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RISHI KUMAR FOR US CONGRESS

Rishi’s Plan to Tackle COVID-19 and Future Epidemics

Washington, DC / USA - July 21, 2020: A nurses' union placed pairs of nurses' shoes at the Capitol in recognition of the 160 nurses who have died fighting COVID-19 in the United States. Photo by Erik Cox

Executive Summary

With over 200,000 Coronavirus deaths and counting, America’s lack of preparedness to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic indicates a failure of American leadership to rise to the occasion. In the past few months, the pandemic has made many shortcomings in the United States government and healthcare system clear. As soon as U.S. coronavirus cases began to skyrocket in late March, it immediately became evident that many hospitals were vastly underprepared, lacking necessary protective equipment and ventilators. Thousands of Americans who did not have access to healthcare or testing faced avoidable complications and even death. Aside from the failures of the healthcare system, the extended shutdown of the economy has left millions of Americans unemployed, and the rapid transition to online-learning exposed the extreme disparities in terms of access to technology. Although the government technically had a plan in place for pandemics, it was either never executed properly or inherently flawed. As America has been strained from its economy to academic institutions, we must examine our systemic shortcomings and refine them quickly and efficiently for the good of every American citizen.



Immediate steps we recommend

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgency of addressing these issues, and we must take immediate action. In order to secure our economy in light of public health crises, it is imperative that we invest in tele-medicine, restructuring our healthcare analytics and data sharing systems. Public safety guidelines must be followed to make transportation and public services as safe as possible for essential workers, and there are many opportunities to launch media campaigns to educate the public about how to stay safe and prevent misinformation from spreading. Moreover, systemic reliance on China's supply chain must be redirected for risk management and transparency. America's economy and social net must be bolstered through specific support programs and funding must be directed at vulnerable communities. Covid-19 has exposed faulty leadership and ways our public health networks have fallen behind, but armed with this new knowledge and an understanding of the consequences, we must make changes and take action. Finally, as American children head back to school, we must protect students and teachers alike from spreading the virus through online and hybrid learning, flexible schedules, strong communication, and resource distribution.

Rep. Anna Eshoo Has Been Missing

My opponent in California’s 18th District, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, noted this February that she has “led the charge” on a plan for pandemic preparedness in Congress for the past 15 years. As we all know, that plan was a colossal failure. As the chairwoman of the House Health Subcommittee, Rep. Anna Eshoo rightfully takes credit for her failure in ensuring Congressional oversight. In addition, Rep. Eshoo is the number one recipient of pharmaceutical money in Congress. As the Chairwoman of the Congressional Subcommitte on Health, the millions of dollars Rep. Eshoo receives from Big Pharma present a tremendous conflict of interest. It comes as no surprise that she does not support progressive policies like Medicare for All — in fact, she has even voted for legislation to raise the cost of prescription drugs. Indeed, the Trump administration has failed to take this crisis seriously — but Congress also did not take enough action to adequately address these problems ahead of time. As the co-chair of the Biodefense Caucus, Rep. Eshoo did not hold a single meeting, even though pandemics are a key objective of the Caucus. As several critical federal agencies (namely the CDC) failed, all of Congress, including Rep. Eshoo, bears the responsibility for failed Congressional oversight.

Infrastructure

We must invest in our infrastructure — it is the future of America. Our existing healthcare, transportation, education, housing, and technological infrastructure have all failed us. At the federal level, we must better fund our schools so that they have the necessary resources to keep students safe during pandemics. The same goes for public transportation, housing, and technology. We must invest in faster, cheaper mass transportation systems that have zero greenhouse gas emissions. We must invest in modernizing our housing systems. In order to protect our economy from public health crises, we must invest in restructuring our technology for healthcare analytics and data sharing systems. Doing so ensures we get the most out of our existing system by bolstering new innovative technologies to create more effective solutions to healthcare issues that stymied our response to the pandemic. Covid-19 has exposed the faulty leadership and ways our infrastructure and public health networks have fallen behind, but armed with this new knowledge and an understanding of the consequences, we can and must take action.

Access to technology is a critical component of encouraging people to stay at home during the pandemic. The U.S. should utilize public private partnerships to create a network of hot spots across the country to increase internet availability in most populated regions as well as in rural areas. Companies should also be incentivized to create low income broadband communications programs to cater towards underprivileged families. In Europe, the European Union’s commissioner lobbied for several video streaming companies such as Netflix, Youtube, and Facebook to lower the picture quality of streamed video in order to decrease the strain on internet consumption. Taking similar actions during the pandemic in the U.S. would help deal with the sudden burst in usage.

Investment in Technology

The U.S. is increasingly falling behind other countries in technology, a huge problem that has been amplified during the pandemic. When it comes to the percentage of healthcare professionals who make use of digital health technology, China, Russia, and India are all ahead of the U.S.. Although the U.S. once dominated the technological world, many other nations are catching up. China, a notable example, is putting in place measures that the U.S. should be taking, including vast support for STEM education and significantly expanded funding for technology research. To dominate the field of technology in the future, the U.S. federal government must commit to investing in STEM programs in higher education and allocating necessary funding to support research efforts.

America should be leading the world in the ways of technological development, but in so many ways are we lacking. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that we must be better prepared in the future to implement effective technological strategies for the transition to virtual work, education, and other activities. With regards to telemedicine, distributing and protecting healthcare data and records, and providing effective contact tracing, our technology failed us during this pandemic. Yet these technological problems extend far beyond the scope of healthcare and pandemics -- our elections, national security, and media channels must be effectively protected from cyber attacks and manipulation. All of our technological systems need to be bolstered, and American intellectual property needs to be far better protected from nations acting with malintent.

Pandemic Preparedness

America is not battle-ready with a sound healthcare emergency preparedness plan for a crisis of any scale. We must develop a National Pandemic Preparedness Program as part of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), along with structured processes for coordinating efforts between the government, private/public healthcare units and citizens in an emergency, including quarterly fire-drills. We must restore the U.S. pandemic response team under the National Security Council, and restore funding to the CDC and NIH. We need epidemic and pandemic preparedness plans that are battle-tested. We need our citizens ready and equipped to handle infectious diseases.

Critical components of a strong pandemic response plan for the future include prioritizing the national stockpile of essential supplies, including prescription drugs and medical supplies (such as ventilators). As the Covid-19 pandemic has played out, we have seen how quickly the national stockpile was exhausted. The U.S. must allocate proper funding to the stockpile in order to adequately stock and maintain these supplies. Additionally, America needs to increase the number of doctors who are practicing physicians, so that there are enough doctors to care for the vast influx of patients that need care during a pandemic. To do so, we must better fund and support graduate medical education. The U.S. must also devote more attention to vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, the homeless, and people with pre-existing conditions. Passing Medicare for All is an essential first step to protecting vulnerable Americans in the event of a pandemic.

Finally, I support the use of technology as a tool to improve the health and quality of life of citizens, both during pandemics and otherwise. America’s communication failed, resulting in conflicting messages on the local and national levels. In order to ensure that the public has access to reliable data, the U.S. could follow the example of nations such as Canada and Singapore and use multiple, accurate government-run websites. Daily briefings led by scientists and public health leaders should also be conducted and made available to the public online.

Improving America's Healthcare System: Telemedicine AI/ML applications, Healthcare analytics and EMR

By expanding healthcare analytics applications and predictive modeling, simple health checkups and patient EMR data can determine the most vulnerable individuals while communities are isolated and experiencing instability. Similar data processing can be used to identify people with chronic diseases and co-morbidities at higher risk during a pandemic. Additionally, the increased use of electronic health records will make it easier for multiple providers to share data about a patient, resulting in more comprehensive care and more effective communication. Lastly, Americans must establish a secure analytics platform collecting clinical, diagnostic, laboratory, and outcome data synthesized from all healthcare providers, modeled after the NHS’s National Covid Cohort Collective. This would allow scientists to look at a centralized data bank and determine patterns, vulnerabilities in the population, and ultimately develop treatments based on a better understanding of diseases.

The U.S. should expand the use of telemedicine and hotlines to treat those with milder illnesses, in order to save hospital rooms and supplies for those who have been affected more severely. Additionally, hotlines such as those in South Korea can direct people to testing sites specifically for Covid-19, which helps to prevent the spread of infection. Finally, telemedicine increases patient visit compliance and convenience, and should be a permanent integration for remote patient checkups. Telemedicine should also be expanded to create interactive online platforms which patients can use to make informed decisions about whether they should seek care or stay home.

With rising healthcare costs, we need to protect our citizens better. We must invest in Medicare for All, which will be helpful to millions of Californians to get access to care, see their doctors without delay, access medications faster, and increase their chances of living the healthy lives they deserve. It is likely that many have missed detection and treatment for Covid-19 because of the unaffordability of copay or coinsurance despite the funding and relief directives from Congress. Affordable health insurance, affordable medicine and consumer rebates need to be supported immediately so people can get the right treatment for the Covid-19 virus.

Social Net Options

In terms of social net options, Covid-19 exposed flaws in our nation's foundations capabilities for financial relief. Solutions that we recommend include a federal bailout, consisting of a PPP Stimulus package for business (based on tax filings), and guaranteed pay of $15/hour minimum wage, and a stimulus check of $600 weekly. During future pandemics, the federal government must guarantee all Americans a universal basic income. We must also guarantee Medicare for All, a policy that Eshoo does not support. As America’s pandemic preparedness plans have clearly failed, we recommend implementing a definite National Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Plan. This plan involves mandatory immediate quarantine and social distancing, effective local and federal communication to the public, and transitioning to an open economy in a uniform, standardized fashion. In addition, we must restructure the system of healthcare analytics, in order to substantially improve the quality of healthcare for millions of Americans.

Gerontocracy

Moreover, the U.S. is handicapped with aging career politicians and dark money in politics.
America’s slide into gerontocracy is a problem that further became exposed during the Covid-19 pandemic -- there are too many out of touch, stuck-in-the-past politicians that lack the innovative solutions to the problems America faces. According to the American Affairs Journal, “by 2024, for twenty-four of the previous thirty-two years, America will have been led by people born in or before 1946.” They also note that “perhaps the pharma lobby is so successful because it is not only the biggest donor but probably the largest vendor to the assisted living facility that is Congress.” New energy and new leadership are desperately needed in Washington to meet urgency of the moment with practical solutions and real change.

The Kumar for Congress Team Took Charge During The Pandemic

Our campaign has set an example for community outreach during the pandemic. In March, our campaign team launched the NPPT and the Pandemic Help Center. We called over 86,000 seniors in the district to check in on them and help them stay sheltered, and our team delivered prescription medications and groceries to them. In addition, we organized over 23 town hall meetings with healthcare professionals, stimulus package experts, and college admission counselors. We recruited a volunteer team to build and donate thousands of masks to the Valley Medical Foundation, provided career advice for those laid-off and grappling for answers, and supported local businesses by providing information regarding loan application and how to make use of stimulus packages. Furthermore, we provided college admission counseling to parents and students for a post-COVID-19 world, and offered Shelter-in-Place Coding classes in Java, Python, Javascript, and Entrepreneurship.

Closing Statement

Covid-19 has turned our world upside down. Millions are unemployed and have no health insurance. And as career politicians capitulate to partisan politics, they’ve sold out to special interests, are technologically illiterate, and have no interest in addressing our challenges. America is at an inflection point. This election is about sending new energy and new leadership to Washington: someone ready to take on the tough post-COVID-19 challenges and deliver solutions for all Americans.

As your Congressman, I’ll prioritize America’s pandemic preparedness, growing our economy, and bringing manufacturing back for supply chain self-reliance. I will fight for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and address racial inequality, all while refusing money from PACs and special interests. I don’t believe in LEFT or RIGHT, but a FORWARD path towards American prosperity.

Voters are tired of the same politicians and rhetoric without any meaningful progress. But with your trust, we can set America back on track. For our future, and for change, I humbly request your vote.
https://rishikumar.com/priorities