This week, Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), along with Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Peter Welch (D-VT) will introduce the Reopen America Act (RAA), legislation to establish a comprehensive, science-based national plan to re-open the U.S. economy through federal-state collaboration while aggressively protecting the public health against recurring COVID-19 outbreaks.
The RAA’s is rooted in the understanding that two public health conditions must be met for America to reopen safely and durably: 1) social distancing must have lowered infection rates sufficiently to allow hospitals to properly care for the infected population and 2) public health safeguards must be able to keep transmission rates below one.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented disruptions to the fabric of American society, commerce, and public health,” said Rep. Shalala. “This legislation would guarantee that we take a science-based approach to make sure that our country has the right plans, tools and resources in place to resume normal life safely and permanently.”
“Although our present social distancing is a necessary public health measure, it is critical to the livelihood of hundreds of millions of Americans that we reopen our economy and social life as soon as we can,” said Rep. Raskin. “To reopen America, we must ensure that expanded free testing, contact tracing and strict public health safeguards are firmly in place so that Americans will remain safe and re-spiking infection rates do not compel yet another sudden economy-shattering closure.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged communities and drastically harmed our economy,” said Rep. Jeffries. “While we haven’t gotten to the end of this crisis, we must start preparing to reopen America in a way that protects public health, restores the economy and takes science-based measures into account. In order to ensure that we can safely resume daily life, we need robust testing, comprehensive contact testing and other safeguards to protect the health of the American people. That is why I am proud to join Rep. Jamie Raskin and my colleagues in introducing legislation to help create a comprehensive plan to beat the virus and restart our economy.”
“We’re at a defining moment in our nation’s battle against COVID-19,” said Rep Eshoo. “Our collective decision-making about how and when to begin reopening our country should be informed by trusted health data and science, not politics. The Reopen America Act will help ensure we’re approaching this important decision in a responsible way that prioritizes public health and the safety of each and every American.”
“Now is the time to be looking ahead and preparing for the next phase of this pandemic – when and how to reopen the country,” said Rep. Welch. “We need a clear and robust strategy to reopen the country based on sound expert advice, so we can begin to help our small businesses, communities and families pick up the pieces from this devastating pandemic. Congress must provide the strategy and resources necessary for states to reopen for business while protecting their citizens. Our legislation would do that by implementing proven public health strategies from around the world, including ubiquitous testing and contact tracing throughout the country.”
If signed into law, the Reopen America Act would require all fifty states, territories, and the District of Columbia to submit reopening plans to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Upon approval of a state’s plan by the Secretary of HHS, the federal government will reimburse the state for the costs of implementation, including more testing to screen for the infected, purchasing personal protective equipment, paying personnel, improving information systems, and expanding contact tracing.
The RAA also creates a federal Health Equipment Production Board to mobilize increased production of tests, protective equipment, ventilators, and effective medical treatments that will be necessary to reopen in a way that puts public health first, The Board can also reimburse states that group together and collaborate with each other in order to spur industry to scale up the necessary supplies.