Elizabeth Warren Knows How Army And WALL Can Make Themselves Useful Right About Now
Elizabeth Warren may not be running for president anymore, but her addiction to putting good ideas out to the public continues unabated. Thank Crom, because we need all we can get. Earlier this week, Warren proposed a $750 billion economic stimulus package that would focus on helping people and small businesses hurt by the coronavirus shutdown — not megacorporations. And yesterday, in keeping with her radical idea that governments exist to help people, Warren sent a letter to Donald Trump calling on him to order the Army Corps of Engineers to "convert or construct new temporary medical facilities," to meet the huge need for beds that the pandemic will create.
In her letter, Warren wrote,
Given the reality of the exponential growth of the virus, supplemental infrastructure must be designated and ready to receive patients immediately. The Army Corps is in position to help address this public health emergency by converting existing space into temporary medical centers. Taking this action will save lives.
The ability of hospitals to handle the growing number of coronavirus cases will be the next phase of this crisis. As Rachel Maddow detailed last night, the US may be roughly three weeks behind where Italy is right now, with hospitals overwhelmed.
Grim Future For Hospitals: Lag Time From Infections To Critical Illness | Rachel Maddow | MSNBCyoutu.be
On her Senate website, Warren said the Army Corps could be employed to
retrofit and equip existing facilities, such as military bases and college dormitories, and construct new facilities to serve as temporary medical centers to support the federal response to national emergencies, including the COVID-19 public health emergency.
As for how to pay for it, an aide to Warren told Vox the senator "supports taking DoD military construction funds previously diverted for wall construction and diverting them to supplement the federal government's coronavirus response." We like the way she thinks.
Warren isn't alone in calling for greater use of the military in this crisis; on Tuesday, 65 House Dems, led by Rep Jackie Speier (D-California), also urged Trump to use Defense Department resources wherever they're needed. And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that the Army Corps will be assessing sites in the state to deploy mobile hospitals that can treat 200-250 people.
Donald Trump also made a big show yesterday of announcing he was sending the Navy's hospital ships USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy — aka the "big white ships with the red cross on the sides," to help out, one in New York and the other to some Pacific coast port to be named later. Eventually. Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed to CNN that it would take "a couple weeks" for the Comfort to be deployed to New York harbor, and about the same for the Mercy, already on the West Coast, to be ready.
Neither ship would be used to treat coronavirus patients; instead, they'd be used to handle overflow of other medical cases from hospitals treating folks with COVID-19; that seems a likely use for the military's pop-up hospitals in New York, too, because as Esper told Politico the other day, military hospitals and staff are "focused on trauma. ... They don't have necessarily the segregated spaces that you need to deal with infectious diseases." Which is fine. If civilian hospitals are somehow not overwhelmed by the pandemic cases, there'll still be a need for space to treat all the everyday emergencies and illnesses hospitals normally handle.
We should also make damn sure the military docs don't bill as out-of-network providers, either. (There is our grim joke for the day.)
Also too, it's worth noting that, as Vox points out, expanding the nation's hospital capacity doesn't have to be handled solely by the Army Corps of Engineers:
"The regular Army and National Guard can also do a lot of this type of work. "It's not like building big dams," says Andrew Weber, the Pentagon's top biological defense official from 2011 to 2014. "We need fast, uniformed personnel providing labor and leadership."
Since Donald Trump wants to call himself a wartime president, he can back that up with making use of the Defense Department to do some good. Just as long as we all say "wartime leader" while making the jerk-off gesture.
Beyond using the military where it makes sense, we should also consider calling in the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" people to help. Maybe our best course of action will be to have Trump coordinate the response among his pals in reality TV, and let actual public health experts handle the big stuff.
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