Republican senators have express concerns about the unabated spread of the coronavirus in the country, calling for an end to politicizing the pandemic while suggesting that people wear masks to stem the infection, and that communities should expand testing capacity.
“The coronavirus is not involved in American politics. It has its own way forward, and we need to act responsibly,” Xinhua news agency quoted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as saying when travelling in his home state of Kentucky during the ongoing recess.
While President Donald Trump said in his July 4 speech that a coronavirus vaccine would likely be available “long before the end of the year”, McConnell offered a more sobering prospect, noting that for a vaccine to come toward the end of the year was an “extremely optimistic” timeline.
“The truth is we’re not going to have a vaccine for a while, and the truth is we’re experiencing a resurgence in some states,” McConnell said.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a longtime ally of Trump in the Senate, urged people to wear masks while saying that the fight against the coronavirus, was similar to a “war”.
“All I can say is that if you believe wearing a mask is a sign of weakness, then you’re wrong,” he said.
“Nobody is asking you to go to Afghanistan and get shot – just asking you to use common sense.”
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, which has emerged as the new global epicentre, also stressed the necessity of masks, while being hopeful that correcting behaviours now would lead to improvement as soon as next month.
“People need to wear their mask, they need to be more conscious of it. I believe they now are. But remember, the hospitalizations we’re seeing today are the infections that happened two or three weeks ago. Hopefully, if we can begin to correct that behaviour now we’ll see improving numbers as we move forward into the next month,” he said.
On testing, an area in which Trump repeatedly claimed the US is second to none, the Republican Senators have warned of a shortage, particularly given that schools are expected to reopen in the fall, another desperate request from the administration.
“We need to focus on increasing testing capability between now and the first of September,” Graham said.
In addition to widespread tests capable of offering results in 15 minutes, Republican senator Roy Blunt of Missouri called on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Defense to craft a plan by September guiding the distribution of a vaccine.
“I think if we aren’t prepared to distribute the complete kit it takes for an individual to have a vaccine that the country will be outraged and I will too,” Blunt said.