Mar 23, 2020 3:28 PM

MARSHALL: Doctor's Note March 23

Posted Mar 23, 2020 3:28 PM
First Dist. Congressman Roger Marshall (R-KS), Great Bend
First Dist. Congressman Roger Marshall (R-KS), Great Bend

Friends,

I am committed to ensuring workers and families have the support they need during this uncertain time. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a bill that was signed into law by President Trump last  week, follows through on that. As a result of the Trump Administration’s efforts, substantial improvements were made to the original legislation that resulted in it passing out of both chambers with overwhelming bipartisan support. I was also pleased to see that the Administration postponed the deadline for filing tax returns by three months, to July 15th, to provide more relief for hardworking Kansans during this difficult time.

Among other important provisions, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act will provide free testing for all Americans who need it. The legislation also establishes tax credits to provide paid sick and family medical leave for hard working Americans whose employment has been disrupted by the pandemic. Additionally, it provides funding and flexibility for emergency nutritional aid for seniors, women, children, and low-income families.

I am proud to see this administration partnering with businesses, not imposing mandates on them. Eligible employers will receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for any paid leave they provide under this program. Employees will be able to receive the paid leave directly from their employer, rather than an inefficient government-run program.

The bill also includes:

  1. $1.2 billion to help cover the costs of coronavirus testing for all Americans
  2. $142 million to eliminate copay requirements for service members and veterans
  3. 100% tax credit for leave for businesses with fewer than 500 employees credited against quarterly payroll taxes (up to capped levels)
  4. Increased flexibility for small businesses under 50 employees so they are not unduly harmed
  5. Expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to cover employees unable to work due to unforeseen childcare circumstances, like a school closure
  6. Funding and flexibility to ensure low-income students continue to have access to healthy meals if schools are closed
  7. $500 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  8. $250m for senior nutrition programs, including home-delivered nutrition programs like Meals on Wheels
  9. $400m for the Emergency Food Assistance Program
  10. $1 billion for emergency grants to states for activities related to processing and paying unemployment insurance benefits

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is a great start, but there is still more to be done. As my colleagues and I continue to work with the Trump Administration on the next round of our COVID – 19 response, I have called for relief for rural communities to be a top priority in any future agreement. Kansas remains one of the safest places in the world to live, with strong communities and people who help each other through times of crisis. We must continue to work together, even if apart, to defeat this invisible enemy so that we can get our economy back on track and return to our normal lives.

To stay up to date on information on the COVID-19 pandemic, Click Here to visit my office’s new coronavirus resource guide.

At Forbes Air Force Base, Topeka
At Forbes Air Force Base, Topeka

Getting Medical Supplies to Kansas

Thursday I helped welcome two truckloads of much needed Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to Forbes Airbase in Topeka. These supplies, which include face masks, gloves, and gowns, will be much needed should the COVID-19 infection rate increase in Kansas. This equipment is needed to protect nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, and other medical staff. We have to keep our doctors, nurses, first responders, and other medical professionals on the front lines of this crisis, healthy so they can continue to take care of patients.I’m very proud of the great work Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli of the Kansas National Guard, and his airman are doing for the state of Kansas. They and the folks at KDHE are working around the clock to stay prepared. My friends in the medical field have been calling me regularly, asking when this equipment, made available by President Trump’s recent emergency declaration, would arrive and I was happy to be there when it did. I also visited with Governor Laura Kelly, and made a visit to the KDHE lab where the virus testing is being done. 

Beware of COVID Scammers

Friday the FCC issued a Consumer Alert on an increase of new robocall scams attempting to take advantage of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These callers will promote false cures, offer fake testing kits, and generally prey on peoples fear of the virus. The FCC has created a website to provide safety tips to the public concerning COVID-19 which includes several recordings of these scam calls, and the site will be continually updated as new scams surface. Click Here to go to to the safety tips website. If you have received such a scam you can file a complaint with the FCC.

Maintaining STEM Education At Home

The GOP Science Space and Technology Committee has compiled a number of free resources families can use to learn STEM skills during this period of school closures. There are hundreds of activities, experiments, projects, videos, and games available, many coming directly from our federal research agencies. With resources from NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian, and more, students can find material on everything from astronomy to zoology.STEM education has been a huge priority for me, and I am glad that my colleagues on the SST Committee have taken the time to consolidate these resources so that our youths don’t fall behind on these important areas.

Defense Production Act

Friday President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act in an effort to help the private sector ramp-up manufacturing and distribution of emergency medical supplies and equipment amid the coronavirus pandemic.The Act has been used more than 50 times and will help increase production of ventilators and other much needed medical supplies and equipment.This move and the continued leadership being shown by President Trump will further our nation's fight against the coronavirus and help more medical centers receive the life-saving supplies they need.

Relief for Small Businesses

The Small Business Administration made an economic disaster declaration for Cheyenne, Greeley, Hamilton, Morton, Sherman, Stanton, and Wallace counties. This declaration makes small businesses in those counties eligible for assistance through the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which provides low interest loans for working capital. More information can be found on SBA’s webpage Here.

Expanding Telehealth Services for Seniors

The Trump administration announced an expansion of telehealth benefits for America’s seniors during the COVID-19 outbreak. These changes will allow for greater flexibility to communicate with their health care provider without requiring risky travel to a physical office. These expanded benefits allow patients to use telephones, video telecommunications tools like Skype and FaceTime, or online patient portals found on their provider’s website. I have been a physician serving rural communities for 25 years, I know full well how important it is to provide patients with telehealth services. This is an issue I’ve been working on since my first days in Congress and is one more example of the Trump Administration’s efforts to ensure our nation’s health care providers can continue to provide quality care to patients without placing them at risk of exposure.

Supporting Our Ranchers

Rep. Dusty Johnson and I urged U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to ensure relief for rural America, specifically cattle ranchers, is included in any Phase III COVID-19 stimulus agreement.Ranchers are resilient. They can handle the uncertainty of weather, the free market and other challenges that come their way. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is like nothing we've seen before and the cattle market has been in a free fall as a result. Additionally, we’ve seen the box beef- live cattle spread widen, leaving no margin for struggling producers as beef flies off grocery store shelves. We are committed to maintaining the supply chain and doing everything in our power to work towards functioning, competitive markets that allow independent producers to thrive. But in the short term, we need relief immediately. As such we are requesting that any deal provides for an increase in the borrowing authority to $50 billion and fully funds the replenishment of the Commodity Credit Corporation, as well as ensures that livestock are eligible for assistance in this time of need.

Leaders Lead

The sign of true leadership is being willing to do the right thing even if it’s not popular. Last Monday, my op-ed with Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) was published by the Washington Examiner. In it, we discussed the tremendous leadership shown by the Trump Administration, even when they faced ridicule and unfair judgement from the national media. Funding for the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and advanced biomedical research are up nearly 25% when compared to 2015, and infectious-disease funding is up by more than 70%. This administration has been preparing for a crisis like this for years and that preparedness has helped us to mitigate the effects of this virus here at home.President Trump and Vice President Pence have laid out a solid plan to defeat this virus — let’s continue to stick to it. Click Here to read the entire op-ed.

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Mar 23, 2020 3:28 PM
UPDATE: What Kansans need to know about the COVID-19 coronavirus
Health officials say one way to stop the spread of the new coronavirus is to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas News Service

Note: A Spanish-language version of this article can be found HERE.

The new coronavirus is spreading quickly around the world, including across Kansas, and setting off a range of responses.

The Kansas News Service is boiling down key developments in the state and updating the status regularly here. To read this information in Spanish, go here. This list was last updated at 4:10 p.m. April 7.

CASES AND DEATHS

900 cases (see map for counties) and 223 hospitalizations

27 deaths  (the state is no longer disclosing which counties are seeing deaths)

NOTE: These figures only include cases confirmed with lab tests and do not represent the real, unknown total. Community transmission is occurring in parts of Kansas. View additional charts showing the disease’s spread over time and other trends here.

Gov. Laura Kelly is instituting a statewide stay-at-home order as of 12:01 a.m. March 30. It will last until at least April 19. Stay-at-home orders allow people to take care of essential activities (such as grocery shopping or going to work) as well as exercise outside, but otherwise keep to themselves. 

The state’s stay-at-home order supersedes at least 13 county-by-county orders. Should the state’s order lift before a county’s is through, the county can choose to keep its own in effect.

SHOULD I SELF-QUARANTINE?

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is now mandating home quarantine for 14 days if you've traveled to the places listed below. If you come down with symptoms (such as a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, coughing or shortness of breath) during those 14 days, contact your health care provider and explain your potential COVID-19 exposure.  

  1. Connecticut on or after April 6.
  2. Louisiana or anywhere in Colorado on or after March 27.
  3. States with known widespread community transmission (California, Florida, New York and Washington) on or after March 15.
  4. Illinois or New Jersey on or after March 23.
  5. Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties in Colorado (if your visit was March 8th or later).
  6. Cruise ships or river cruises on or after March 15. Anyone previously told to quarantine because of their cruise ship travel should also finish out their quarantine.
  7. International destinations on or after March 15. Anyone previously told to quarantine because of their international travel should also finish out their quarantine.

Some doctors recommend patients with COVID-19 symptoms stay home even if they test negative for the disease, because of concerns that current testing approaches may be producing a significant number of false negatives.

TESTING AVAILABILITY

Several hospitals across the state now offer drive-through testing, but patients must get doctor approval in advance or else will be turned away. Many Kansans can’t be tested unless they’re sick enough to be hospitalized, and results may take up to a week. 

That’s because testing supplies remain limited and private labs helping many clinics and hospitals have large backlogs of samples. Hospitals trying to buy equipment for in-house testing say vendors are backlogged, too. The state will soon have several portable machines that can conduct 5- to 15-minute tests, and plans to lend them out to facilities most in need.

Some Kansas hospitals have succeeded in getting the testing materials and can give patients their results within a day. The state health department lab in Topeka can handle several hundred samples per day — a fraction of the demand.

Under a new federal law, you should not have to pay for your coronavirus test, regardless of insurance status (but patients could still see related bills). Separately, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, the state’s largest private insurer, says some patients won’t have to pay for coronavirus treatment.

HOW ARE UNIVERSITIES RESPONDING?

Public and private universities and community colleges in the state will finish this semester via online classes. Spring sports have been canceled. Most staff travel has been suspended. Graduations at KU, K-State and Wichita State are postponed or rescheduled.

The University of Kansas and Wichita State also plan to hold summer classes online. KU and K-State announced hiring freezes in early April. 

HOW ABOUT K-12 SCHOOLS?

In mid-March, Kansas became the first state in the U.S. to shut down school buildings for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. A state task force then issued guidance for distance learning, for which students aren’t expected to spend more than a few hours a day. 

Some districts that make high schoolers earn more credits than required by the state will graduate them this year based on the state’s lower bar. 

Districts across the state are still providing free meals to eligible children, but some have stopped because of concerns about the coronavirus spreading at meal pickup sites.

WHAT IN DAY-TO-DAY LIFE IS AFFECTED? 

  1. Church gatherings and funerals: Effective April 8, the governor has prohibited services of more than 10 people. That doesn’t count people performing the rituals or funeral workers, but they must stay six feet apart from each other.
  2. State tax deadline: Extended until July 15, in line with a delay for filing federal tax forms.
  3. Evictions: Business and residential evictions are banned until May 1 if a tenant is unable to pay because of the coronavirus.
  4. Mortgage foreclosures: Foreclosures are banned until May 1.
  5. Small businesses: May be eligible for emergency federal loans. Find information here.
  6. Hospitality businesses: Kansas created an emergency loan program, which quickly ran out of funds, but businesses can still apply to help the state assess the need for more assistance.
  7. Utilities: Evergy, which serves 950,000 customers in Kansas, will not disconnect residential or business services for an unspecified amount of time. 
  8. Gatherings: Restricted to fewer than 10 people throughout the state.
  9. State of emergency: Kansas’ declaration is good through May (and can be extended). It gives the government more power to marshal resources and Kelly the ability to make certain decisions when lawmakers aren’t in session.
  10. State workers: Access to the Statehouse is limited to official business only through April 19. Most state workers are doing their jobs remotely.
  11. Prisons and jails: The Kansas Department of Corrections ended visitation at all state facilities, and will “re-evaluate on an ongoing basis.” It urges families to talk to inmates through email, phone calls and video visits. County jails largely have ended visitations as well. 

HOW BAD IS THE VIRUS? 

COVID-19 usually causes mild to moderate symptoms, like a fever or cough. Most people with mild symptoms recover in two weeks. More severe cases, found in older adults and people with health issues, can have up to six weeks’ recovery time or can lead to death.

HOW CAN YOU AVOID IT?

  1. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Frequently.
  2. Cover your coughs.
  3. The CDC now recommends wearing a cloth mask in situations where social distancing isn’t possible; instructions for sewn and non-sewn versions are here.
  4. If you’re an older Kansan or medically fragile, limit your trips to the grocery store or any public space.
  5. Stay home if you are sick — this goes for all ages.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON COVID-19

Kansas Department of Health and Environment: http://www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus/

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.