Raskin Urges Federal Government Getting Back to ‘The Basic Idea of the Constitution’

The Reopen America Act of 2020 (RAA), introduced by U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) on April 17, includes the creation of the Coronavirus Health Equipment Production Board, Raskin said during a press call Friday.

The board will evaluate supplies and equipment needs and obtain and distribute such equipment. 

Raskin said the federal government pushed states into a vicious competition for the supplies they need, like personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators, instead of leading and coordinating with states to help procure them.

He said America needs to follow the Constitution. 

“The whole reason we have a constitution is so the federal government can overcome those tensions and instead provide the leadership that the whole country needs. So we’ve got to get back to the basic idea of the constitution,” Raskin said.

“We have waited for the president to provide that leadership and I’m afraid to say it’s not there. So Congress has to lead, we have to pass legislation that organizes it for the federal government.”

Raskin said COVID-19 testing is key to reopening America

“This has been the achilles heel of the administration’s response to the crisis from the beginning,” he said. 

“We need dramatically expanded testing, we need dramatically expanded contact tracing. We need to have the proper social distancing and isolation and treatment protocol that have been central to the success of other countries.”

On April 17, Raskin introduced the RAA with Florida U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala and other representatives. Under the act, the federal government will take a leading role, working with states to help them develop plans to open, and then help fund and enforce the plans, he said. 

There are two scientific criteria in the act that control when a state is ready to implement a plan for reopening: transmission rate and hospital capacity. The transmission rate of COVID-19 must be below one, which means the average person with the illness is infecting no more than one person, Raskin said Friday. This would mean the illness is on a downward slope. Hospital capacity must meet needs without being overrun and overwhelmed. 

When these criteria are met and social distancing is successful and still ongoing, then states will be ready to apply for reopening. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar will accept a plan, and he has a scientific advisory panel that will help improve the plan. 

Once a plan to reopen schools, commerce and social life while still including strict public health guidelines and rigid testing and contact tracing is ready, then it can begin to be implemented, with funding from the federal government.

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Maryam Shahzad

About Maryam Shahzad

Maryam is a reporter with Montgomery Community Media. She graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019 with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism. Previously, she was an intern with MCM. She can be reached at mshahzad@mymcmedia.org or on Twitter @maryam_mcm.


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