Op-Ed: Sen. Rick Scott
March 11, 2020
In April, my daughter is having a baby girl – the seventh grandchild for my wife Ann and I – and our first granddaughter. We are thrilled. But, as we get closer to the due date, the fear of the coronavirus is causing a lot of confusion and concern. The news from the hospital is constantly changing, the details around the delivery process are chaotic and it is unclear who will even have the opportunity to go to the hospital to meet her when she is born.
When I was governor of Florida, we faced hurricanes, a terrorist attack and the Zika virus. Through all of these crises, I learned that if one family is experiencing an issue there is often another family experiencing the same thing. Coronavirus is no different.
All around the country, different communities are responding in different ways and it is creating confusion and fear among the public. We are seeing some schools close while others stay open. Some companies are doing voluntary quarantines while others are restricting travel. I am getting questions every single day from constituents on what they should be doing.
For months, Communist China lied about the data, the spread of the virus, and their response. They silenced critics and those trying to alert the Chinese people to this public health crisis. The lack of usable data coming out of China meant we were behind the eight-ball by the time coronavirus reached the United States.
Thankfully, we’re starting to get better and more comprehensive data from Italy and South Korea, and I believe we need to look at what is happening in those countries to find the best practices that we can implement here. While we all hope coronavirus goes away, the odds are that it may get much worse before it gets better.
The virus is no longer related only to travel, and we are seeing it spread in communities in New York, Washington and my home state of Florida. Discussion in Washington has turned to an economic stimulus package. Let’s be very clear about this: the markets are not reacting to fundamental weaknesses in our economy. The markets are reacting to fear, uncertainty and the disruption of global supply chains. The best economic stimulus package is to stop the spread of coronavirus.
I believe it’s time to take bold action. We need to get ahead of the curve.
First, we need to enhance and scale the testing process so more people can get tested. Similar to what has been implemented in South Korea, we need to immediately open mobile testing sites where people can get tested using a drive-up window like a fast-food restaurant. Washington state has started doing this. Let’s do it nationwide. This will help isolate the at-risk population from the rest of American families.
Second, the United States should temporarily shut down all U.S. borders to foreign tourism. If Americans choose to go on an international trip, they must submit to a health screening and a 14-day quarantine upon their return to the United States. Containment is key.
Third, the federal government should issue guidelines to close all schools for 14 days in states where we are seeing local transmission and community spread.
Fourth, all hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and senior centers need to severely limit visits and everyone, including employees, must be screened when entering these facilities.
Fifth, when there is a new case of coronavirus that is linked to travel, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must release locations the individual visited before returning home, the airports they traveled through, relevant flight or train numbers and if there were any underlying conditions. This will allow people who may have been in contact to make better decisions about whether or not to quarantine themselves or get tested.
Sixth, government buildings need to be shut down to visitors, though high-priority and national security missions should remain open for officials and select staff. The critical functions of government must be able to function at all times, especially during a public health crisis.
Seventh, all hospitals need to prepare to halt elective procedures to ensure there are enough beds available for the sick.
Eighth, we should free up time and resources to ensure researchers can get a vaccine done quickly.
Finally, states need to follow the lead of New York and immediately start implementing containment zones across the nation, in consultation with federal officials. Governors should take aggressive action to keep residents healthy.
We can either take this on now with swift, aggressive action or potentially face long-term consequences. People’s lives depend on the decisions our government makes. Until we fully respond to this virus, we cannot address the many residual impacts it is having on our nation. Vice President Mike Pence and the Trump administration are working diligently to stop the spread of this virus – quickly banning travel from China limited the spread to the U.S. and certainly saved lives – but time is of the essence in any public health crisis.
The health and safety of American families is my focus here. As I saw dealing with hurricanes, a terrorist attack and the Zika outbreak as governor, a public health and safety crisis is not a partisan issue. Americans expect all of us to come together to find solutions to protect every family in our country.
Republican Rick Scott represents Florida in the United States Senate. He is the former governor of Florida.