Blaine’s Bulletin: The Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis

Earlier this year, I was honored to be one of five Republicans selected to serve on the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis. My committee colleagues and I attend hearings weekly with experts from across the nation to find solutions and see where improvements can be made in areas like school re-openings, America’s economic damage, and unemployment as we deal with the virus and our nation’s recovery. 

Last week, our committee heard from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield. In this hearing, both Dr. Fauci and Dr. Redfield, two of the nation’s top medical experts, confirmed the need to get students back in school this fall for in-person learning and acknowledged the unintended consequences students might face if we continue distance learning, like psychological issues and unreported child abuse. Dr. Redfield, who is in charge of the top public health agency in the world said he couldn’t “emphasize it enough, it is in the public health’s interest of these K-12 students to get these schools back open for face-to-face learning.” Dr. Fauci shared this view and stated that America’s schools should “try to as best as we possibly can in the context of the safety of the children and the teachers, to open the schools.” While the members of the committee all possess their own views on this issue, it was extremely encouraging to hear two of this country’s leading health officials agree that for students’ physical, mental and academic well-being, we need to get them back to school.

Another issue I have become increasingly concerned about during my time on this committee is hospitals’ inflated COVID-19 fatality reporting. Under the CARES Act, an additional 20% has been added to the reimbursement amount for all COVID-19 related services performed in hospitals. My concern is that additional funding has provided a perverse incentive for these hospitals to attribute a patient’s death to COVID, even if it was not the ultimate cause. We are seeing instances where people are dying in car accidents or from heart attacks but happen to have COVID in their system at the time they pass away. Their deaths are being reported as COVID-related. Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania have all found hundreds of cases of deaths that were misreported as COVID-related and have since revised their fatality numbers. Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Admiral Brett Giroir and CDC Director Redfield both confirmed in separate Select Coronavirus Committee hearings that this practice could very well be taking place. Now more than ever, we need to be able to trust the numbers our medical officials tell us. I’ve sent letters to the CDC and HHS asking them to address this problem to ensure our nation has the most accurate count possible so they can be properly addressed by health officials, Congress and the Administration. 

My service on the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis has allowed me a unique perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic. Each week, we hear from not only experts but witnesses who are handling these issues first-hand from across the country. Having both points of view allows us to hear the data and numbers, but also how these problems are affecting real Americans and their everyday lives. While my role on the committee has made it especially clear that there is much to be done to get this nation back on stable footing, my colleagues and I both on the committee and in Congress remain more committed than ever to getting this great country back on track and thriving once again.