Thursday, April 16, 2020
@MyKitchenTable -Thursday, April 16, 2020

Dear Friend:

FDR said, “The future lies with those wise political leaders who realize that the great public is interested more in Government than in politics.”  He also said, “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

As we all look at the hundreds of thousands of folks who have tested positive to this terrible virus and the unbelievable number of increasing deaths, we wonder when will this nightmare end? The wonderful work by our health care workers at every level continue to deserve our heartfelt thanks, knowing that we still have to social distance ourselves and prevent the physical embrace that we would otherwise prefer.

This morning:

  • The FDA authorized two additional emergency use authorizations for Coronavirus antibody tests - now seeing three that are authorized. The FDA also issued an emergency use authorization for Stryker for N95 respirator decontamination cycles for single use respirators (still waiting to hear from the FDA reharding the MSU proposal referenced in earlier Kitchen Table reports. More info here)...
  • The CDC released demographic characteristics regarding COVID-19 cases in the US — of the 398,852 cases included, 7,001 were in individuals under 18; 145,499 between 18-44; 147,003 between 45-64; and 90,619 over 63. More info here. 
  • CDC released a report finding that more than 9,200 health care workers have been infected with COVID-19. More info here.
  • BARDA and the Red Cross are collaborating on systems and procedures to recruit donors who have recovered from COVID-19. Through this collaboration, the Red Cross will prepare procedures for the collection of plasma for use in treating COVID-19. More info here.
  • 6,000 FEMA-procured test kits were scheduled to arrive in the U.S. from manufacturers in South Korea. Each kit contains 100 tests for a total of 600K tests and will be distributed to states to augment their testing capability.
  • Sanford and GSK announced yesterday they are joining forces to develop an adjudicated COVID-19 vaccine.  This trial is expected to enter clinical trials in the second half of 2020. More info here.

 The day started with a lengthy bipartisan Michigan delegation call with our Governor. We acknowledged that we are all drinking from a firehouse and appreciated the outreach.  We now have 13 drive-in tests sites and have expanded the eligibility criteria for testing and the PPE supply chain has stabilized.  We have the third highest number of deaths and positive findings. Whereas before, the PPE supply was measured in hours, it has expanded to days and weeks. The “airbridge” has arrived in Michigan and that has helped with supplies of masks and gowns. She also cited that we will likely see a state budget shortfall of $3 billion with delayed and lower tax filings and much higher unemployment. Later, I checked in with just one of our county treasurers and she confirmed that they were expecting a major impact with revenue sharing losses from the state and higher delinquent taxes. This will definitely spill into 2021.

I am composing this report prior to the President’s press conference but it has been reported that he is going to let the Governors make the decisions on the reopening of their states.  Based on my conversation yesterday with the Executive Director of the National Governor’s Conference, I asked about her relationship with our two border states, Ohio and Indiana.  Governor Whitmer confirmed that she has frequent discussions with them and intends to work as a region as the virus does not respect state lines. I also raised the point that here in SW MI, it does appear that we have mastered social distancing, and I have noticed that most of us do wear masks as we interact at the grocery store, post office, and other essential retail operations.  We all want to flatten the curve and emerge from the current conditions.  Detroit News Editor Nolan Finley wrote a constructive column today regarding the new restrictions and it is HERE.  Bottom line from the call...we are all stressed and frustrated, but the point was made that we need to work together in this very challenging time.  

I spent much of the day touching base with business and health leaders throughout the district.  Our community health centers have always played a critical role in helping with our most vulnerable and the funding of these have been strongly bipartisan it should be.  Their ability to survive utilizing new tools to diagnose and treat folks and be reimbursed for those services is critical. I have visited all of our community health facilities many times over the years and have been most impressed not only with the physical condition of their facilities but also the health providers and administrators. They know I stand ready to help them at a moment’s notice.

It was so disappointing today to see the Senate's failure to reach an agreement on additional funds for the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program), which were exhausted this morning.  I heard from the Michigan Bankers Association  early this morning and a number of individual lenders throughout the day.  Particularly disappointing was one small business that is now convinced they will have to file for bankruptcy as they just missed having everything in order.  There is no time for politics in a time like this.  Not sure when cooler heads will prevail to call us back for an agreement.  Speaking of voting, House Rules have always required us to be physically on the House Floor to cast votes and there may be a proposal in case of emergency that would allow a member to cast another Member’s vote with the precise instruction to vote “Yay” or “Nay” and be able to count such for a quorum.

In closing, Diana DeGette (D-CO) and our staffs discussed a number of issues regarding an update on the 21st Century Cures legislation with Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner and one of the most knowledgeable on COVID-19.  We have reached out to our respective leaders on the Energy and Commerce Committee and hope to outline a proposal that can help us through this pandemic and beyond (I just can’t fathom writing “and the next”).  It is only with this theme of bipartisanship ideas that we will ever get through this. 

Hang onto the knot! 

God bless!

Fred Upton
Member of Congress

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