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@MyKitchenTable - October 23, 2020

@MyKitchenTable: Friday, October 23, 2020

Dear Friend:

Very busy week. “It’s a slow process, but quitting won’t speed it up."

An apt way to describe the COVID-19 relief deal we’ve been working on for several weeks now. We’ve ebbed and flowed between having momentum and not. As I’ve been writing, folks do need help. We got carry out the other night for dinner - the restaurant is struggling. If it closes, all those staff members lose jobs. It’d be tragic. It’s stories like these that show why we need assistance still. The impacts of this pandemic will be felt even longer if we don’t act now.

The President last night, the Speaker, and the Treasury Secretary all appear to still be talking about a bipartisan deal. Earlier this week, the Problem Solvers Caucus sent the President and Congressional leaders a letter urging them to stay at the table. You can read that letter HERE. We’re close, but I don’t believe we’ll get a deal before election day. Ideally it would be sooner, but if we don’t get this done now – we won’t get a deal until at least the new year. Let’s stay at the table. You can read more about the timeline for a deal in Roll Call HERE.

ImageLate Friday afternoon, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Tony Fauci held a lengthy zoom call with a dozen or so of my colleagues regarding very troubling trends from CDC data indicating that among symptomatic outpatients with positive COVID-19, some 35% did not return to baseline health 2-3 weeks after testing.  And, 19% of young adults (18-34) with no comorbidities also had not returned.  Symptoms included fatigue, dyspnea, and memory loss.  The virus in addition to attacking the lungs also binds to the lining of blood cells and damage those tissues, including the heart, and coordinated research to understand the consequences certainly demands urgent attention.  Assessing the sequencing of the various strands of the virus could help to determine the severity, which is why the approvals of a vaccine and proper therapeutics must be a top priority.  FDA’s approval of remdesivir this week - which shortens the recovery time for patients as the first and only fully approved treatment - could be decisive in preventing further long-lasting damage.  The term “long-hauler” is given to those COVID patients that fail to fully recover.  Collins and Fauci promised to keep us informed so that we can make certain they have the appropriated resources to fully investigate these new findings.

Meanwhile, here in Michigan and across the country, COVID-19 cases are increasing - especially in southwest Michigan. Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Berrien Counties are all approaching “red” territory, which means they are nearing averaging more than 25 new cases per 100,000 people per day over the last week. You can read more HERE. Many experts attribute this to quarantine fatigue. As we approach the winter months, folks need to remain vigilant, wash their hands, and please, wear your mask. It can impact any of us. In fact, the main difference from the spring surge is that these patients are younger, which you can read more about HERE. I’ve remained in close contact and get regular updates from our hospitals here in southwest Michigan.

Now, there is a little bit of good news. A new study is out showing a sharp drop in mortality among hospitalized COVID-19 patients. According to the study, the drop is seen in all groups, including older patients and those with underlying conditions, which seems to suggest we’re getting better at helping patients survive the illness. You can read more from NPR HERE.

ImageToday, I was in Grand Rapids and Benton Harbor with the EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to announce millions of dollars in federal grants to improve our water infrastructure and replace lead service lines in these communities. Look, with so much uncertainty in today’s world, families should be able to be certain their drinking water is clean and safe. The money came from the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act’s Reduction in Lead Exposure via Drinking Water. I helped pass the WIIN Act through the House Energy and Commerce Committee when I was chairman. Included was language that required the EPA when they learn of lead to inform the community and the governor within 48 hours to begin a plan to remedy the situation. You can learn more about the announcements HERE.

On Wednesday, I was on a Zoom call with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to announce a nearly $7 million project to help provide high-speed broadband service in southwest Michigan. The funding will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 3,203 people, 40 farms and 27 businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Van Buren, Kalamazoo and Allegan counties in Michigan. I was with MSU students in March when they heard their classes would go all virtual, and one of them turned to me and said that they don’t have access to internet at home.  Too many families – especially in rural areas like here in southwest Michigan – lack access to reliable, high-speed internet. Especially as many of us work, take classes, and utilize telehealth services from home, we need to ensure all families have access to broadband service. Wednesday’s announcement is a huge step as we look to close the digital divide in southwest Michigan, and you can learn more HERE.

This weekend Big Ten Football returns. Please stay safe and remain vigilant, and Go Blue!

All the best,

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