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@MyKitchenTable - February 17, 2021

@MyKitchenTable: Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Dear Friend:

"Do things for people, not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are." 

The winter storms and big chill across our country continue to cause a lot of misery and suffering, especially in Texas where millions are still without power and dozens have died. Here at home we have had our fair share of bone chilling temperatures (-10 in Kalamazoo this morning!) Southwest Michigan Community Action is rescheduling their emergency food distribution for February 24 because of the weather. More info is HERE. Everyone bundle up and stay safe. Please take care of your neighbors, friends, and family. 

The latest COVID-19 stats are trending in the right direction. In Michigan, the 7-day average of new cases is now under 1,000 cases per day. The 7-day positive rate has fallen below 5.4% in all six of our counties here in SW Michigan. You can see the latest numbers from MLIVE HERE. Nationally, the 7-day average is under 100,000 for the first time since early November. Let’s keep working together by wearing our masks, washing our hands, and getting vaccinated when you’re able to.

ImageToday, I had the privilege of visiting the COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Kalamazoo County with the county’s health officer, Jim Rutherford. The clinic has vaccinated more than 13,000 people in the county already. This is one of the many ways throughout SW Michigan that dedicated health professionals and volunteers are committed to this truly life-saving effort. In fact, they’re doing about 3,000 vaccinations a week with the help of mostly all volunteers, including law enforcement, retired nurses and other medical professional, and the national guard. They have been working at this for weeks and are ready to do so for months. We are also expecting Johnson & Johnson’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) approval by the end of next week. Like with Pfizer, they began to manufacture many weeks ago and that will bump up the inventory to states across the country as we work to get 200 million vaccinations in the first 100 days of the Biden Administration.

The county is working closely with their health care partners to get priority groups vaccinated, and you can learn more about Kalamazoo’s vaccination efforts HERE. The state’s current vaccine distribution plan can be seen HERE. If you live here in southwest Michigan, my office put together an updated resource guide that has the latest info on the vaccine distribution efforts specifically here in Allegan, Berrien, Van Buren, Cass, St. Joseph, and Kalamazoo counties. You can see that HERE.  If you missed it, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Meijer are now offering the COVID-19 vaccine in their Michigan stores, and you can read more about that HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Tomorrow the hardworking folks at Pfizer will be welcoming President Biden in one of his very first official visits.  Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo!! Here are two local stories on the President’s visit that you can read HERE and HERE.

Recently President Biden announced the federal government would be purchasing an additional 200 million doses of vaccine. 100 million of those doses will be the Pfizer vaccine.  You can learn more about that HERE and HERE. I am encouraged that Biden and his team are fully committed to speeding the vaccination progress and pace. With new variants, there’s not a minute to waste.

We realize even with this good news many people here in SW Michigan are still anxiously awaiting their vaccines.  Producing the vaccine here needs to be coupled with getting it administered faster to everyone waiting in line. I can recall first speaking to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla last year as he laid out their unprecedented, ambitious plan to have the first American vaccine ready by the end of 2021.  Still so remarkable it was produced by Portage plant heroes in a much anticipated and applauded effort watched around the world.

Yesterday, I joined my colleagues in the House Energy and Commerce Committee to unveil a bold broadband expansion plan that aims to boost connectivity here in SW MI and nationwide. In the past year, the American people have become even more dependent on broadband connectivity as so many have been working and taking classes from home. We are working hard to close the digital divide across the country and you can learn more HERE.

Today, our bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus held a lengthy zoom with the new Ford CEO and talked electric vehicles and issues like the energy situation in Texas due to the ice storm and impact. Obviously time was also spent discussing the partisan path on the $1.9T reconciliation bill that has cleared all the authorizing committees as they have now reported their “findings” to the Budget committee, where virtually no Republican amendments were adopted. The House reconvenes Tuesday and it is likely that we will get to the conclusion by the end of the week.  A reminder that I was part of a PSC working group last year working with the Congressional Black Caucus specifically on proper justice reforms and made very good progress on resolving and thus protecting Qualified Immunity for law enforcement, putting themselves and families at real economic jeopardy. I said then, that without a fix on QI as the process moved forward, that I would not support a bill. The good news was that our working group did address this and we felt confident that it would be resolved. There have been some reports that the progress we made would not be included in legislation moving to the House Floor in March and the PSC members are weighing in to change the initial draft.  Also work has begun again on an Agimmigration bill that passed the House by nearly 100 votes in the last congress but did not receive attention in the senate

ImageAnd lastly, our photo of the day is from Michael in Augusta. He got take out from Shwarma King on Drake in Kalamazoo. “Great food safely provided. Please wear a mask!” Thanks for sharing Michael. We’d love to see photos from your favorite restaurants – you can send them to us HERE.

All the best,

Fred Upton

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