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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/6/20

We need scientists, not politicians, in charge of the coronavirus response

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From USA Today

Let scientists and health professionals take charge. Stop spreading lies and focus on minimizing the risk and addressing health care needs.

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Lorie Shaull from St Paul, United States, Author: Lorie Shaull from St Paul, United States)
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During an international health crisis like the coronavirus known as COVID-19, our government and health care system face a fundamental test of whether they are adequately prepared to protect the American people. As reported cases of the coronavirus continue to grow and spread in our country and around the world, it is becoming clear that both the Trump administration and our current health care system are failing that test. We must do better.

President Trump's response to the coronavirus has been incompetent, political and reckless. He has given wrong and misleading information about the outbreak, wasted precious time playing petty politics, and called the criticism of his coronavirus response a hoax. Even worse, he is all but ignoring the recommendations of scientists and public health professionals -- the experts we must rely upon if we are to successfully address the pandemic.

In the midst of a global healthcare crisis, how could anybody gain public confidence by appointing Mike Pence to lead the coronavirus task force -- a politician with no scientific background. We need a president who believes in science and listens to scientists. We need a president who is for expanding -- not cutting -- funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH). And we need a president who believes in American leadership that works with our international partners in the World Health Organization (WHO), and other entities that deal with global health.

Government in action

The time has come for Donald Trump to stop playing politics with this deadly virus and put scientists and health experts back in charge.

Here is some of what must be done: the Senate must approve -- and Trump must sign -- the bipartisan emergency funding passed by the House, and the administration should provide any additional resources needed by state and local agencies on the front-lines of this effort. To measure the scope of the outbreak, the CDC and other agencies must have the ability to conduct thorough "contact tracing" investigations, so we know who has been exposed and whether they are spreading the disease. Hospitals and clinics must get ahead of this virus by increasing their intensive care unit (ICU), ventilator, and staffing capacity to prepare for a potential surge in cases. And since people who live in close living quarters are especially vulnerable, we must focus attention on institutions like nursing and long-term care facilities to both minimize transmission risk and address the healthcare needs of residents in the event of an outbreak.

Coronavirus on college campuses: Fight fear and racism along with the outbreak.

Right now, city and state health departments across the country are still unprepared to test the potential number of patients who show symptoms, so the CDC must continue doing everything it can to coordinate and provide testing resources across the country.

Universal health care is a must

When we are dealing with the spread of a deadly virus, the first thing scientists tell us is that it is imperative for anyone who experiences flu-like symptoms to go to a doctor. But, as a result of our dysfunctional healthcare system, tens of millions of Americans are uninsured or under-insured and do not seek medical attention when they need it because they cannot afford it. The Trump administration must make clear that, until we pass universal health care, as every major country on earth has done, all Americans right now should be able to receive the medical care they need, without worrying about the cost. If we are to stop the spread of this disease, everybody should get the medical treatment they need regardless of their income.

And once a vaccine is developed, it should be free. It is outrageous that during his Congressional testimony, Trump's HHS Secretary Alex Azar would not guarantee that a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable to all.

Finally, we must also join every major country on earth and pass paid family and medical leave legislation into law. In America today, millions of workers who notice the early, common symptoms of coronavirus, like a cough or fever, are not able to miss one day of work because their boss could fire them. That is unacceptable. When Americans are forced to go to work sick everyone they come in contact with is at risk of getting sick as well. That is how infectious diseases spread.

Health experts agree that the spread of the coronavirus will likely get worse before it gets better. Donald Trump must stop spreading lies and fear, and leave the science to scientists and health professionals, not politicians. We must make certain that we are prepared for a pandemic, just as we do with FEMA and natural disasters.

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Bernie Sanders is the independent U.S. Senator from Vermont. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. He is a member of the Senate's Budget, Veterans, Environment, Energy, and H.E.L.P. (Health, Education, (more...)

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