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Lamar Alexander: Accelerating the development of COVID-19 testing technologies

U.S. SenateWashington, D.C. – On Thursday, May 7th, 2020, the U.S. Senate health committee I chair will hold a hearing with Dr. Francis Collins at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Dr. Gary Disbrow at the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). 

This hearing will be an opportunity for senators to learn how NIH is working to create new technologies to produce the tens of millions of diagnostic tests we will need to contain COVID-19 Coronavirus.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that Tennessee hospitals and clinics will receive an additional $179 million in funding made available through the CARES Act

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that Tennessee will receive nearly $12 million  – made available by the CARES Act  – for 79 public housing authorities across the state to help fight COVID-19 Coronavirus.  

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting announced more than $2 million is headed to local television and radio stations across Tennessee to help maintain programming services.

On April 30th, the U.S. Department of Education announced an additional $39.6 million for 71 colleges and universities in Tennessee to help ensure learning continues during the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 Coronavirus, including $30.4 million for Tennessee’s six Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and 39 other institutions.  This funding is made available by the CARES Act and is in addition to the $237.1 million the Department provided to 127 Tennessee colleges and universities on April 21st.

The Mechanical Licensing Agency – which was created by the Music Modernization Act that I helped write and President Donald Trump signed into law to ensure songwriters across America are paid a fair market value for their work – has announced its headquarters will be in Nashville. Welcome to Music City!   

Attention to Middle Tennesseans affected by the tornadoes on March 3rd

The deadline to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance is this Monday, May 4th. If you live in Davidson County, Putnam County or Wilson County and have not applied for assistance, you can click here to do so.

How can the CARES Act can help you?

I encourage Tennesseans to visit my website to learn more about how you can take advantage of the federal assistance Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law that will keep paychecks coming, relieve financial burdens and help contain COVID-19.   

Accelerating the development of COVID-19 testing technologies 

This week, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it has begun implementing a new initiative to accelerate the development of COVID-19 testing technologies. I worked with Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri to include this “shark-tank”-like effort in the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act that President Donald Trump signed into law last week. This provided over $1 billion for a competitive “shark tank,” led by Dr. Francis Collins, one of the nation’s leading scientists, and will help lead the effort to develop new technologies to produce the tens of millions of diagnostic tests we will need to contain this virus and restart the economy. In such a bold effort there will be failures, but all we need are a few successes to help get our country back work and back to school. 

I wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post with Senator Blunt on the need to advance other research, give money to states to buy testing equipment, improve data reporting, conduct tests and operate testing centers, and implement contact tracing to identify those who’ve come in contact with sick people so they, too, can quarantine themselves. You can read that here


#TennesseeStrong – Tennesseans fighting back against COVID-19 

Over the last couple of weeks, I have highlighted a few examples of how Tennesseans are showing their “Volunteer Spirit” by supporting their communities and the medical professionals on the front lines fighting to contain the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus.

While it’s impossible to capture all of the ways Tennesseans are stepping up during this difficult time, here are just a few examples to show how we are all #TennesseeStrong:

  • East Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is using its exceptional brainpower and advanced manufacturing expertise to help create the resources needed to rapidly produce COVID-19 test kits across the country, and President Trump thanked them for their efforts earlier this week.
  • Since wearing face masks have become a common practice by many Americans, particularly with health care workers, Chattanooga-based Kenco is using its 3-D printing capabilities to make face masks more comfortable for those who wear them.
  • Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music is using video conferencing apps over the internet to play music for older Nashvillians during this pandemic. One 93-year old Nashville resident who received one of these private concerts said, “I don’t care about computers and all that jazz, but when I realized that music was being played just for me, it was amazement.”
  • An 11-year-old girl from Gallatin with a passion for helping others has dedicated her time and her efforts to producing face masks for those who need them. 
  • A group of Nashville pilots have volunteered to change their flight routes and deliver COVID-19 tests to a Pathgroup Lab in Nashville. This is important work, as ground transportation can take days. Executive Vice President of Sales for Pathgroup Labs, Steve Young, said, “The quicker that we can get these specimens and turn the results around, the quicker they can start treating the patients of a healthcare provider can get back to work.”
  • Hundreds of medical and nursing students at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center have volunteered their time to work on the frontlines at COVID-19 test sites. 
  • Volunteers with MyRide Kingsport are taking the initiative to help older members of their community who are at higher risk of COVID-19 Coronavirus by delivering food, medicine and other essential items for them. 
  • Second Harvest Food Bank and Tennessee State University have set up a drive-through food distribution facility to provide relief to hundreds of residents in the Nashville metro area.

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