We all have a role in responsibly re-opening the economy | Rick Scott

April 23, 2020

Tampa Bay Times
Op-Ed: Sen. Rick Scott
April 23, 2020

As Americans discuss how to safely re-open the economy, in accordance with guidance from public health officials, one thing needs to be clear: We all have a part to play. State and local governments, business owners, families and federal agencies all have a role. If all of us take responsibility and create a clear plan, we can put our country and our economy back on a path to recovery.

The federal government plays a significant role in funding and supporting efforts to rebuild our economy. But we can’t rely solely on the federal government. Health care is a local delivery system in this country and all level of government, the private sector, and individual families play a role.

The federal government must support efforts by state and local governments to expand testing capacity, including monoclonal antibody testing and contact tracing. Anyone who wants to be tested should be able to get tested. Period. There is no excuse anymore.

While the federal government works with states and the private sector to produce widely available rapid tests, it also must do everything in its power to support the research and expedited development of a coronavirus vaccine. When the vaccine becomes available, it needs to be free to all Americans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health must also develop responsible guidelines for individuals and businesses to go about their daily lives, and provide criteria to health care providers so they can re-start elective procedures. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security should develop and maintain American-made national stockpiles of personal protective equipment that can be used during a nationwide pandemic. FEMA should work with the CDC to update guidance on how federal and local emergency mangers can keep their communities safe, particularly as hurricane season approaches. The Small Business Administration and the Department of Treasury must provide more clarity to banks and small businesses about the Paycheck Protection Program and protect against potential fraud.

But the federal government is not the only player. States and local communities need to build their own stockpiles of PPE and redirect health care resources to existing and potential hot spots. Governors and state agencies need to consistently monitor senior centers due to their increased risk from coronavirus. State Departments of Education need to give clear guidance about this school year, summer classes, and the 2020-2021 school year, so parents and teachers can develop the best plans for student success.

And states must understand that they should not and cannot rely on federal dollars to back-fill their budgets for lost revenue. States need to create contingency budget plans that protect the most important functions of government, and they need to evaluate their budgets to make sure they’re supporting the long-term recovery of vulnerable industries.

Business owners – large and small – and American families also need to do their part to plan for our economic recovery. Ultimately, it’s up to consumers themselves, not government, to decide when our economy gets back to its former strength. When Americans feel comfortable going to their favorite restaurant, flying on a plane, going to the movies, or going back to their job, our economy will be back.

That means every family must start thinking about what precautions they, their employer or their favorite businesses should take. Families need to make sure they have access to programs that address their direct needs. And business owners must ask themselves: Is proper social distancing possible in my store or factory? Do I have the necessary PPE and sanitizing products? Am I going to test employees and customers who enter or take everyone’s temperatures?

Sadly, even if we are successful at re-opening our economy, it will not prevent the spread of future viruses and global pandemics. When that time comes we cannot rely on countries like China. Their failed supply chain hurt our ability to protect American health care workers, which is why I proposed a bill that would require the American stockpile of PPE to be rebuilt with American-made products. And whenever any one of us purchases products made in China, we have to remember that we are supporting the Chinese Communist Party and its efforts to control the world and destroy freedom.

We can and we will come back better and stronger than before. America has faced many challenges in our 244-year history and we’ve always overcome them. It will not be easy – it will take strategic foresight, determination and diligence, and most importantly a commitment from everyone, but I know that after we heal the sick, we can also heal our broken economy and get back to work.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott is a Republican from Florida.