PLATTSBURGH — Take this very seriously.
That's North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik's message to her constituents when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She further advised them to follow guidance put forth on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and by county public health officials.
"Please take the time to look out for loved ones, especially our seniors who are the most vulnerable," Stefanik said in a phone interview with the Press-Republican Friday.
"We are taking a lot of calls from seniors and we want to make sure that if there are any concerns, their family members are helping them get access to the information that they need."
Simple steps that align with officials' guidance include good hygiene practices like hand-washing, not touching your face and social distancing, Stefanik said.
"Those small steps can have very positive consequences over the long-term to stem the growth ... of this pandemic."
The congresswoman would also urge people who think they have symptoms to call resources designated by county public health officials.
She said her office has been in touch with such officials in all 12 of the district's counties as well as many of the hospitals.
PRIVATE LABS ALLOWED
Stefanik said she was proud that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced New York State can now run COVID-19 tests in private labs, calling it a positive move in the right direction.
"That has been one of the issues that has slowed down the test numbers."
She also commended county public health officials for educating the public, adding that her office is continuing to stay available to answer constituents' questions.
Stefanik said all COVID-19 testing needs to be covered full-stop.
"We need to ensure that the message to every American is that if you are concerned, you should reach out to your health care official and not be concerned of that cost."
The congresswoman said she supports measures to cover all testing for people who are insured or uninsured, or covered by Medicare, Medicaid or U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.
In what Stefanik anticipated would be the first of numerous COVID-19 emergency relief packages, Congress was negotiating appropriations to fund senior nutrition programs, WIC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's emergency food program and SNAP availability.
Representatives were additionally focused on making sure the U.S. Department of Defense, the VA and the Indian Health Service within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had necessary funding to purchase additional coronavirus testing supplies, Stefanik said.
She added that other packages will focus on economic stimulus for small businesses and individuals, along with industry-specific legislative proposals.
"My goal is to make sure that this is not a political battle of brinkmanship, that we come together on a bipartisan basis and it’s consensus-driven with both Democrats and Republicans having a seat at the table to negotiate a package on behalf of the American people."
Asked if we were prepared as a country for COVID-19, Stefanik again praised county public health officials, calling them star leaders.
"I just want to commend all the county public health officials, all of the hospitals for their professionalism and how much they’ve focused on informing the public."
She said her office took COVID-19 very seriously, pointing to how earlier this week it instituted guidance for tours and large groups.
"Everyone is still working. We are still constantly making sure that we’re addressing any concerns, but I think this needs to be taken seriously. You need to lead by example as an elected official."
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