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Sen. Murray calls for ‘national plan, and a national strategic goal’ to reopen

Senators listen to ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) speak remotely during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on May 12, 2020. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Senator Patty Murray says we’re not yet where we need to be to get back to work and school, primarily due to a lack of testing and commitment from the administration.

Murray joined KIRO Nights on Tuesday following a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“I think we all know where we were just a few weeks ago, with so many people inundating our hospitals who were seriously sick,” Murray said. “… No one wants to go back there, and no one wants to go out, spread the virus, and we’re all back in our homes again because we haven’t taken the right precautions in getting out.”

WA Sen. Patty Murray: White House not taking coronavirus seriously

Increase testing capacity

Washington state and the country, to reopen in a safe and effective way, need to have widely available testing, Murray said. The testing will allow us to know who has the virus and be able to contain it.

“And we need to have protocols in place for people to know that if they go to work, they’re safe, that the right conditions are there, and that, by the way, if there is a surge, our hospitals are ready and not behind this time,” the senator said. “So we have work to do in order to safely go out and keep this virus as contained as we can.”

Murray has been pushing the Trump administration to increase testing capacity and make a plan since February. She said she’s been given numbers with no follow-through.

“We can’t keep playing with the numbers and we can’t keep making false promises,” she said. “We need to know how many [tests] we’re going to need in the next few weeks, in the next few months, or even six months from now, and start production and get that out there so it’s readily available.”

Senator Murray remains in close contact with Governor Inslee and leaders in Washington state.

“This is not something that the states can do all on their own,” she said. “They’re not in control of the supply chain. … That’s why we need a national plan, and a national strategic goal so that we can use our entire nation, and our capacity, and our supply chain to make sure everybody has it.”

Create a national plan

The knowledge of what hospitals need, what workplaces need, does primarily fall to governors and local officials who have those direct contacts.

“But then we need a national plan to meet those goals, and that’s what’s missing,” she said. “And that’s what I have called for.”

Murray said the administration needs to provide a plan based on science and public health of how many tests will be needed, and a strategy for how to get there.

“We don’t have a cure for this, and we don’t have a vaccine for it,” she said. “The only thing we can do right now is control it, and the only way we control it is to have the knowledge of who has it, where it is, and how we can make the wisest decisions in the best places.”

In terms of struggling businesses and people out of work, Murray said it’s important to start planning now for a second wave of the virus and be prepared should our current situation continue.

“I wish we could just go back six months and say, ‘we’re there, forget about it, we don’t need to worry about it,’ but that’s not the case,” she said. “And it’s not going to be the case in the very near future or even maybe six months or a year from now. So what we need to be doing, again, is testing to know where we are, so a business knows whether their employees have it or whether they can safely open.”

Using schools as an example, Murray spoke about the need for an education plan should the virus still be an issue come fall.

“All of this kind of planning doesn’t happen on hope. It happens on a lot of work, listening to public health experts, listening to scientists, and getting the best minds out there putting these plans out there so people can start making those decisions,” she added.

Demand help from the experts

The CDC recently came up with a plan for reopening that was then set aside by the administration. Murray said these plans absolutely should be available to the public.

“People have a right to that information. They need that information. That is exactly what the CDC is set up to do,” she said. “… They have the experts, they should put the plans out. And it is absolutely criminal to me that this administration said, ‘No, you’re not putting it out.’ How do we get moving forward if we don’t have expert plans to help us do that?”

Murray requested that the public demand this information. Democrats, Republicans, everyone, she said, needs these plans to know what to do for their businesses, communities, and schools.

“No one should be sitting there in the fall going, ‘God, I wish I had thought of this three months ago.’ We’re here now. Make the decisions,” Murray said. “Will they be perfect? No, but, you know, we got a lot of work to do.”

All roads lead to more testing

“In the last package that we passed, I put in a provision that provided additional funding for testing but also required this administration to give us a national strategic plan by May 24th,” she said. “So we can then work toward that goal and make sure that we’re doing the right thing to get things open. If they refuse to do that, that is just really awful on their part.”

Murray told Washingtonians and people across the country that she’s working as hard as she can to make sure they have the information to know what will happen in the coming weeks, and through the summer months.

“Whether it’s testing, whether it’s the capacity, making sure hospitals have the equipment they need, making sure that schools have their plans, businesses have their plans, that we provide the adequate support for our state, for people, for the kind of capability to pay their rent and mortgage,” she said.

“But I also would remind everybody, we are learning every single day something about a virus that has never been around before,” she added. “And so, flexibility is going to have to be part of this.”

Listen to KIRO Nights weeknights from 7 – 10 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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