Over the last several weeks, I’ve talked with Delawareans up and down our state. Families who aren’t certain when the next paycheck will come. Small business owners struggling to stay afloat. Nonprofits straining to meet the needs of the communities they serve.
And neighbors who, like Annie and I, miss spending time with older family members, gathering to worship and feeling part of a community.
Some of the most difficult conversations I’ve had, though, have been with health care workers and first responders who are serving on the front lines of this crisis without all the equipment they need, from ventilators for patients to masks and other types of personal protective equipment.
The situation is dire. That’s why I worked with Sen. Tom Carper and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and together we fought to include $150 billion for our health care system and health care workers in the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package the Senate passed unanimously last month.
Delaware leaders like Governor Carney, A.J. Schall, director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, and so many others are doing an outstanding job getting critically needed supplies and equipment to our state, but more is needed.
This issue is far from unique to Delaware. Across the country, states, communities and health care workers are still scrambling for basic resources. What we need is a clear, coordinated federal strategy to produce and distribute desperately needed medical equipment in Delaware and communities everywhere.
According to a recent internal government report, the U.S. medical system is under unprecedented strain. Thermometers are in short supply, preventing hospitals from being able to screen staff members and patients for COVID-19. Staff is being forced to procure masks and gloves from auto part shops and home supply stores amid shortages, and the lack of clear federal guidance has caused confusion and fear.
To make matters worse, states, communities and health care centers are often forced to compete with one another to get equipment. In many instances, including here in Delaware, the private sector has stepped up to help fill the void, which has made a real difference and saved lives.
But no business should be deciding on their own where to send desperately needed personal protective equipment. The public and private sectors need to be working together under a clear, federal strategy based on science and public health needs, not market forces.
We have to do better. That’s why, two weeks ago, I joined Carper and a bipartisan group of my colleagues in calling on the Trump Administration to set a clear, nationwide strategy for delivering protective equipment, resources, and more.
This week, I’m working with Republicans such as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to get critical equipment to first responders and Democrats such as Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) to stop price gouging of medical equipment by scam artists looking to make money from this crisis.
In this trying and difficult time, I’ve been inspired by how Delawareans have come together – even from a distance – to take care of one another.
Our state of neighbors shines through in the Newark mom who rallied more than 800 friends on Facebook to sew handmade masks, in Richard Piendak and Dave Tiberi who started Donate Delaware to collect masks, gloves and other equipment for hospitals and first responders, in the teachers who are working with parents to help their children learn virtually, and in the grocery store clerks, sanitation personnel, delivery drivers, custodians and other unsung heroes.
It shows too in businesses such as Dog Fish Head and Painted Stave Distillery that are stepping up to make hand sanitizer. It shows in Bloom Energy, which is refurbishing hundreds of critically needed ventilators, and in the creative partnership of ChristianaCare, the University of Delaware’s National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals, Incyte and Roche.
As supply chains for critical testing materials were overwhelmed, I helped bring these institutions together to discuss the critical needs here in Delaware. Together, they worked to establish a local production process for some of the critical materials in short supply. As a result, our testing capacity is expanding meaningfully.
Of course, protective equipment isn’t the only thing our state and our country need right now. I fought to include funding in the CARES Act to help our small businesses pay their employees and their bills, expand unemployment insurance and provide direct payments. But it’s clear that Congress will need to provide additional relief to families and businesses through a fourth COVID-19 response package.
In the weeks and months ahead, I will continue to do everything in my power to help our state and our country weather this storm. I encourage you to visit my coronavirus response webpage at www.coons.senate.gov for up-to-date resources and information.
Here in Delaware, we’re proud to call ourselves a "state of neighbors." We are all in this together, so we need to do everything we can to protect and support each other, and we will get through this together.