Sunday, March 29, 2020
Kitchen Table Reflections - Sunday, March 29, 2020

Dear Friend:

I woke up this Sunday morning to the sad news of a WMU Engineering student who passed away with coronavirus. He had a ventilator and, likely, other members of his immediate family are also impacted along with perhaps his roommates at WMU. Our condolences are with them.

And yes, the sad reality is we will all soon know folks who are infected or die of this pandemic.

I had a number of colleagues who did not make the trip back to D.C. for the debate and voice vote Friday because they have tested positive and are in self-quarantine, with at least one in a hospital. Some of them are very ill.

“Meet the Press” started this morning with this startling statistic: it took from February 29 to March 17 to record the first 100 deaths, another 9 days to reach 1,000, and but 72 hours to reach 2,000. As I write this a few hours later we are at 2,370 fatalities and 135,029 total cases in the U.S. Check the number when you read this later today or Monday.

Earlier today I joined in a conference call with our two U.S. Senators and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at HHS regarding the Strategic National Stockpile. 90 percent of that stockpile has now been directed to the states and all are scrambling to identify more PPE and ventilators. 

You may be interested to know that ventilators today cost $40,000 - $50,000 apiece, have some 1,700 parts from 14 suppliers around the world, and require one million lines of computer code. Our state is looking to identify unused ventilators that may be in private practice or hospital surgical rooms.  But, at the end of the day, there is no way soon that we can find the tens of thousands that we may need in the next week or two. 

Our congressional delegation has been in communication each and every day sharing ideas and standing together to try and identify different sources that can help our patients and our brave health workers at every level. 

Many of us reached out to the White House to ensure that the Governor’s request for an emergency declaration was successful, qualifying Michigan for additional funding to cover our expenses and identify more resources.

Many of our health workers knew several weeks ago that it would be “all hands on deck” dealing with this pandemic. They were scared then and exhausted today.

For us here in SW Michigan, I have been most impressed with the work of our medical staffs and hospital units preparing for the worst. I witnessed first hand some of their efforts at the command centers at Bronson and Lakeland/Spectrum hospitals.  We’ve seen businesses reach out to help with PPE during this difficult time in multiple ways.

This week’s action in Congress will help too.  The 96-0 vote in the Senate and voice vote in the House Friday helps speed the federal response. Briefly (the bill was 880 pages), it will provide $1,200 checks for individuals, $2,400/couple, and $500 for children (payments phased out for folks earning more than $75,000), $350 billion for small businesses to keep their employees on the payroll with benefits (utilizing existing locally approved lenders like credit unions and community bankers) with loans converted to grants once the money is spent on employees, $100 billion for our hospitals, boosting unemployment payments by an additional $600/week, $500 billion for major corporate liquidity, $150 billion for states/local governments, $30 billion for education funding, $16 billion for the national stockpile for PPE, and $11 billion for Public Health and Social Services for the manufacture, production, and purchase of vaccines and therapeutics.

Dr. Tony Fauci (NIH’s director of Infectious Disease) and Dr. Scott Gottlieb (former FDA Commissioner) have been witnesses to the Energy and Commerce Committee for years.  They are both personal friends and their advice has usually been right on. Their statements that perhaps millions of Americans may be diagnosed with hundreds of thousands of deaths is exactly why ALL of us have to take the charge to break the cycle by ceasing personal contact with folks.

Lastly, I want to share a prayer by Thomas Merton that has always been close to our family’s heart. 
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.  And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.  Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”   

This is a lonely time for friends and family as we are not able to reach out like we always have. We all want the nightmare to, and around the world.

God bless, always....and thank those who are stepping up in our health care field!

Fred Upton
Member of Congress

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