WEST CHESTER, PA — State Senator Andy Dinniman today called on fellow lawmakers to put politics aside and all levels of government to work together in the ongoing response to the unprecedented COVID-19 public health crisis.
Dinniman’s comments came following a lengthy debate over important legislation, including Senate Bill 613, which calls for reopening businesses and lifting some of the health restrictions imposed by the governor at the onset of the outbreak.
Senate Bill 613 requires the governor to immediately plan to allow businesses to reopen provided that they conform with the Centers for Disease Control and Federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s guidance. Those guidelines would replace the governor’s list of life-sustaining business.
The legislation passed the House and Senate along party lines. It now goes to the governor whose administration has expressed strong opposition. Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine wrote that “reopening a significant amount of businesses would be reckless and irresponsible.”
Today, Dinniman released the following statement:
“Today’s Senate session was like a choreographed dance. Before it began, everyone knew how it would turn out. The Republicans rejected the Democrats’ omnibus amendment. The bill passed along party lines. The governor will likely veto it and the majority lacks the votes to override the veto.
“Now, we are at a crucial moment in time. It is time to take a good look at ourselves as a people. First, let’s reflect on our response to September 11, 2001 – nearly 20 years ago when we came together and united as a people in the wake of an unprecedented terrorist attack.
“The current COVID-19 public health crisis is just as, if not more, impactful than the 9/11 attacks. And it calls on us to come together and unite just as, if not more, strongly than we did then.
“Ultimately, our response isn’t only being hindered by the political partisanship – we’re being held back by disputes and conflicts between levels of government.
“For instance, there is no question that we need to rapidly deploy more widespread testing and contact tracing. In absence of a vaccine or cure, these are our best medical tools to combat this virus.
“Chester County purchased thousands of point-of-contact blood serum tests for essential employees including those in senior care facilities, Chester County Prison, and emergency first responders.
“The Chester County Commissioners received approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to obtained and deploy these tests in late March. These tests detect the antibodies developed in response to the virus, which is crucial because not everyone displays symptoms.
“Test results are available in about 15 to 30 minutes. They are not meant to replace existing testing, but to supplement them where they’re not widely available and where results face long delays.
“While the tests have been successfully utilized at senior care facilities and the prison in conjunction with high-level labs, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is now refusing to let the county use its lab to verify and confirm these tests.
“In an April 7 letter, the department indicated that its lab could not be used because the tests are not yet FDA approved. Meanwhile, the FDA has recently approved other serum tests.
“As part of the omnibus amendment, we attempted to amend to Senate Bill 631 today, I include a measure to require the Pennsylvania Department of Health to support such testing efforts.
“Unfortunately, that amendment failed. So, here we have political disputes furthering bureaucratic disputes. Altogether, they’re holding up testing for our emergency first responders when we need it though
“This is not meant to be a criticism of Dr. Levine, whom I greatly respect, but rather an observation that is indicative of the obstacles we must face head-on if we are to overcome this virus.
“I do not doubt Chester County Commissioners, who are to be commended for their efforts, will work together with various partners to find a solution and get these tests to our emergency first responders.
“The point is we can and must come together to overcome these challenges. If we do – if we put politics aside, listen to each other, and work together we can conquer coronavirus and become the greatest generation of the 21st century.”
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