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Senator John Barrasso discusses federal response to COVID-19 and CARES Act

U.S. Senator for Wyoming John Barrasso says the federal government has been diligently working to try and save as many lives as possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic and how the CARES Act is a lifeline to the struggling economy.

He recalls discussing the eventual pandemic on Fox News during impeachment hearings. While it may have felt it hit the United States “overnight”, he believes Wyoming is doing the right thing with social distancing in place.

“Wash your hands thoroughly,” Barrasso said. “If you’re having symptoms call the healthcare providers.”

As of Monday evening over 3,900 tests were completed with 212 confirmed cases in the state. Lincoln County has four confirmed cases.

Possible timeline for reopening parts of the state

Barrasso says he has spoken with President Donald Trump and he says the number one priority is the health and safety of the American people.

“We also talked about what it’s like once we get through this,” Barrasso said. “As he (the President) knows the virus makes the timeline, not us.”

He also says Trump mentioned that the country as a whole cannot be treated as an on-off switch and there may be pockets of the nation you can open at different times.

Barrasso says he was on a conference call with all the CEO’s of the hospitals of Wyoming and a separate call with over 100 doctors. The concern they all have is if the medical system will be overwhelmed if this is a wave. He says there are some counties in the state where people have had to be put in the ICU and put on ventilators, but it hasn’t gotten to the point of exhausting the capacity.

“But it’s real and it’s here,” Barrasso said. “We just have to do proper social distancing and doing all the right things and try not to get the spike they had in New York.”

He says the federal government has concerns about New York, Louisiana, and Michigan. He says the focus for Wyoming is if this is a wave making sure it just washes over the state.

Economic and healthcare relief as Congress passes CARES Act

Barrasso says the $2 trillion CARES Act bill makes sure that the medical personnel has the relief they need for the COVID-19 battle. He also says this means getting things produced and distributed properly.

“So you can get it into the hands of the men and women on the front lines in the hospitals,” Barrasso said. “You have a lot of people working very hard just to keep the community healthy and we need to make sure they have the personal protective equipment that they need.”

He says this funding also supports testing and the research into developing a vaccine. Then there is the financial relief aspect for the American people. Every man and woman will receive a $1,200 payment if you make less than $75,000 and $2,400 if you filed jointly and make less than $150,000. This also includes $500 payments for every child in the household.

The Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said last week those who file taxes with direct deposit should see the money within the next week or so. Those who will be waiting for a check in the mail could wait a little while longer.

Barrasso says he understands the dilemma this has created for small business owners as well as they try to do their part by closing.

“They wish they were opened,” Barrasso said. “They wish they were going to work today as do all the workers in Wyoming and that’s who we are. We’re independent, we’re resilient, we’re self-reliant, and we would rather work.”

He says the money is to keep employees on the payroll and to help keep up on rent payments and such. This way when the pandemic is stabilizedy, businesses will be able to immediately re-open.

He also says he understands the concern of the debt when speaking of passing the largest funding bill in the history of the United States. He says we need to handle the current crisis and this is a rescue operation. He compared it to an EMT responding to an emergency and we have to focus on protecting the country.

Small business owners can apply for the loan directly through the banks. The lending institutions will work directly with the Small Business Administration. He says one thing to note is the department was never set up to help every small business at the same time.

“So their capacity to do it is more limited,” Barrasso said. “That’s why they’re working with local banks in your community.”

He also says until we can get the medical component behind us, we will not see a full economic wake up.

Vaccine and Treatment for COVID-19

The Wyoming senator also says there is a lot of work being done right now to see what treatments can be used to help provide relief from the symptoms of the virus. They are looking at medicines already being used. They are looking at medicine used for malaria, aids, ebola, and hepatitis. This is not as a cure, but just to help people recover faster.

“They are also doing research on coming up with a new medicine,” Barrasso said. “To treat specifically the virus, but that’s going to take some time and testing. We’re really trying to focus on things that are already out there.”

Barrasso says it takes a lot of time for a vaccine to be developed. He says there are scenarios where coming up with a vaccine for a virus takes years and some where no medical professional was able to develop a vaccination. He says anytime you are administering something to millions of people, you need to make sure it works.

“The idea of a vaccine is you get it and then your body builds up an immunity,” Barrasso said. “So if the disease like the flu shot or if it comes toward you then you don’t get the disease or if you get it, it’s a lessened level of intensity.

“You need to make sure that you have it and then you’ve got to give it to some people and let them see if they build up an immunity and basically expose them to the virus and see if they get sick or not. These are not easy things to just say before you have to give it to 300 million people.”

Testing availability

He also says he would like to make the tests available for many more people. One problem with the tests is getting the results back. This is because you have to send it to a lab and that takes a day or so and sometimes up to four days.

“We’re not at the point where mass testing can be done,” Barrasso said. “As a doctor I know there are people who have probably had it, got the virus, built up the resistance, don’t even know that they were impacted at one time or another, but they could still be carriers.”

He says the virus is mean and its sticky. However, he says there is work being developed on getting results much quicker.

Barrasso also says that the reason for the social distancing is you do not want to see what’s happening in New York in your community. However, he has appreciated learning stories of people helping people around the state.

“We’re strong, we’re resilient, we’re independent, we’ll get through this,” Barrasso said.

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