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What we need to do next to defeat COVID and unify the country

November 12, 2020
Op-Ed and Letters

By Reps. John Larson and Joe Courtney

This piece orginally appeared in The Hill on November 12, 2020

In a time of crisis, the United States has always come together! We are now in the midst of a war! We are fighting a common enemy that gives no quarter and that attacks indiscriminately. It cares not if you are Republican or Democrat. Our enemy is COVID-19.

We need congressional action, an all-out effort to turn the tide of this war. We have already lost more than 238,000 Americans to the virus, which has infected more than 9 million Americans and caused unprecedented economic harm. Winning this war requires a national effort — not 50 individual states fighting their own battles, but 50 UNITED states working in coordination. We can do this by adopting a strategic plan directed by Congress and developed by our scientists, doctors, and experts.

No country is better equipped to defeat this virus than the United States. We have the resources, the doctors and experts, and the most resilient people. We know wearing masks and social distancing works. Now we need to enact legislation to deal with this crisis. Given the resources at our disposal there is no better organization than the U.S. military to execute the national coordination and logistical mobilization that will be required. Congress needs to act by supplying adequate use of resources so the military can carry out the mission.

We need to initiate and direct the president to use the Defense Production Act to authorize the production of ventilators, N-95 respirator masks, and all necessary personal protective equipment. The Defense Production Act was created in during the Korean War to be used in times in crisis to expand the production of the materials and supplies to protect our country. This pandemic is global and threatens our national wellbeing. We must ensure a national production of materials that are essential to helping our frontline workers combat this virus. Our frontline troops are our doctors, nurses, health care aides, first responders, and grocery clerks. We must ensure that our troops have the protective gear they need and that there are enough tests and equipment to conduct the tracing and treatment required to secure the health and well-being of our citizens.

To achieve this, we need an organized and efficient system to deliver the supplies and tests produced. There will be a vaccine, and when there is, it will need to be distributed efficiently and equitably across all 50 states, from big cities to rolling farms, and from coast to coast. Efforts like this will take the logistical expertise that the U.S. military is trained to execute and carry out. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is the Department of Defense’s logistics support agency whose mission is the acquisition, storage, and distribution of materials for our military across the nation and around the globe. They are situated strategically throughout the country. That’s why congressional action directing the Defense Logistics Agency in conjunction with the National Guard, governors, and mayors to distribute the vaccine, PPE, and other medical supplies is needed. Through the DLA we can secure a national supply chain and ensure we have the resources needed to reach all Americans in a timely manner.

Increasing the production of supplies, nationalizing the supply chain, continuing to wear masks, and social distance will defeat this common enemy and overcome this crisis. We implore Democrats and Republican members to come together as a Congress and act, demonstrating by example to the world how to contain, control, and defeat COVID-19. We need to put everything else aside and put the health of the American people and the health of our economy first .... and get this done.

John Larson represents Connecticut’s 1st District and Joe Courtney represents Connecticut’s 2nd District.