March 17, 2020

AUDIO: Udall Hosts ‘Tuesdays with Tom’ Press Call on COVID-19 Response

Udall discussed responses to COVID-19 and the need for further economic relief and public health emergency assistance

AUDIO: Udall Holds Press Conference Call on Responses to COVID-19.

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) hosted a “Tuesdays with Tom” press conference call with New Mexico reporters to discuss the response to COVID-19 and how Congress must move forward to protect New Mexicans and Native communities. 

“First, I extend my thoughts to those who have been directly hurt by this virus. And I want to thank the frontline health care workers and others who are working so hard to combat coronavirus. As we face down this crisis, our focus must be twofold: to stop the rapid spread of the virus, and to lessen the health and economic impacts on working people and those who will be hit the hardest,” Udall said. “[The Families First Coronavirus Response Act] is the first direct relief package for families, but it should not be the last. I think we are going to need a lot more help… I am focused on impacts unique to New Mexico – including to tribes, border communities, and veterans,” Udall said, referring to the House-passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act. 

Udall continued, “The fact is – states and local communities have had to take the lead in the absence of leadership and the abundance of confusion from the President and the White House. This president’s failure to rise to the occasion has been damaging and disturbing. For weeks his focus was on the political consequences to him, not the impacts to the American people. The Trump administration needs to get it together.”

“Our lives are changing. This is all new. We will get through this together,” Udall concluded. “ I will continue to work hard in Congress to help stem the tide of this virus and protect our communities from what is shaping up to be a major economic hit as well.”

Udall is urging the Senate to swiftly pass the House-passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which would provide for free testing, include new paid sick leave measures, bolster Medicaid, provide food assistance, enhance unemployment insurance, among other key provisions. Udall also voted to pass an $8.3 billion supplemental appropriations bill that included boosts in funding for New Mexico and other states to combat the spread of COVID-19.

For a comprehensive list of the actions Udall has taken to improve and expand the federal response to coronavirus, please click HERE.

Listen to the audio HERE.

Below are Udall’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

0:00 Thank you all for joining us today.

0:05 I want to provide you with an update on what Congress is doing to fight the novel coronavirus – COVID-19 – and discuss where we must go from here.

0:16 First, I extend my thoughts to those who have been directly hurt by this virus.

0:22 And I want to thank the front line health care workers and others who are working so hard to combat coronavirus.

0:27 As we face down this crisis, our focus must be twofold: to stop the rapid spread of the virus, and to lessen the health and economic impacts on working people and those who will be hit the hardest.  

0:42 This week, the Senate will consider the House-passed Families First relief package.

0:48 We should have passed this bill already. Leader McConnell has unnecessarily delayed this process.

0:56 This package:

- Ensures free coronavirus testing,
- Includes new paid sick leave measures,
- Provides for $1 billion dollars for unemployment insurance to assist states; and
- Directs $1 billion dollars to expand food security programs, including helping children on the free and reduced-lunch school program.

1:24 This package is the first direct relief package for families, but it should not be the last. I think we are going to need a lot more help. 

1:35 Almost two weeks ago, I voted in favor of the $8.3 billion emergency package directed to taking on the coronavirus. The CDC has announced that over $6 million dollars from this package is already being distributed in New Mexico.

1:54 In addition – I am focused on impacts unique to New Mexico -- including to Tribes, border communities, and veterans. 

2:01 I’m pleased that we have passed important funding for Tribal communities. But there is more to do.

2:09 Last week, I introduced legislation to ensure Indian Tribes have equal access to CDC resources.

2:15 In addition, I led a bipartisan group of senators in writing to Vice President Pence urging the administration to engage with Native communities on the COVID-19 response. 

2:28 Last week, I also introduced the bipartisan Border Health Security Act with Congresswoman Torres Small and Republican Senators Cornyn and McSally. This bill would strengthen binational partnerships and infectious disease monitoring in our border communities.  

2:49 It’s going to take all of us – federal, state, and local partners – closely working together to solve this.

2:56 I’d like to acknowledge the pro-active and transparent efforts that Governor Lujan Grisham has taken to protect New Mexicans.

3:05 The New Mexico Department of Health quickly mobilized and has a hotline New Mexicans can call with health-related questions about the virus. That number is 1-855-600-3453. 

3:23 The fact is – states and local communities have had to take the lead in the absence of leadership and the abundance of confusion from the president and the White House.

3:35 This President’s failure to rise to the occasion has been damaging and disturbing. For weeks his focus was on the political consequences to him, not the impacts to the American people. The Trump administration needs to get it together. 

3:52 To fellow New Mexicans: We’re all in this this together, and we all have a part to play in helping curb this virus. 

4:00 We must follow the recommendations of public health officials – including washing hands frequently for 20 seconds and following “social distancing” guidelines. 

4:10 It won’t be easy. But the actions we take now will help protect lives later.

4:18 My D.C. and state offices are telecommuting, and we are holding meetings by telephone, not in person. We will continue to follow best practices as long as we need to, but we will continue to serve New Mexicans through these adjustments. 

4:35 Our lives are changing.  This is all new. We will get through this together.  I will continue to work hard in Congress to help stem the tide of this virus and protect our communities from what is shaping up to be a major economic hit as well. 

4:52 I want to also ask that people who are healthy and feeling well consider donating blood. It is critical for us to maintain a sufficient blood supply and prevent shortages. Blood drives are stepping up precautionary measures to make sure that people can do this in a safe way.

5:12 And this is certainly a tense time, and I want people to be on the lookout for misinformation floating around, and make sure they are turning to trusted sources, like state officials, the New Mexico Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for reliable information. Those entities and institutions are turning out significant information and it’s reliable information. 

5:44 Udall takes questions