Schumer Floor Remarks Insisting That The Response To The Coronavirus Crisis Prioritize The Health & Safety Of The American People

March 10, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the necessity of prioritizing the health and safety of the American people in response to the spread of the coronavirus and questioned why the Trump administration has lagged other governments in making testing for the coronavirus widely available. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

As our country continues to experience the spread of coronavirus, COVID-19, the effects are beginning to be more acutely felt.

First and foremost, our hearts go out to the families of those who have lost loved ones during this illness.  Second, our health care systems are under tremendous stress, businesses have been forced to cut back, and the virus is already starting to take a toll on the economy. As the impact of the coronavirus spreads, the administration appears to have shifted its focus, holding a press conference yesterday to talk about measures the administration might pursue to calm the markets.

I would remind the White House: by far the best way to ensure economic security for the American people is to deal directly with the coronavirus itself. Again, getting a handle on the crisis and addressing the virus itself is by far the best way to respond to any negative effects on our economy.

The administration seems to believe that the answer to any problem is another tax cut, and no matter what they say about it, when they put it together it always seems to benefit the wealthy and the big and powerful corporations.

But this is a health care crisis. It demands a health care solution.

To borrow an expression: you must treat the disease, not the symptoms. Mr. President, do you hear that? You must treat the disease, the coronavirus, not the symptoms, which are the results of the coronavirus.

The President often only wakes up to a problem after it has an effect on Wall Street; and his solutions are often aimed, misguidedly, only at calming the nerves of those on Wall Street. The real answer in this case is to protect the American people, focus on their health and economic security, and competently respond to the public health crisis at our doorstep.

Speaker Pelosi and I have mentioned several actions we could take, from paid sick leave for impacted workers to unemployment insurance, food and housing security, and protections against price gouging. But one thing the administration must focus on, right now, above all, is fixing the problems we’re having with testing.

The most powerful tool in responding to a virus is to know precisely where it is and how it is spreading. Because the administration took weeks before they developed an accurate test, because the administration was slow to ramp up the number of Americans tested, and is now having trouble turning around the results of those tests at a fast-enough pace, we are now far behind where we ought to be in understanding how far the virus has already spread.

The United States has the best hospitals, doctors, and scientists in the world, yet currently we are lagging far behind other countries when it comes to testing our citizens. We are behind the United Kingdom. Behind France. Behind China. Behind Switzerland, the Netherlands, Israel, Japan, and Italy. Every day we read a new story in the press about Americans having difficulty getting a test for coronavirus even though they are displaying symptoms. Our own Secretary of Health and Human Services was unable to say how many Americans have been tested.

It is shocking. It is infuriating. If other countries can do this, why can’t we? If other countries do it right, why can’t we? South Korea, which has far more prevalent amounts of coronavirus, is already seeing the number of new reports go down because they’ve done extensive, thorough, and accurate testing. The results here, why we are not doing as well as other countries, is a direct result of the colossal failure of leadership and planning from this administration and this president.

One word describes the Trump Administration’s response to the coronavirus so far: incompetence.

I know there are hardworking CDC scientists and experts trying to help the American people. The political appointees are the ones who seem not to get it and are putting politics over the safety and security of the American people. And it goes right to the top.

In the midst of a public health crisis, a serous and dangerous public health crisis, the president has repeatedly pushed unscientific claims about the coronavirus and the availability of a vaccine, and given bad advice—bad advice—to Americans who might have symptoms. If the president would just keep quiet, it would be better than what he’s doing now, which is negative. But what we really need is leadership.

More than ever, we need the President to drop the conspiracy theories, end the Panglossian optimism and the unscientific speculation. Now more than ever, we need President Trump to lead our government’s response with competence and to be truthful with the American people. As I said yesterday, we are all rooting for that. But the president and his administration must take a hard look in the mirror, focus on the problems at hand, not the side-effects, and get to work on fixing them.