Vermont Rep. Peter Welch cosponsors bill to guide states toward reopening

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Some businesses in Georgia are back open Friday, despite criticism from many of the state’s mayors and health experts who say the state could faces another wave of COVID-19 infections.

Meanwhile, members of the US House, including Vermont’s Rep. Peter Welch, have introduced a bill known as the Reopen America Act. Welch said the legislation is a national and organized approach by the federal government based on public health and science.

“Science and medicine have established a very clear set of steps that have to be taken in order to address a pandemic,” said Welch.

Welch said the Reopen America Act would allow the federal government to help states as they prepare to reopen their economies. The government would organize equipment, set standards, and get resources back to states.

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland felt the president’s recent plans to reopen the country did not have a firm structure. “It was a list of very loose criteria that the president wanted the states to think about as their reopen process, and already the chaos has begun,” Raskin said.

The Reopen America Act says states must meet two criteria before developing a reopening plan.

First, hospital capacity within the state must be prepared to deal with the crisis so that they are not overrun.  And second, the transmission rate of the disease must fall below one, which means the average person who has the disease is infecting no more than one person.

According to the bill, once states meet the criteria, they would then get their plans approved by a scientific public health panel.

“But it’s not a yes or no,” said Florida Rep. Donna Shalala. “They would give them suggestions, negotiate with them a little bit to figure out what it would cost and then the federal government would fund the implementation of the plan.”

Welchi is a cosponor, along with about 50 others House members.

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