Update on Progress Toward Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School

On Tuesday, June 30, 2020, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee gave an update on the progress of the U.S reopening procedures in businesses and education as testifying. Committee members stressed the need for national attention to how school and business reopenings heading into the fall might mean for administrators and shareholders during the Coronavirus.

 

Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) opened the hearing addressing how the Trump Administration could help end the political debate around wearing masks. He stated that the CDC guidelines indicate that “simple cloth coverings slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it.” He then voiced many concerns regarding the recent rise of Coronavirus cases and hospitalization across the United States. He mentioned harsh strains on businesses operating at an efficient level and also highlighting the major struggle of adaptation for many administrators, especially in schools. He stated: [we] have already seen the dramatic impact on our kids as lengthy times away from school and associated of supported services often result in social isolation making it difficult for schools to identify important learning deficiency as well as identifying adolescent abuse, social abuse that result in larger cases of adolescent morbidity or mortality.”

 

The hearing held testimonies from health professionals such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir, Dr. Stephen Hahn, the Food and Drug Administration commissioner, and Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control, all appeared before the HELP committee. 

 

As noted, many U.S states are moving into its late phases of reopening; Dr. Fauci gave a rather glum outlook to the recent outbreaks stating: [we] are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned” as he expressed dismay over citizens congregations in crowds and not wearing proper facial masks to the guidelines of state reopenings. He continued stating: “[we’re] going to continue to be in a lot of trouble, and there’s going to be a lot of hurt if that does not stop.” Although Dr. Fauci gave little for lawmakers to be optimistic about, he laid the American people’s confidence to continue practicing social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands diligently to keep individuals and those around you safe. 

 

Similarly, Senators Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Bob Casey (D-PA) voiced significant displeasure with the process of creating a vaccine and providing them at no cost. Senator Casey remarked the importance of the CARES Act, stating that the U.S government must provide these vaccines at no cost to American citizens. Lawmakers and health professions both offered bipartisan support for these vaccines to be administered as soon as approved. Still, Senators continued efforts to delegate FDA Commissioner, Stephen Hahn, to provide the American people with a clear timetable to when these likewise vaccines will be available for universities and schools heading into the fall. 

 

With many uncertainties heading into the Fall semester for students, parents, and school officials, Fauci offered very little of an update to ensure confidence stating: “The basic fundamental goal would be as you possibly can to get the children back to school and use the public health efforts as a tool to help the children get back to school… I feel very strongly we need to do whatever we can to get the children back to school,” Fauci added. But “it really will depend on the dynamics of the outbreak in the particular location where the school is.” As the Trump administration is currently pushing for a full reopening of schools across the United States, many cross-sectional variables such as when the vaccine will be created by furthermore, the percentage of vaccines used will create a major discretion to the impact of health security in schools.

 

Chairman Alexander also pushed major stresses for testing availability for schools heading into the Fall semester as he insisted answers to what this means cost-wise for students and the government, but moreover how they will be administered. Dr. Fauci, also the head director for the White House Coronavirus Response Team, warned the committee that if a portion of the population refuses to get vaccinated, then continued conditions might worsen and may take even longer to recover. As Admiral Giroir and Dr. Hahn noted as testing continues to expand with the expectation towards 40-50 million tests per month in the fall.

 

Ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) stated: “The reality is that the losses in this pandemic so far are nearly unthinkable and any further delays in our response are really unacceptable. We need to take this President to take this crisis seriously and lead, and we need Congress to act. So I hope we can all get back to work as soon as possible. We need to support our families, our frontline workers, our businesses, our schools, our communities.”

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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