U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell made a campaign stop at the Caldwell Medical Center Thursday to discuss the economic and health effects of COVID-19.
McConnell came to Princeton after making a similar stop at the Crittenden Community Hospital in Marion.
In a brief gathering held in the medical center courtyard, McConnell spoke about the Senate’s early response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s arrival in the United States, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, then talked about current efforts to provide relief.
McConnell said he would bring the issue to the Senate floor on Monday and talked about the history of COVID relief that began in March.
“The question was what to do,” he said. “Well, every bill has to start somewhere, and the CARES Act started in my office, and we wrote it in consultation with Senate Democrats and the administration and put together was ultimately became a $3 trillion package in about three weeks in March and early April. … This was the biggest rescue package in American history.
“Taking it down to Kentucky, what it meant overall for Kentucky was $13 billion, a couple of billion dollars went down to the state, about a billion dollars for hospitals of all sizes.”
McConnell said the Caldwell Medical Center received $8.8 million, with $3.9 million of that coming from the Direct Hospital Provider Relief Fund. He commended CMC CEO Dan Odegaard for his work in pursuing more funding that was available.
“But you also very skillfully and smartly accessed $1.3 million dollars of the (Paycheck Protection Program) loan,” McConnell said. “So, these guys (medical center administration) went into two different areas to pull down their total out of the CARES Act.
“And then, the Accelerated Payment Program, which we managed to push down the road a little bit, you got $3.6 million out of that.”
McConnell said the CARES Act gave the nation a debt the size of its economy for the first time since World War II.
“Believe it or not, we passed it without a single dissenting vote,” he said. “It other words, partisanship was swept aside and got together and did what needed to be done.”
McConnell said the House of Representatives passed a second relief bill a month later seeking another $3 trillion. He said the bill contained elements that he did not agree with.
“I felt, by July, that we did need another package,” he said. “I thought it should be narrowly targeted at exactly what the problem was.
“So, I put on the floor a half a trillion dollars…targeted at schools — (kindergarten) through (12th grade) and colleges that are really struggling, more assistance for health care providers and a replenishment of this PPP loan program that has been enormously successful, plus something that would cost the government nothing but save the rest of us a lot of problems: liability protection.”
He said that would protect health care providers from lawsuits as the pandemic abated.
McConnell said that bill got no Democratic votes, but he would offer it up again this Monday.
“We’re going to make one more run to see if we can do something as opposed to nothing,” he said. “The Speaker’s (Nancy Pelosi) view is: Give me everything I want or I won’t give you anything. That doesn’t solve any problems.
“I can’t guarantee you that we’re going to get a better result next week than we got a month ago, but we’re going to give it another shot.”
McConnell told those on hand that the coronavirus would not go away without a vaccine.
“We have to kill it,” he said. “That’s the only way it’s going to stop. … A majority of our states are having a resurgence; it’s a second wave happening, and as Dr. (Anthony) Fauci has pointed out, as we move indoors as the weather gets colder, we actually exacerbate the problem.”
McConnell said the U.S. is doing a better job of disseminating tests, and COVID-19 treatment is improving, pointing to the treatment of President Donald Trump.
“But, ultimately, the key is the vaccine,” he said. “…There are a number of different promising vaccines. We are hoping that more than one will prove out. We are in the middle of clinical trials on a number of vaccines.”
McConnell said he was aware that people are tired of wearing masks and having their lives interrupted.
“But, my friends, the single thing that we can do to help us get through this period is to wear a mask and practice social distancing and try to prevent the spread until we get a vaccine,” he said. “That is the single-most important contribution that each of us as individuals can make to getting us through this period.
“Why do I say that? We’re not shutting this economy down again. … That produced an awful lot of problems.”
McConnell said those problems included the increase of suicides, overdoses, child abuse and spouse abuse.
“What we can do — since we’re not going to shut the economy down again — we have to live with this until we can kill it.” he said. “That’s what the mask is about and that’s what social distancing is about, and that’s what I strongly recommend everybody do.”
McConnell made a brief comment regarding the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, saying he expects her to be confirmed “in the very near future.”
“She’s a spectacular addition to the Supreme Court that I think everybody will be proud of over the years,” he said.