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ICYMI: E&C GOP Leader Walden talks COVID-19 on C-SPAN Newsmakers


Washington, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) joins C-SPAN’s Steve Scully and The Hill’s Bob Cusack on Newsmakers to talk about Congress’ efforts to combat COVID-19. Last week the president signed the bipartisan CARES Act, the largest congressional relief effort in our nation’s history to bring much-needed aid directly to the American people.

Watch the full interview from Friday, March 27, here, and see a few highlights below.

On when we’ll start to see improvements

“I think we will start to see improvements in a couple of weeks. We’re probably seeing it now, except we don’t have enough testing going on. We all know that’s been a shortfall in this – a lesson learned, something I hope we don’t see in the Fall. So that’s a piece of it. As we continue to get the tests processed, you’ll see an uptick. But hopefully with this isolation, these extraordinary measures Americans are undertaking, we will see a slowness of the spreading of the virus, and that will help. Now there’s still going to be hotspots. I believe fully in some of the people I’ve talked to, whether that’s the former FDA commissioner Dr. Gottleib, or I’ve listened to Dr. Fauci a lot and have known him for a decade. When they speak, I listen. Dr. Hahn who now heads the FDA, Admiral Giroir?, others on the president’s team have made it really clear: we have to take the measures to begin to stop or slow the spread of this virus…. We should anticipate will reemerge in the Fall like a traditional flu does, and we need to be ready for it. I’ve delegated part of my staff on the Energy and Commerce Committee, a couple weeks ago, to focus on what lessons we’re learning along the way, how do we make sure we’re not repeating those when fall comes, what do we need to do to be ready if we have a resurgence in the Fall.”

On opening the economy too early

“[The president’s] an optimist, and I appreciate that. He’s also listening to his medical staff and his scientists that are around him, that are on the lectern with him almost every day. But there might be places where we might be ready to do that, but the disease and the medicine and the protocols are actually going to dictate that, and I think the president will follow his advisors on that. Look, we’d all like to be able to get out of the House. I’m a Northwesterner – we do not want to be boxed in our houses; we want to be outside regardless of the weather. But this virus is a pretty mean enemy, and we’re at war. I think everybody recognizes that. We’ll follow the science; we’ll follow the virus; hopefully what we’re doing now will allow some areas to come out of this sooner than others, but that’s yet to be determined.. We have to do much more on testing, we’re ramping up, surging up in that capacity as we work toward some sort of medicine to address the virus, eventually a vaccine. […] I think the President has done everything he can to move every obstacle out of the way.”

On perceived mixed messages on COVID-19

“I’ve been in meetings since this was first announced, and I heard from pretty distinguished medical providers that are on the TV a lot, too, that they thought this could be contained in China and not get here, and that we really didn’t have much to worry about. I was in briefings not with the president but with pretty high-level folks who made that point as well. But then it got away, then everything changed. And that’s what you have to do in a situation like this is realize what we thought at one point ended up not being the case because it spread faster than people realized, it did get out. So, we changed our protocols. Remember, originally the CDC said unless you’ve been traveling in and out of Wuhan or somewhere connected there, you weren’t even at a high risk. Well that was true then, until they had the case in California that was community transfer, and immediately changed the CDC protocols. Now we know that it’s here, it’s in virtually every country, and it spreads more rapidly than we initially thought. What we need to do is focus on the future. How do we make sure when we hit fall that kids have a place to learn? How do we make sure our health centers are fully funded? One of my criticisms of this bill is that our community health centers are only funded through November. Why haven’t we given them sustainable funding for the next 4 or 5 years like Senators Murray and Alexander, [Chairman] Pallone and I have advocated for? Why have we not passed surprise medical billing to stop the gouging that occurs 1 out of 5 times in emergency rooms? So, there’s more work to be done here in the Congress going forward.”

On the economy recovering

“This is a hit like we’ve not endured, in my lifetime. […] Because instead of being told: go spend, go rally, go back to the theatres in New York, your ballparks, shop–we’re being told shelter in place, don’t go out, only for necessities, and otherwise just stop what you do. We’ve never from a government told our economy to just halt. If we’re a 70% consumer-driven economy, consumers have to get out and spend, and so that’s this cross-pressure work here against science and medicine: how long do we need to stay cooped up to get the upper hand on the virus and stop its spread, and how soon can we be let go? And I think we do have to look regionally at this. I commend the administration for putting that concept out there. In my district, you could have a huge vast difference of cases and demands on hospitals. I’ve got some counties that just have one case, but their hospital’s about to go broke because the state said you can’t do any elective procedures in a hospital. Well they’re calling me and saying we only have one case, and it’s not in the hospital, and we’re going broke because we can’t do elective procedures, how’s this going to work out? We’re making extreme measures now, but I think we need to be extremely thoughtful going forward about where can you let up a little bit, and when? When is the question mark here because science has to dictate that.”

Health (116th Congress)

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