FLEMINGTON, NJ - Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) led a community conversation Thursday regarding the coronavirus pandemic with Hunterdon Medical Center CEO Patrick Gavin and Dr. Geralyn Prosswimmer, M.D. the medical center’s chief medical officer.
The purpose of the conversation with state legislative officials was to discuss the best ways the federal government can work in coordination with local healthcare providers to provide the swiftest and most productive assurances that the coronavirus has the least impact on Hunterdon County residents.
The state legislative representatives participating on the conference call included officials for the 16th legislative district (Sen. Kip Bateman, assemblymen Andrew Zwicker and Roy Freiman); the 23rd legislative district (Sen. Michael Doherty, assemblymen John DiMaio and Erik Peterson); and assemblymen Anthony Verrelli and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, both from the 15th legislative district. Although all were from different political parties, the tone of the meeting proved that all participants recognize the serious nature of the pandemic and the need for bipartisan cooperation.
Malinowski spoke first, noting that President Donald Trump's use of the Defense Production Act was “the necessary next step.” The Defense Production Act is a federal law, enacted originally in 1950, that (in part) authorizes the President to require businesses to sign contracts or fulfill orders deemed necessary for national defense.
The implementation of the law will allow the federal government to ensure that the swift production of coronavirus testing kits, much-needed ventilators and any other equipment necessary to curtail the impact of the virus are made absolute national priorities.
Gavin described the current situation in the county and the task ahead of healthcare providers.
“The COVID-19 virus has significantly impacted New Jersey residents, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future," he said. "It is the mission and duty of Hunterdon Healthcare in New Jersey to provide comprehensive health care to all the communities that we serve, especially during this public health crisis.”
“The reason for convening this call is to find ways to partner with our state and federal representatives in an effort to help fast-track much-needed COVID-19 testing kits from federal government suppliers as soon as possible,” he added.
Prosswimmer, noted that “...the ability to test for COVID is severely limited."
"Our peers around the state and the country are experiencing similar challenges," she said. "We simply do not have sufficient testing kits. We have not received any additional kits in almost two weeks, and we are told to expect arrival around April 10 or thereafter. We are appealing for help in acquiring more test kits for COVID-19.”
Malinowski said that there will be “drive-through in mobile testing in Morris and Union County within two or three days,” and that he would like to see the same implemented in Hunterdon County. Congress passed two huge stimulus bills to provide funding for new test kits and personal protective equipment.
All elected officials participating in the conference call agreed that there is a strong need to work together to ensure the most serious efforts in fighting the health effects of the pandemic.
“It is very helpful to me to hear from our frontline healthcare workers who are among the heroes in this flight," Malinowski said. "[But] there's something unsettling and wrong with the April 10 date."