Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, has been tapped by President Donald Trump to be part of his economic recovery initiative.
Alexander’s appointment to the group was announced last week. On Monday, he told WPLN News the country has to re-open for business soon — but not before more testing for COVID-19 is available.
The chairman of the U.S. Senate Health Committee said there are enough COVID-19 tests in the country for people showing symptoms. But he said more need to be available before states go back to business as usual.
“It’s going to be hard to imagine sending 50 million children back to school in August, and 20 million students to colleges, unless we have widespread testing to determine whether you are sick or not with this virus,” Alexander said.
The senior senator, along with Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, is asking the federal government to create a competition to see who can develop — within the next four months — a test that could give a quick diagnosis.
An example of one could be a test similar to those sold over the counter to detect pregnancies.
“Some people may want to take a test every month or every week, if you are in a camp or in a school or if you are in a nursing home,”Alexander said. “That needs to be available.”
Still, even with millions of new tests out in the market, Alexander warned the country cannot let its guard down until there is a vaccine, which could take about a year.
“The light at the end of the tunnel won’t come until we have a vaccine,” Alexander said. “We won’t be fully back to normal until we have a vaccine just like we have a vaccine for polio and for small pox and for measles and for other diseases that would tear the county apart if they were allowed to run rampant.”
Alexander Praises Gov. Bill Lee
Alexander applauded Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s initiative to open up drive-thru testing sites for anyone who wants to get a test during three consecutive weekends. That move led to more than 11,000 tests at 33 sites over the initial weekend.
He said that Lee “is on the right track.”
“What he’s asked us to do is to stay at home if we possibly can for the rest of the month,” Alexander said. “That’s the only way we have to keep this especially virulent disease from spreading.”
Lee announced Monday afternoon that he’ll allow his safer-at-home order to expire on April 30, allowing most businesses in 89 of the state’s 95 counties to reopen. Separate re-opening strategies will be planned for Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby and Sullivan counties.