WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) released the following statement today after the U.S. surpassed 500,000 American lives lost to COVID-19:

“More than half a million Americans have now been lost to COVID-19, a number so high it is difficult to contemplate.  COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in our country, and it has caused life expectancy to drop for the first time since the end of the Second World War.  Unfathomably, life expectancy for African Americans has fallen 2.7 years since the start of last year as a result of this pandemic. 

“Each of these individuals was a loved one, a neighbor, a friend.  They were parents, children, and siblings.  They were frontline health care workers, public safety officers, teachers, students, small business owners, elected officials, researchers, farmers, firefighters, coaches, volunteers, mentors, and employees in every industry.  They lived in dense cities, small rural towns, and leafy suburbs.  They were wealthy and impoverished.  Many were vulnerable because of pre-existing health conditions or were older Americans; others were healthy and in the prime of life.  Those lost to this pandemic came from every race, religion, and origin, though we have seen a disproportionate number of minorities and low-income Americans succumb to COVID-19 as a result of longstanding disparities in health care access and patient outcomes that must be addressed. 

“In just a few days, we will mark the one-year anniversary of the House taking its first action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when it passed the bipartisan Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act on March 4, 2020.  At that time, only 120 cases had been detected in our country, and nine Americans were confirmed to have died from COVID-19.  The Democratic-led House followed with swift action on additional bipartisan legislation signed into law, with the Families First Act passed on March 14 and the CARES Act on March 27.  As the virus spread and the number of Americans infected grew, it became clear that further action was required, and the House subsequently passed the Heroes Act on May 15.  Tragically and irresponsibly, the Republican Senate’s decision at that time, supported by former President Trump, was to ignore the Heroes Act and hit ‘pause’ on the federal response to COVID-19.  That pause went on for more than seven months, even after the House passed the Heroes Act again in October until Congress finally took bipartisan action in the final days of 2020.  We will never know how many of the 500,000 Americans who died of COVID-19 would still be with us today had former President Trump and Senate Republicans done their jobs and worked with the House to address the pandemic.  

“Now, with President Biden and a Democratic Congress committed to taking every action necessary to protect the American people, we are moving forward with major relief legislation.  Millions of Americans have now been vaccinated against COVID-19, and millions more are receiving their shots each week.  I am hopeful that the darkest hour of a dark winter has now passed, and the light of dawn is within sight.  But we must continue to take every measure we can to protect those still at risk and to prevent the spread of new variants that could render current vaccines less effective.  Each of us has a responsibility to wear a mask, practice social distancing, stay home whenever possible, and wash our hands.  We can get through this pandemic and reach a day when the COVID-19 death toll in America returns to zero.  Our actions in the weeks and months ahead will determine how quickly we reach that day.  How many more Americans will lose their lives or their loved ones will depend on us.”

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