NEW HAVEN — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy told 3rd District residents that the country needs to increase testing for COVID-19 by five times the current rate.

Murphy said once the economy starts to open up “we need to be able to identify hotspots.”

Murphy joined U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3. in a telephone town hall to answer questions and explain what further assistance Congress plans to approve to meet the twin crises facing the world: an economic depression and a pandemic that has claimed 73,297 lives in the U.S. and 270,000 worldwide.

In Connecticut, a total of 116,174 people have been tested for the virus since the pandemic was identified. The state has 31,784 positive cases, with 2,797 succumbing to the respiratory illness.

Dr. Albert Ko, co-chairman of Gov. Ned Lamont’s task force on reopening the economy, this week said once the state can conduct 42,000 tests a week later in May, it should extend testing to asymptomatic residents, as well as those showing signs of illness.

“This is a moment we hope we never have to live through again,” Murphy said of the pandemic and the shortages of equipment to deal with it.

The senator talked about his bill, that has 44 co-signers, that would put the federal government temporarily in charge of the supply chain for testing.

He said the current situation “is kind of like Lord of the Flies out there. Every state and every hospital is trying to gobble up as many testing machines as they can and it is just not efficient.” Oversight of the supply chain is included in the next economic package.

Murphy said the Trump administration has the legal ability to take control of the supply chain but it has not, throwing the issue to Congress “which has had to fill the vacuum that has been created by a lack of leadership.”

The second big thing on his agenda is making sure the school districts have enough resources so if they do reopen in the fall we can “catch students up.” The senator is particularly worried about children with special needs.

After visiting nurses in a COVID-19 only nursing home last week, Murphy said “our healthcare providers are just unbelievable heroes.”

“We have to find a way to support them,” he said and that could be the “Heroes Fund, a little extra payment” to hospital workers, cafeteria workers, folks who have to show up every day during this crisis and have put themselves and their families at risk.”

DeLauro, one of the senior most members of the Appropriations Committee, is the chairwoman of the subcommittee that writes the budget for the health care agencies and the public schools.

“Connecticut has a little bit extra advantage by having Rosa in the negotiating room right now,” Murphy said.

Reflecting on children being out of school and learning at home, the congresswoman said “there never has been more appreciation for teachers nationwide as there is now.”

The long-serving representative said the goal “is to get Connecticut to the dawn of recovery.”

DeLauro said there is “uniform understanding in the Congress as to what the need is,” she said of the bipartisan funding that has been approved for businesses, hospitals and the unemployed.

She said the second bill passed has $25 billion for testing and improving diagnostics.

The third bill, DeLauro said, will look at some things that were left on the table, such as paid sick days, paid family leave, expanded child tax credits, a national plan to coordinate food distribution and an expansion of the food stamp program.

She said the big focus also will be on helping state and local governments that have been hit hard with dropping revenues as residents continue to lose their jobs and increasing expenses due to the pandemic that are likely to lead to layoffs in government and the schools.

The congresswoman said she recently had a “very sobering conversation” with a Federal Emergency Management Agency official who told her the United States produces less than 10 percent of personnel protective equipment needed by healthcare workers and first responders. Of that small amount, 20 percent goes to FEMA and the rest to the private market, which is what caused the scramble between hospitals and states.

“There is no economic recovery unless we can beat the virus,” DeLauro said.

She wants to see funds for dislocated workers and for vocational schools in the next financial package to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

The first questioner wanted to know why his wife, who is a nurse in a nursing home, has to take vacation days or her sick leave if she is diagnosed with COVID-19. The congresswoman said she will continue to fight for paid sick leave, family leave and medical leave. She said House and Senate member have these benefits.

“Everybody in the country should have that opportunity,” she said.

Murphy said they have asked for a $25,000 payment for every person who has been on the frontlines.

“Now that is a lot of money and it is a lot of people, but we think that it shouldn’t just be on the employee to have to use their own sick time or their own personal time to deal with a diagnosis that they got because they were asked to put themselves in harm’s way,” he said.

“You have to find a way for that extra compensation,” he said.

Another speaker asked about the Postal Service and if it were true that there would not be enough money to make payroll in September.

Murphy said it was “unbelievable that we are actively spending hundreds of billions of dollars to rescue businesses appropriately ... but the one business that the federal government is in charge of, the Postal Service, is willing to let die.”

The senator said if the Postal Service were to go away, the private sector would not fill all their routes, referring to rural sections of the state, and if they did , it would be at a premium price.

“It is imperative to save the post office. It would be a disaster if we let them disappear. The agenda here is pretty simple, Folks want the Postal Service to disappear because there is a bunch of for-profit vultures who are ready to come in and gobble it up and turn the the Postal Service into a giant profit-making machine and we will all pay for that,” Murphy said.

DeLauro agreed and said they will continue to put funds in the House bill “to make that fight once again.”

Connecticut Media Group