing strategy to reliably and consistently test patients across the country. Instead, states have been forced to respond with limited federal support, leaving a patchwork of testing efforts across the country, limited data on the spread of the disease, and scarce supplies for testing and protection of health care workers. In New Hampshire, less than 30,000 COVID-19 tests have been processed. As of May 5th, 2,636 Granite Staters have tested positive for COVID-19 and 92 people in New Hampshire have died. Last week, the Trump administration released its national coronavirus testing “blueprint,” but the document accomplishes nothing new and instead continues to place the burden on already hard-hit states.
In the letter, the Senators laid out their expectations for what details the Administration needs to include in the national plan it is required to submit to Congress by May 24th under the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. The Senators write that while states and tribes are critical in executing nationwide testing, it is the administration’s responsibility to release and implement a detailed national plan as quickly as possible, as well as address other problems that demand a federal solution, such as managing the supply chain and analyzing national data. In addition, they urged President Trump to use the full authority of the Executive Branch, including the Defense Production Act and the $25 billion allocated in the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, to ensure sufficient production of testing kits and materials—such as testing swabs, reagent and personal protective equipment (PPE)—to meet demand. The Senators also emphasized increasing lab testing capacity and building up a massive contact tracing workforce in order to identify future COVID-19 cases and contain the spread, in coordination with states.
In addition to Senators Shaheen and Hassan, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tom Carper(D-DE), Ed Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tom Udall (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse(D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Gary C. Peters (D-MI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA),Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Doug Jones (D-AL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
A copy of the letter is available HERE.
Increasing the nation’s testing capacity has been a top priority for Senator Shaheen. Earlier this week, Shaheen called on Congress to include $8 billion in new funding for contact tracing initiatives in the next COVID-19 response legislation. Shaheen and Hassan supported the $25 billion to increase COVID-19 testing capacity and make an initial investment in contact tracing in the recently passed Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. In March, Shaheen and Hassan, along with the rest of the with the state’s congressional delegation and the Governor, urged the President to speed up the distribution of critical medical supplies, including swabs for diagnostic testing. Senators Shaheen and Hassan called on Vice President Pence and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct a national inventory of COVID-19 testing supplies, publicly release data on testing results and provide a detailed plan and timeline for addressing future shortages and gaps in the testing supply chain. Senator Shaheen recently called on FEMA to prioritize COVID-19 testing kits for New Hampshire in reaction to the agency’s inadequate response to the state’s needs, which included sending 15 testing machines but only 120 testing kits for the entire state.