Weekly Democratic Address
April 17, 2020
Hello, my name is Congressman Bennie Thompson from the 2nd District of Mississippi. I serve as the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security.
The coronavirus pandemic is one of the most challenging adversaries our country has faced. Many Americans have faced unimaginable grief. Millions of families are unsure about their future. All Americans have changed their daily lives and are worried about the health of our loved ones.
We must thank the thousands of health care workers, first responders and other essential workers who are helping us get through this. They are our heroes. I also thank all of you for following social distancing guidelines and for following the orders of your home states. While there are many challenges ahead, we are hoping that the darkest days may be behind us.
But before we move forward, we must get to the truth. The truth is that the response to this pandemic has not been as stellar as the President keeps repeating. The truth is that there is much more we need to fix now to get it right.
First is testing. Congress worked together over six weeks ago to pass legislation for better testing. Despite promises from the Administration on testing since the beginning of March, we are still behind on testing. This has hurt our ability to get ahead of the virus.
So far, only one percent of the country has been tested.
We hear stories every day about people waiting in line overnight to get tested. We hear processing backlogs mean many don’t get results for weeks. And this week, fewer were tested than last week. This is not right.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen no leadership from the President. He is quick to put all blame and responsibility for testing on the states. This is not true and is not the American way. The truth is, we need a whole-of-government response for a nationwide crisis. All our states are in crisis and need federal assistance. The truth is, without widespread testing, we cannot resume our lives.
Next, with proper testing, we must also compile the necessary data on how COVID-19 is affecting different communities.
It has become clear that this disease disproportionately impacts communities of color.
If we want to address disparities in outcomes and move forward, we need the Administration to work with states to document the relevant data and share it.
We also must make sure that our health care workers and first responders have the necessary PPE and medical supplies and equipment they still need.
We had an emergency response system at the ready to properly, quickly and equitably distribute supplies. However, the Administration has upended this system, putting political actors where experienced professionals once were. Their efforts have been wrought with chaos, delays and accusations of political bias.
States were told they were on their own – only to see the Administration outbidding them and rerouting their shipments. No state should have to compete with other states or the Federal government to get what they need.
If we are to succeed in this crisis and work together, we must use the truth as our guide. While we have hard days ahead, we must rely on science and data and follow the directions of the health experts and doctors.
What we do in the coming weeks will be key to our recovery. You can be sure that House Democrats will continue to use the truth, as we put workers and families first.
Thank you for listening and be safe.