I want to focus today's update on the Coronavirus Task Force's work to protect our healthcare providers, efforts by the FDA to speed the development of new tests and treatments, and provisions in the coronavirus relief bill that will support these efforts as well as provisions aimed at helping our agricultural sector.  

Protecting Our Health Care Providers — True American Heroes on the Front Line 

  • The Trump Administration is using every means at its disposal to get critical supplies, particularly Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), into the hands of our health care providers on the front lines of the crisis.  Through FEMA, the federal government is distributing more than 8 million N95 respirators, 14 million surgical masks, 2.4 million face shields, 1.9 million surgical gowns, 13.5 million gloves, and more than 4,000 ventilators — particularly to New York, which has rapidly become the nation's biggest hotspot for the virus. 

  • The Administration is utilizing the resources of the private sector, and major American companies like Ford, 3M and General Electric are already retooling their facilities to make ventilators, masks and other needed equipment.  Apple will be donating 9 million N95 masks to needed facilities around the country.  Many other great American companies are doing the same. 

  • The $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill includes billions in new funding for our health care providers including:
    • $150 billion -- a historic investment in our hospitals.  This funding will begin flowing to our hospitals right away, to support the purchase of personal and protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies, increased workforce and training, new construction to house patients, emergency operation centers and more. 

    • Higher Medicare reimbursement rates to put more money in the pockets of our doctors, hospitals, emergency rooms and clinics that they can use to cover their funding needs for the duration of the crisis.

  • The Administration has also dramatically expanded access to telehealth services, which will help millions of Americans -- particularly seniors -- access the care they need from their doctors without having to physically visit a hospital or clinic.  This helps protects patients and doctors by reducing the time a patient spends in a waiting room or interacting with others who may be ill.

Speeding Development of New Testing & Treatments

  • Since Day One of the outbreak, the Trump Administration has been working to speed the development and deployment of innovative new tests and treatments to combat the virus. 

  • The FDA has issued an Emergency Use Authorization for a new, much faster COVID-19 test.  This new test will be able to provide Americans with results within hours, rather than days like the existing tests, and the company plans to roll it out by March 30.  This will dramatically cut down on our testing backlog and help us more effectively identify ill individuals and virus hotspots.

  • The National Institutes of Health has launched, in record speed, a Phase 1 clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

  • Studies are underway by the FDA to determine if existing medications such as chloroquine, which is already approved for treating malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, can be used to treat patients with mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19. 

  • The coronavirus relief bill includes:
    • $1 billion for the NIH's research into an effective vaccine
    • $27 billion for the development of new testing and treatment methods, and the purchase of needed supplies and medical equipment. 
    • $80 million for the FDA

Supporting Our Agriculture Sector

The coronavirus relief bill includes several provisions important to North Carolina farm families, particularly:

  • The small business loan and tax provisions will be very important to our agriculture sector employers -- specifically the Paycheck Protection and loan forgiveness programs will help farms maintain payrolls and fund ongoing operations. 

  • It also delays the payroll tax for employers and enables businesses to carry back losses from previous years -- giving them access to an immediate tax refund. 

  • The bill also includes provisions specifically tailored to our producers, including $9.5 billion in new funding to support producers and another $14 billion to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).  More resources may be needed down the road, but this is a badly-needed down payment on helping the USDA provide badly-needed relief for our farm families and producers.

(By the way, can you imagine what life would be like fighting this virus without a stable, safe and abundant food supply??  Farmers are heroes every day too!) 

The USDA continues to be open for business during the outbreak, and it has outlined some of the ways in which its various services remain operational here.

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As I mentioned in a previous newsletter, I do want to share some of the many stories of people across North Carolina's 7th District coming together in this time of crisis.  Like the dozens of people who turned out for a blood drive, organized by the Red Cross at Port City Community Church in Wilmington, in support of Marshall Thomasson, who is battling Stage Four cancer.  His daughter is also battling a blood disorder.  The outbreak has left our blood banks badly depleted as thousands of blood drives have been cancelled.

There's also the Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization, which donated 4,000 pairs of badly-needed rubber gloves to New Hanover Regional Medical Center -- gloves that will save lives by helping to prevent the transmission of germs from patients to doctors and nurses.

Everywhere you look, there are stories of Americans coming together in a challenging time to help one another and defeat this virus.  There is nothing that the American spirit of giving, determination, and entrepreneurship cannot overcome! 

As always, stay tuned to Coronavirus.gov and NC's Department of Health and Human Services website for the latest on the outbreak.