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Led by U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Representative Kim Schrier, Washington state’s Democratic Congressional Delegation sent a new letter to Vice President Mike Pence in pursuit of a comprehensive strategy to ramp up testing in Washington state and across the country

Lawmakers: “As communities across the country need accurate information to make decisions about next steps, not having a coordinated evidence-based testing strategy is a recipe for disaster” 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Led by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate health committee, and U.S. Representative Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA, 8th), today the Washington state Democratic Congressional Delegation sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence requesting that the Trump Administration devise a plan to significantly increase testing capabilities in Washington state and across the country and develop a strong national testing system. The letter follows the passage of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which invested $25 billion in COVID-19 testing and requires the federal government to develop a plan to scale up testing. Senator Murray and Representative Schrier were joined on the letter by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), as well as Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA, 9th), Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd), Suzan K. DelBene (D-WA, 1st), Denny Heck (D-WA, 10th), Derek Kilmer (D-WA, 6th), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA, 7th).

“Public health officials in Washington state and across the country require a strong testing system to get the information they need to determine when our states and communities can begin eventual reductions in social distancing efforts without compromising public health,” the lawmakers wrote. “As communities across the country need accurate information to make decisions about next steps, not having a coordinated evidence-based testing strategy is a recipe for disaster.”

The lawmakers continued: “It is essential the federal government build and support a strong national testing system that resolves supply chain challenges, synthesizes epidemiological data at a national level, and provides states with support to increase testing capacity. Diseases do not respect borders and they do not respect state lines. For any state to effectively protect their citizens from COVID-19, every state must do so.”

Despite public health leaders, health care providers, and communities across the state calling for increased testing for some time, Washington state has not received the support it needs from the federal government to meet testing needs. Currently, the U.S. is conducting roughly 350,000 fewer tests per day than experts anticipate the country will need to monitor and contain COVID-19. A severe lack of testing materials, including swabs, reagent, and personal protective equipment, is a significant reason for the testing shortfall. Only the federal government is equipped to address these coordination and supply chain challenges nationwide. With recent legislation dedicating $25 billion exclusively for testing, the lawmakers emphasized that the Trump Administration must create a plan to utilize these funds as quickly and effectively as possible to help states procure the necessary materials and increase testing capacity so they can get the information they need to make critical decisions about how and when to safely reopen. This letter follows Senator Murray’s calls for a nationwide testing plan and her proposed roadmap to dramatically expand testing that she released earlier this month.

Read full letter below or HERE.

April 27, 2020

The Honorable Michael R. Pence

Vice President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. Vice President:

We write to you today regarding the need for a comprehensive, national strategy for COVID-19 testing, following enactment of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which invested $25 billion in COVID-19 testing and called for a national testing strategy to increase domestic testing capacity, address disparities, and provide assistance and resources to States, localities, territories, and Tribes. Public health officials in Washington state and across the country require a strong testing system to get the information they need to determine when our states and communities can begin eventual reductions in social distancing efforts without compromising public health. As communities across the country need accurate information to make decisions about next steps, not having a coordinated evidence-based testing strategy is a recipe for disaster.

Communities in Washington state, as well as public health leaders, laboratories, hospitals, and health care workers on the ground, are concerned the current testing system is not strong enough to begin lifting social distancing requirements. Furthermore, experts anticipate we may need a minimum of 500,000 tests per day to effectively monitor and contain the virus.  Some estimates are much higher.  Currently, we are only running approximately 150,000 tests per day nationwide.  

That difference of roughly 350,000 tests daily is significant and concerning. A large portion of this shortfall stems from national shortages in supplies like swabs, reagent, transport media, and personal protective equipment health care providers and laboratorians need to obtain and handle samples; only the federal government is equipped to fully address that shortfall. Without those supplies, public health workers and health care providers cannot obtain the samples to utilize the full laboratory capacity in Washington state. For example, Governor Inslee detailed recently that Washington state is working to obtain 2.5 million test collection kits to support our public health officials and health care workers in the response, but has thus far been unable to find enough supply to meet those needs. We know our state is not alone in experiencing these barriers.

The country’s ability to move forward hinges on resolving these bottlenecks in order to be able to administer widespread testing. While state and local leaders can and should lead the coordination of efforts to contain COVID-19 in their communities, they cannot resolve problems that demand national coordination. It is essential the federal government build and support a strong national testing system that resolves supply chain challenges, synthesizes epidemiological data at a national level, and provides states with support to increase testing capacity. Diseases do not respect borders and they do not respect state lines. For any state to effectively protect their citizens from COVID-19, every state must do so.

We urge the Administration to quickly issue a comprehensive strategic plan to address testing in the United States and move rapidly to build out this system.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  

Sincerely,

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