May 6, 2020 News

RECAP: Virginia Health Care Workers Lament Trump’s Chaotic Coronavirus Response; praise Gov. Northam’s Active Response


by Democratic Party of Virginia

RICHMOND, VA — DPVA hosted a press call with three health care workers to share insights about the impacts of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, what is most missing from the conversation around coronavirus, and insights from their experiences on the job during the pandemic. 

Participants included: 

  • Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia
  • Dr. Wendy Klein, Medical Director of Health Brigade, a safety net clinic in Richmond, an internist, and Associate Professor Emeritus of Medicine at VCU School of Medicine
  • Kellen Squire, ER nurse from Charlottesville, Va.
  • Susan Swecker, DPVA Chairwoman

Part of the conversation included health care workers lamenting the Trump administration for its chaotic response that has put the lives of people across the country in peril. They also expressed appreciation for Governor Northam’s active response and expertise as a medical professional himself. 

Here are some highlights from the call: 

  • Dr. Wendy Klein: “It is very clear that there has been uncertainty and disorganization and a lack of understanding of epidemiology and the essential principles of public health at the national level, which is why we are now leading the world in covid cases. We have been made to compete for scarce resources rather than having a unified, organized, national response. […] At the national level, there is no clear guidance, no testing policy, nor is there policy on tracing contact. So it's hard. We are lucky in Virginia that Governor Northam has put regulations in effect that are helping us to flatten the curve, but in order to get ahead of the curve, we need federal leadership. […]  [The Virginia Department of Health] has been amazing, but they are hamstrung by the lack of federal guidance and funding that they need in order to bolster their efforts. In order for us to move forward, we're going to not only have to increase testing, but we're going to have to increase tracing so that we can break the cycle of transmission, and that requires a labor intensive, well funded, concerted effort. That can only come if there is national unity, not just state unity. At the state and local levels, people have been doing an amazing job. but we are all struggling with trying to meet the needs of the disadvantaged populations, and trying to find PPE.”
  • Nurse Kellen Squire: “Our community in Charlottesville, community activists, local leaders, and the healthcare institution here have really gone above and beyond, and I have pretty high expectations of them, but they exceeded that as well, in doing what they can to keep us safe. We can only do so much. It's a very salient point that we need competent federal leadership to be able to lead us out of this. [...] Obviously, our local community activists, our health care leaders, our local and regional and statewide officials can hit home run after home run on their response, but we need competent and organized federal help to be able to handle the logistics, because the peak isn't set to a date. The peak is set when enough people with the virus give enough other people infections. So, it can come any time. […] We need constant vigilance, and we need to do things with evidence-based research. As Governor Northam said, whatever decisions we make, they need to be made with science in mind.”
  • Dr. Ebony Hilton: “One thing we know from this administration is that they do frequently lie, particularly President Trump. There was a press conference where he talked of this massive drive-through testing ability, and what we know is that to date there were about 10 to 20 facilities setup. He promised there would be drive-through testing set up in the parking lots of every Target, I think that has also been proven to be a lie. Last week, there was a report released that he was going to pull federal funding from testing and we know there are many states where that would be financially devastating and they cannot keep up with the number of tests their constituents need. We all need to hold this administration responsible for not only their actions, but also their words. We cannot allow lies to be told. Truth and transparency will lead to lives being saved. Reach out, become involved, write your congressperson and try to help them have a voice like Governor Northam. […] We have to be hyper vigilant, knowing that our testing has been compromised from the lack of leadership on the federal level, that unfortunately impacts states, down to the local level.”
  • DPVA Chairwoman Susan Swecker: “I got more good real time honest information from Kellen Squire than I have ever gotten from the president of the United States. I'm not going to mince words, this is a man who uses his briefing everyday to make it about him, not about us, and to continue to say that everything he did was right. He never addresses the pain, suffering and challenges that families are facing and the challenge that we as a country and as a world face. At virtually every opportunity over the past month and a half, he's made bad decisions that recklessly put people at risk and has left individual states to fend for themselves. To be clear, Donald Trump is responsible. […] As our governor has said, and the statistics prove out, we have not been able to get the equipment that we have requested […] Governor Northam is the antithesis of Donald Trump. His leadership, steady and calm, is both reassuring and comforting to me as I know it is to many Virginians. His knowledge as a doctor has been crucial to keeping people safe.”

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