As the Federal Government continues to respond to the challenges created by coronavirus, I have been working with state and federal officials to get you the most up-to-date information on how to stay safe and navigate the recent coronavirus relief package. I have also created a resource page on my website to keep our district updated on the latest developments. The page provides tips from the CDC on how to stay healthy, links to additional resources for more information about coronavirus, and updates on the federal response. Please visit my website for links to resources and for weekly updates please sign up for my e-newsletter, here.
What’s Happening in DC
President Trump and the White House Coronavirus Task Force are leading an unprecedented, comprehensive, and aggressive whole-of-America approach to slow the spread of the virus. This response started in January. The most recent developments include the President extending the White House and CDC guidelines to slow the spread until April 30. The Administration is also ramping up testing capacity; the U.S. has conducted over 1.8 million tests nationwide. No other nation has tested as many people. Ten drugs are now in clinical trials for therapies and treatments. The Army Corps of Engineers is building 22 field hospitals and alternate care sites in 18 states. These facilities can support more than 15,000 beds to treat patients in need. More than 8,000 ventilators have been sent from the national stockpile to the states.
The “Abbott ID Now” COVID-19 test received an FDA emergency use authorization a little over a week ago. This test can only be performed by certain CLIA certified laboratories with experience in moderate and/or high complexity testing. Abbott Lab has indicated that they are sending about 12% of their production to Texas, and at this time, test kits are primarily being sent to hospitals that already have Abbott Lab testing instruments.
The Federal Government has also sent Abbott Lab instruments to Texas. As a result, Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is distributing 10 test instruments to the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) labs, which each have the appropriate certifications and skill sets to perform the tests. Texas received 10 test kits, and so each LRN will receive one kit. Each test kit can test 24 patients/samples.
With Congress passing legislation to ease the burden faced by small businesses during the COVID-19 epidemic, the Trump Administration launched the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). PPP allows small businesses to receive funds to retain their employees and keep up with day-to-day operating expenses. Already, the Small Business Administration (SBA), along with the Treasury Department, reported that 13,669 loans valued at $4.3 billion had been processed. On Friday, April 10, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can also apply.
Based on conversations between Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, we know the need to replenish the PPP has already arisen. President Trump will ask Congress to secure an additional $250 billion for the PPP. In the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has already issued a statement that—recognizing this almost immediate need—he would be supportive of the measure.
The Governor issued an executive order to extend social distancing requirements through April 30, as well as extending school closure to at least May 4. In addition, the Governor pointed Texans to an online list maintained by Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) for essential services specified in the Governor's Executive Order. Click here to view the list.
Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) continues to receive many State of Texas Assistance Requests (STARs) for supplies like PPE and collection kits for testing. DSHS is providing as much assistance as possible and distributing supplies as quickly as possible. Please remember the volume of requests continues to vastly outweigh current supply levels.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded approximately $18 million to support response to the COVID pandemic. This amount is being pushed down to DSHS in addition to previous funding streams. DSHS intends to push as much to local health departments as possible.
A significant area of concern are vulnerable populations such as long-term care facilities - nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Statewide, dozens of facilities have cases, including state-supported living centers operated by the Texas Health and Human Services (HHSC). Given the vulnerable populations who receive care at long-term care facilities, DSHS and HHSC have collaborated with stakeholders to create guidance on responding to a COVID case (or cases) within the long-term care facilities. That document can be found here.
Last week we hosted a district-wide telephone town hall with representatives from the county health departments, SBA, Regional and Local Health Operations for the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the Texas Department of Emergency Management. Listen here.
On Thursday, we held another telephone townhall focused on small business relief with the Galveston County Chambers of Commerce, Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the local Galveston Health Department. Listen here.
Next Thursday, April 16, at 3:00 pm, I will be hosting another small business telephone townhall with the Brazoria County Chambers of Commerce, SBA, and IBAT. To join the call, please dial: 877-229-8493, ID Code: 111533. Remember to press *3 to ask a question.
We will continue to schedule virtual townhalls so that we can bring you the most up to date information on the response to the coronavirus epidemic. Please stay up to date on all of our events by following me on Facebook or visiting my website, weber.house.gov. To sign up for my newsletter, click here.
Stay safe and remember these are unprecedented times. But we are Texans! We will persevere, we will be back stronger than ever. Take heart, support and love one another, Covid-19 can’t beat Texas-14. God bless Texas. God bless America.
Randy K. Weber
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