Banner from Rep. Andy Harris, MD-1

FROM THE OFFICE OF CONGRESSMAN ANDY HARRIS, MD -1

As a physician and Member of Congress, many of my constituents have contacted me with concerns about COVID-19, more commonly referred to as the Coronavirus.  As this virus continues to spread across the United States, I write to update you on the government wide response.  

Testing for Coronavirus has rapidly expanded in the last two weeks.  The Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency approval for commercial testing which is allowing for significant expansion and access.  However, individuals should most likely not get tested unless they are symptomatic – including a fever – and consult their doctor.   Like all laboratory tests, testing for Coronavirus is a clinical decision made by a health care provider, and may not be appropriate for everyone. Please contact your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus.    

Similarly, the President’s Coronavirus Task Force has announced a sweeping plan to slow the spread of the virus and “flatten the curve.”  By reducing exposure and transmission, the United States can hopefully avoid a surge of patients that overwhelm our health care system.  The Administration is encouraging social distancing and telework for all who can.  To that end, in Maryland, Governor Hogan has enacted restrictions on social gatherings of more than 10 people, and ordered the closing of all bars, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, and gyms.  In addition, utilities will not be allowed to cut off services, evictions will not be allowed until the end of the outbreak, and a majority of state office buildings are closed to the public for the foreseeable future.  Please note however, critical businesses like pharmacies and supermarkets will remain open.

On Saturday March 14th, the House also passed H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, with my support.  While not perfect, I believe that this legislation is another critical step in our efforts to limit the Coronavirus and its harmful effects on our economy and way of life.  This legislation contained numerous provisions, including:

  • Free access to Coronavirus testing, including for the uninsured
  • Increased funding to states to address rising unemployment insurance claims
  • Requires paid family and medical leave for needs related to the Coronavirus outbreak to employees of small businesses
  • Tax credits for small businesses to fully offset the costs of paid family and medical leave  

For more detailed information on travel advisories, state level actions, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, assistance to small businesses, unemployment assistance, and restrictions on foreign entry, please see the links above.

Additionally, Congress is currently working on a third legislative initiative to further relieve those individuals and businesses suffering from the virus outbreak.  Please rest assured that, as a physician, I will continue to carefully evaluate all potential responses to Coronavirus here in Congress.  I hope this information is helpful.  To keep up with my work in Congress, visit my website at harris.house.gov and sign up to receive updates at harris.house.gov/contact/newsletter.  Should you wish to unsubscribe from my newsletter, you may follow the same link.