U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., held her third telephone town hall on Wednesday to answer questions from constituents regarding the most recent developments on the coronavirus, including the relief package that was negotiated by the U.S. Senate earlier that day and passed Wednesday night, and the resources available to constituents in District 12.
Congress has already passed two smaller coronavirus bills to help bolster the economy, but the third is a nearly $2 trillion package that aims to help stabilize the U.S. economy in the months to come.
Dingell talked with constituents alongside Carolyn Wilson, chief operating officer and executive vice president at Beaumont Health, and Romy Ancog, the regional export finance manager at the Small Business Administration in Detroit.
Dingell opened by emphasizing the importance of staying home and how everyone is needed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“This is real and diligence on the part of everyone is needed right now, and this is not a partisan time,” Dingell said. “The number one priority besides PPE (personal protective equipment) is to address this health crisis. It requires a Marshall Plan that we have to keep our health care infrastructure strong, and we are going to have to rebuild it to ensure that the resources are there to test and treat everyone who needs it.”
Wilson noted that many cases of COVID-19 are mild, and symptoms — which can include fever, fatigue and dry cough — can often be managed without seeking medical care.
“Most people do very well with their management of these symptoms at home,” Wilson said. “There is a minority of patients who do require intervention if those symptoms get moderate or severe and we would encourage you if you do have mild symptoms to stay at home and quarantined as the governor has asked us to do.”
Ancog discussed the focus of the SBA during this time and encouraged small business and nonprofit owners to apply for loans.
“(We are focused on) how it can help business owners get through this very difficult time,” Ancog said. “These loans are available for any small business or nonprofit whether it was affected directly or indirectly by this virus.”
Dingell also acknowledged the need to “flatten the curve,” or slow the spread of the virus enough to ensure the nation’s hospitals are not overwhelmed.
“If we’re going to take the peak and lower it, we have to get to a hump and that means we have to stop going out and it’s really hard, but we have to do that,” Dingell said. “The bill that we hopefully will get more details on tonight — Schumer called it unemployment on steroids — part of it is going to try to fully replace wages for four months.”
Another constituent from Wyandotte asked about the availability and options for overflow hospital beds.
“When we are concerned about capacity, it’s for specific reasons,” Wilson said. “When they get sick, and it’s a small percentage, but they need special resources like ventilators and dialysis machines, the personal protective equipment to protect our employees … and specific staff (such as) physicians, emergency room and ICU nurses and respiratory therapists. The hospitals that are in the state of Michigan, we have beds, and we aren’t at a point now where we need to open more hospitals, (but) we need the resources within our current hospitals.”
An Ann Arbor senior citizen called in regarding the White House’s recent calls for a quick return to normalcy for the economy and concerns despite advice from health experts and economists. The caller asked about the well-being of the elderly should President Donald Trump’s plan be put into action.
“We do not want to be political, but the scientists need to run this,” Dingell said. “And the good news is that the governor in every state will be the one to dictate what will happen in that state and our governor is very aware of what the health care and the scientist recommendations are.”
A Dingell constituent and physician at the University of Michigan Hospital and the Veterans Affairs Hospital discussed the lack of personal protective equipment.
“I will tell you that every member of this delegation’s number one priority is not even passing this bill, it is getting PPE supplies that we need,” Dingell said. “We’re going to start to have companies inside Michigan that are very quickly going to start (producing them). Chrysler can do one million masks a week, Ford’s doing the plastic face covers and GM’s trying to get up on ventilators.”
An Ann Arbor resident asked about outdoor safety during the outbreak.
“Yes, we are encouraging people to walk and getting fresh air is good,” Wilson said. “You can walk without a mask, we would encourage you to just follow social distancing and keep your distance from others.”
Dingell discussed the integrity of U.S. financial institutions, assuring constituents that their money is safe in the bank.
“We cannot have a panic right now, and together we are going to get through this,” Dingell said. “What we have to focus on right now is mitigating this crisis as long as there is a danger of this spreading. People are not going to feel safe … right now people need to know that they can trust our institutions and our government is going to make sure those banks are safe, your money is insured.”
Dingell concluded her town hall meeting by emphasizing again the importance of working together during this time.
“Let’s all stay together,” Dingell said. “ … We can do it together.”
Daily Staff Reporter Sarah Payne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.