Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) issued the following statement for the Congressional Record on the importance of U.S. leadership and investments in global health and development in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak:

"Government and public health officials in the U.S. have started grappling with how to reopen the economy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of this discussion has understandably focused on what we need to do here in the U.S. such as drastically expanding testing capacity and hiring additional personnel to conduct a massive amount of contact tracing. For us to be prepared to prevent outbreaks here at home, however, we also have to think beyond our borders.

"The reality of infectious diseases like COVID-19 is that outbreaks anywhere in the world threaten transmission here in the U.S. The pandemic has upended countries in almost every corner of the world, but the impact on developing countries will be especially devastating. Not only do these countries already have low-resourced health systems but many are facing other challenges caused by conflict, climate change, droughts, migration and displacement. Their ability to prevent, contain, and respond to outbreaks is severely limited, making assistance from the international community critical.

"While the prevalence of COVID-19 in most developing countries remains unknown due to limited testing, the impact of the crisis is already taking its toll. The economic fallout from the pandemic will hit vulnerable populations the hardest; hundreds of millions of people could be pushed into poverty. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization has warned of a looming food crisis caused by significant strains on the global food supply chain. By the end of this year, the number of people on the brink of starvation around the world could double.

"In the short-term, the U.S. must bring significant investments in emergency economic and humanitarian relief to the table. The potential for drastic increases in poverty and widespread famine will foster further instability and displacement. Progress in developing countries to reduce conflict, increase economic opportunity, and promote good governance will be set back. Providing immediate additional resources to combat COVID-19 in other countries will not only alleviate the humanitarian crisis and reduce its potential destabilizing impacts, but it will also help prevent new outbreaks here in the U.S.

"In the long run, the work to prevent future outbreaks and combat the next pandemic is never-ending. The investments we make today in global health and development will help determine our ability to prevent and combat future outbreaks. For decades, unfortunately, this work has been underfunded. We have to increase our funding for global health security to strengthen health systems in developing countries so they are better prepared to contain diseases and prevent outbreaks. Investments in development and economic assistance, global health, and humanitarian relief are also vital for countries to improve their outbreak response and recovery. Efforts to cut these programs and gut key agencies such as USAID, the State Department, and the CDC are short-sighted and harm the long-term health and economic wellbeing of the U.S.

"In the coming months and years, a lot of attention will be given to questions around how the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded and how we prevent and better mitigate future outbreaks. We must use this opportunity to reinforce the value of U.S. global leadership and make the case for strengthened investments in global health and development. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder that these investments are critical to protecting the health, economic, and security interests of the U.S."

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement in response to the Secretary of Defense’s decision to hold the results of the Navy’s investigation of the COVID-19 outbreak aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt:
 
“The Secretary of Defense needs to reinstate Captain Brett Crozier as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. While Captain Crozier’s actions at the outset of the health crisis aboard the TR were drastic and imperfect, it is clear he only took such steps to protect his crew.
 
“Not only did Captain Crozier have the full support of his crew, he also attempted to work within his chain of command. During this time of crisis, Captain Crozier is exactly what our Sailors need: a leader who inspires confidence.
 
“The decision to relieve Captain Crozier in the first place was made by Former Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly. Modly's subsequent decision to board the U.S.S. Roosevelt and deliver a petty, obscenity-laced speech attacking Captain Crozier while the crew of the Roosevelt dealt with the COVID-19 outbreak should seriously call into question Modly's decision making ability in general, and makes it all the more clear that his decision to relieve Captain Crozier was completely wrong. Captain Crozier should be reinstated to his command immediately."
 
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today released the following statement after the House passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act to provide funding for small businesses, hospitals and health workers, and testing in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak:

“The interim emergency relief bill passed by Congress will replenish desperately needed funds for small businesses and provide additional money to support our health care system. Democrats worked hard over the last two weeks to make significant improvements to this legislation from what was first proposed by Senate Republicans.

“The dire circumstances facing small businesses were made clear by how quickly funding for the Paycheck Protection Program and other small business programs were exhausted. The bill passed today will not only provide additional funding for these programs but strengthen them to better reach all small businesses. This bill will set aside money for businesses in underserved communities through Community Development Financial Institutions and minority depository institutions.  

“The bill will also provide additional money to hospitals, providers, and medical professionals who are risking their lives every day to protect our communities. Hospitals and providers have faced a mounting financial burden responding to COVID-19. Funding from this bill will help ease this strain and help with purchasing additional personal protective equipment for their workers on the frontline.

“Lastly, it is especially important that this legislation devotes $25 billion to testing. Expanding our testing capacity is key to reopening the economy safely. States and the health care system cannot do this on their own. We were successful in requiring the Administration to develop a national testing strategy, including how we will increase testing capacity. Action from the federal government to take the lead in expanding testing across the U.S. is long overdue.   

“This bill is far from perfect. We still need more funding for state, local, and tribal entities on the frontlines of COVID-19 who face extraordinarily difficult fiscal conditions. Individuals and families need to be further supported by expanding SNAP benefits, providing additional cash payments to the people, ensuring adequate protections for workers, and enhancing assistance for rent, mortgage, and utility payments. We also must fill the gaps in previous federal assistance by prioritizing support and eligibility for immigrants and making sure that vulnerable communities are not left behind in prevention and recovery efforts. As we pass this interim legislation, the House is working on the next relief package to provide comprehensive support to help combat the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) today released the following statement after the House passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help our health care and economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The emergency relief bill bolsters our capacity to sufficiently respond to the public health crisis and provides desperately needed support to individuals and families, small businesses, and workers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly burdened the entire health care system in Washington. This bill directs billions of dollars to hospitals and providers and state, local, and tribal governments on the front lines of protecting the health of our communities. It also makes investments to help ensure we increase production and capacity for critical medical equipment and supplies to care for patients and keep health care workers and first responders safe. 

“Required social distancing measures keep us safe and help prevent our hospitals from collapsing, but they have also had a devastating effect on the economy. This bill infuses billions of dollars for relief to small businesses to maintain payroll and pay rent while many of their businesses have been forced to close. As we have seen unemployment claims skyrocket, this legislation provides a historic expansion and enhancement of unemployment benefits. It increases the amount eligible workers receive each week, provides for an additional 13 weeks of benefits, and expands eligibility to include gig economy, part-time, and self-employed workers. We are also fulfilling our promise of putting money directly into the pockets of individuals and families who need it. The bill will provide immediate payments to low and middle-income Americans of $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child.

“This bill also recognizes that COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our society. It takes important steps to support schools, transit agencies, and other service providers that have been negatively impacted, and address challenges such as food security, homelessness, and childcare that have been exacerbated during this crisis.

“Today’s legislation also contains critical support for the Department of Defense. As we continue to grapple with this crisis, the DoD’s participation in the whole of government response is vital to our success.

“Specifically, the bill provides the DoD with the resources needed to sustain a significant deployment of National Guard troops supporting state responses to COVID-19 and purchase much-needed equipment and supplies under the Defense Production Act. And because our military’s greatest asset is our men and women in uniform, today’s bill also allocates nearly $4 billion for the Defense Health Program, $415 million of which will be dedicated to the research and development of vaccines and treatments.

“While this third relief package is another important step in combatting the impacts of the pandemic, it will not be the last action Congress takes. I greatly appreciate the input from organizations and constituents across the district over the last few weeks and look forward to continuing to work with the community to alleviate the impact of this public health crisis.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA-09) and the entire Washington congressional delegation including U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd), Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA, 5th), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA, 3rd), Suzan K. DelBene (D-WA, 1st), Denny Heck (D-WA, 10th), Derek Kilmer (D-WA, 6th), Dan Newhouse (R-WA, 4th), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA, 7th), and Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA, 8th) today sent a letter urging FEMA to provide sufficient and appropriate medical personnel and equipment as part of any field hospitals and clinics being deployed to Washington for the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Many other states and cities are projected to face shortcomings in their health care system; Washington is facing a crisis now. Hospitals in our State are already overwhelmed by the exponential growth in hospitalizations related to COVID-19. As the first and hardest hit region in the country by COVID-19 to date, the health care workforce in Washington has only been further strained,” the members wrote.

“Washington desperately needs additional bed capacity, but just as vital is that this additional capacity be accompanied by federal medical personnel and equipment. Anything short of this greatly jeopardizes the ability for Washington’s health care system to meet the urgent and growing needs of our communities.”

Read the full letter HERE and below:

Dear Administrator Gaynor:

We urge you to provide sufficient and appropriate medical personnel and equipment as part of the Mission Assignment for any field hospitals and clinics being deployed to Washington to ensure they will be fully staffed and equipped. We appreciate the additional bed capacity that we understand is set to be deployed to Washington, however, it will fail to meet the State’s needs and the federal government’s goals in deploying such assets if it does not include additional medical personnel and equipment.

In particular, we strongly urge you to work closely with Secretary Esper in determining how military medical personnel may be used as part of this effort. The Military Health System has a mission to maintain a ready medical force that is prepared to respond to the full spectrum of military operations. This includes humanitarian missions.

Many other states and cities are projected to face shortcomings in their health care system; Washington is facing a crisis now. Hospitals in our State are already overwhelmed by the exponential growth in hospitalizations related to COVID-19. Washington has just 1.7 hospital beds per 1,000 residents, significantly below the national average of 2.4 beds per 1,000 residents.

Part of the reason we believed it was critical to send the U.S.N.S. Mercy to the Puget Sound region is that it would come already staffed. Washington already faces an insufficient number of health care providers to handle the COVID-19 outbreak. Washington’s Registered Nurse (RN) to population ratio of 781 to 100,000 is well below the national average of 825 RNs to 100,000 population. Over 2,200,000 people in Washington live in a designated Primary Care Professional Shortage Area. Twenty-two percent of licensed physicians currently practice in other states, and twenty-five percent of RNs have a Washington license but do not practice in Washington.

As the first and hardest hit region in the country by COVID-19 to date, the health care workforce in Washington has only been further strained. The number of available nurses and physicians has decreased due to fatigue and illness caused by the outbreak. It is estimated that 35 percent of physicians are married to other physicians and have childcare responsibilities. Furthermore, an estimated 75 percent of nurses must either care for a child and/or an elderly relative at home. The necessary closure of schools and impact of the outbreak has led many of these health care workers to have to stay home to care for themselves and their families. The shortage of health care personnel in Washington resulting from the severity of the State’s COVID-19 outbreak is one that we desperately need the federal government to supplement.

As we wrote to President Trump on March 18, hospitals in the Puget Sound region will soon have to implement crisis care standards and make excruciating decisions about care rationing. Our State and local health agencies have taken extreme actions and exhausted every avenue to support our hospitals. But without urgent federal action, our state will see a near total collapse of hospitals in Washington like we have seen in other places such as Italy.

We understand that a 148-bed field hospital with medical staff is being prepared to deploy to Washington from Fort Carson. As you know, this initial deployment is still far short of the 1,000 beds and staff that would have come with the U.S.N.S. Mercy. We request a timeline for exactly when the deployment from Fort Carson will be operational in Washington and when a decision about additional deployments of beds and medical personnel from federal agencies to Washington will be made.

Washington desperately needs additional bed capacity, but just as vital is that this additional capacity be accompanied by federal medical personnel and equipment. Anything short of this greatly jeopardizes the ability for Washington’s health care system to meet the urgent and growing needs of our communities.

Sincerely,

cc:       The Honorable Mike Pence, Vice President, United States of America

            The Honorable Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense

            The Honorable Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services

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