“Based on the medical data alone, I think the reality is that it will be safe for children to go back to school for the most part.”

By on July 10, 2020 in Featured News, News

Bucshon Discusses the Prospects of Students Returning to School this Fall and COVID-19 Vaccine Development

WASHINGTON, DC — As much of the country tries to balance the health and well-being of citizens with desire to transition back to a normal, pre-pandemic life, The Ripon Society hosted a virtual discussion on Wednesday with U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, M.D. (IN-8). He kicked off his remarks by reflecting on what’s been accomplished so far in Congress to address this crisis, and what his proposals are going forward.  

“From a Congressional standpoint, I’ve been pleased with, for the most part, our reaction to this,” the Hoosier lawmaker stated. “We’ve passed bipartisan legislation to help support the American people. We’re also putting tremendous amounts of money in funding for treatment of COVID-19 as well as the vaccine. I’ve been pleased with that, though we have more to do.

“I’ve been working with Congresswoman Diana DeGette (CO-1) for about three years on larger testing legislation. But during COVID-19, there are a couple things we learned very quickly. One is the fact that our public health labs were not ready on the testing side. And actually right now, 45% of our public labs still don’t have what is called a ‘high throughput testing,’ where you can test a multitude of samples at the same time and therefore get results more quickly. We’re addressing that. And then of course, we want to make sure that your local hospital or your doctor’s office ultimately has the testing capabilities so that they can get the results quicker.”

“Diana and I have introduced two pieces of legislation. One will address the public health labs by creating a grant program for them to acquire the infrastructure needed for high throughput testing and the other is essentially the same concept for your local medical facilities. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Bucshon was elected to the House in 2010 and serves as a member of the Energy & Commerce Committee. The Committee’s broad jurisdiction and his extensive medical background as a physician and Cardiothoracic surgeon has made him a leader on Capitol Hill when it comes to creating patient-centered health care reform.

Following his initial remarks, he was asked a number of questions, the first being whether Americans can expect a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year.

“There has been an unprecedented worldwide effort to develop a vaccine and therapy for COVID-19 – probably like we’ve never seen in the history of our country or the history of the world. Honestly, it’s just an amazing coming together of people around the world, and the United States is doing our part. The briefings that we get from both the FDA and NIH are very promising for having a vaccine potentially in the fourth quarter, but hopefully by the first quarter of next year. So what the federal government has already done has not only helped to fund the research, but we’re working with large companies to begin developing the facilities to mass produce the vaccines ahead of the result of their studies.

“I also think on the back end that the federal government ultimately will be making these vaccines available cost-free for most Americans. It’s going to be a big cost, but I think the reality is all of our fellow citizens should have access to this because it’s a life threatening problem. It’s a pandemic.”

Bucshon was then asked whether, once it is developed and released, a mandate will be implemented for people to receive the vaccine.

“I’ve seen recent polling that says 30-35% of the American people say they’re not going to get the vaccine, even when it’s developed, because they’re afraid of the side effects. As a medical professional, I think that’s the wrong approach. But as an American who has constitutional rights, I understand where they’re coming from.

“I think that a lot depends on what the private sector does, whether or not your employer will require you to have a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of your continued employment. I think that’s the direction things will go. I don’t personally like mandates, but the reality is the private sector and the pressure from people from around the world will encourage people to get the vaccine.”

Finally, Bucshon was asked about his perspective as a medical professional on whether schooling should resume this fall for both K-12 and college students.

“If you look at the medical data, the mortality rate in young people is essentially zero. Once you start getting older than that, there’s a more substantial challenge. The risk is really, really low, but the risk isn’t completely zero, right? But nothing in life has zero risk. Based on the medical data alone, I think the reality is that it will be safe for children to go back to school for the most part. 
 
“Now, there are other issues related to this that are really important. And one of them is, particularly for people with school-aged children, what do we do for working families if the students don’t go back to school? Say you have a single parent family, or you have a two parent family and both parents work. What do you do when you can’t afford to send your child to childcare and you don’t have grandma to take care of the kids? That’s a big issue.”
 
According to Bucshon, students are not learning at the same pace as they would if they were sitting in the classroom, especially in already low-performing districts and for those with more difficult home lives.
 
“If you look at the data coming out now, the amount of learning that students do remotely compared to in-classroom learning is dramatically lower. This in particular impacts students who are in challenging situations, such as those in low income areas of our country – both urban and rural – where the school system has some challenges. They already have challenges just over the summer break. 
 
“The other one is that, again, this impacts a lot of people in certain areas of my district where we have 90% of the kids on free and reduced lunch programs. If schools don’t go back, they’re going to continue to have to do programs like they’ve been doing, relying on volunteers and some government funding to provide meals for children who otherwise might be food insecure.”

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin.  One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success.  These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.   

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