The time to contain the spread of the coronavirus is now, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall said, urging Americans to stay home if they are sick and decrease in-person social contact.
“I just think each community needs to do what’s best for them, but this is the time to jump on top of this virus,” said Marshall, the Republican representative for Kansas’ 1st Congressional District. “It won’t do any good for the county next to you to shut down and then Riley County doesn’t shut things down, and we just keep passing it back and forth. This is the time we got to hop on top of this.”
The congressman and former practicing physician spoke with The Mercury Wednesday over the phone after he recently voted on Saturday to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law Wednesday night.
Marshall said the law targets supporting hourly wage earners, blue collar workers and small businesses.
“Let’s say you worked at a bar in Aggieville — I used to work at Kite’s,” he said. “If you get laid off for a couple weeks, this allows Kite’s to pay that waiter or waitress for those two weeks, and they’ll get a tax credit toward it.”
Other notable impacts included in the bill are:
• $500 million in additional funding for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program
• $400 million in additional funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program
• $82 million in additional funding for the Defense Health Program
• $250 million in additional funding for food programs, including home delivery food programs, for the elderly and disabled
• Waivers to some requirements for school lunch programs
• Waivers to work requirements to be eligible for SNAP food programs
• New, temporary requirements that employers with more than 20 employees offer some paid sick leave time to their employees
• Extensions to, and additional funds for, unemployment benefits
• Free COVID-19 testing without co-pays or deductibles
Following Gov. Laura Kelly’s recent decision to close K-12 school buildings for the rest of the school year, halt mortgage foreclosures and evictions, and ban gatherings of more than 50 people, Marshall said he would rather people exercise an overabundance of caution at the moment.
“We have to assume that the virus is out in every community,” he said. “I hope there’s not, but we have to assume that. Kids and young adults, they’re super infectors so if one child has the virus, they’re going to transmit it a bunch more often than say an older person who just doesn’t have as many social contacts. Think of senior citizens, for the sake of people with illnesses.
“I hope in a couple of weeks you can say we did too much,” Marshall continued, “but I think right now, it’s so critical that this is the acceleration phase of the spread of this virus. Every virus we prevent spreading today is going to prevent dozens in the future and save many, many Kansas lives.”
This was the second bill passed this month designed to limit the pandemic’s impact.
The first was a $8.3 billion congressional deal to boost the country’s production of testing kits and expedite development of an antiviral treatment drug and a vaccine to prevent outbreak. It also included funding for Kansas to track people who may have come in contact with the virus and more than $1 billion for overseas responses to the virus.
While the federal government has been working on solutions to mitigate the virus’ spread and impact, Marshall said the issue will have to ultimately be solved at the community level.
“I think that I’ve done everything humanly possible to get the word out,” he said. “Some people pay heed to the warnings and some don’t. Some communities did better, but it’s never too late to start. We all have a responsibility in each community.”
Marshall advised people to stay home if they feel signs of illness and if they are part of a population more at-risk of developing serious illnesses from the disease, like those over the age of 60 and/or with underlying health conditions. If someone feels sick, he said they should contact their doctor to see about getting tested. Marshall also said people decrease social contact by not gathering in groups of more than 10 or, for example, not going out to restaurants and bars.
Marshall acknowledged that businesses, facilities and institutions may be hurting financially because of closures and less movement through the community, but “the best thing we can do for the economy right now is to keep Kansans healthy to get through this as quickly and as efficiently as possible.”
“You can choose to live in fear or you can choose to live in faith,” Marshall said. “We’ve been through harder times. Our grandparents went through the Great Depression, (we’ve gone through) the great recession of 2008. We’ve had the swine flu come through and killed 12,000 Americans. The seasonal flu has already killed 20,000 of Americans this year — we’re going to get through this. Each one of us can have a great impact by doing what the president’s asking us to do — stay home for a couple of days, minimize our exposure and stop the spread of this disease.”
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, there are 34 confirmed positive tests of the coronavirus in Kansas as of noon Thursday, most of which are located in the Johnson and Wyandotte counties.
One Kansas person, a man in his 70s who lived at a longterm care facility in Wyandotte County, has died from the virus.
Other cases have been found in Butler, Cherokee, Douglas, Franklin, Jackson, Leavenworth, Linn and Morris counties.