WASHINGTON, D.C.Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) released the following statement tonight following the President’s address to the nation on the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak:

“We need competent, high-level leadership from this Administration to help move us through this public health and economic crisis. Economic assistance and bailouts will amount to nothing if we do not act now on the most important issue at hand: protecting the health and safety of the American people. We must take the necessary actions to address deficiencies within our health care system and reevaluate the insufficient response to the coronavirus epidemic.

“First, we must accelerate the availability and capacity for testing. While progress has been made in the state of Washington on this front with new labs opening to conduct more and more tests each day, the ability for individuals to get tested by their health care provider is still inadequate. This will only get worse as the virus spreads. The president failed to even mention testing during his speech tonight.

“Second, we must provide support to our already strained health care system. This means proactively making available existing resources and boosting medical supply chain capacity to ensure hospitals, providers, and public health agencies have the supplies, equipment, and personnel they need to care for our communities. To minimize strain on hospitals and provides, we also must have a whole-of-government approach to educating the public and implementing mitigation measures such as social distancing. 

“Lastly, in parallel, it is essential that we support individuals, families, and small businesses who may struggle with significant financial burdens during this health crisis. Deferring tax payments or putting a pause on payroll taxes is woefully insufficient. Congress should expand unemployment insurance, guarantee paid sick leave, make emergency small business loans available, and take immediate action to put money and resources directly in the hands of impacted people who need to pay rent and put food on the table for themselves and their families.

“COVID-19 is here. Travel restrictions will not change that. Public health officials and leaders throughout Washington State are working night and day to respond to this crisis. It is imperative we have the leadership from this Administration that reflects the gravity of this crisis and dedication required to effectively respond.”