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nysac TomSuozzi TomReedCongressmen Tom Suozzi (left) and Tom Reed

Congress passed the largest stimulus package in US history last March, to the tune of $2.3 trillion. US Representatives Tom Suozzi (D, 3rd District) and Tom Reed (R, 23rd District) talked about upcoming aid packages being considered in Washington at a press conference hosted Wednesday morning by the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC). Reed and Suozzi agreed in general about the need for further aid, though they disagreed on some of the details. But when asked about how the federal government is planning for a second wave of COVID-19, both said that after experiencing this disastrous first wave they hope that a reemergence of the virus this winter would not cause the same level of disruption.

"There's going to be a definite second wave of the virus hitting again. I think that what we have to do is learn as much as possible, do as much as possible, change our behavior as much as possible between now and then so it doesn't become the crisis that we just went through," Suozzi said. "That means we have to wear our masks. That means we have to do social distancing. That means we have to be much more careful than we were this first time around."

“Never has the county-federal partnership been as important as it is right now,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario, as he announced his two guests. “Without federal assistance, New York State, counties, schools and local governments face wide-ranging program cuts, service interruptions, and layoffs at a time when we are restarting our economies and continuing to battle the spread of the disease."

Suozzi attended the press conference on Zoom from his Washington office, while Reed pulled over during his drive from his Corning home base to Washington. Suozzi represents a downstate district comprised of northwest Suffolk County, northern Nassau County and northeastern Queens. Reed's upstate district covers Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins and Yates county, and portions of Ontario and Tioga counties.

Reed agreed that lessons learned about social behavior and safety measures will make a big difference in a second wave, but added that repairing the supply chain will also make a second wave less disruptive. He said he is concerned about States not separating needs they had before the pandemic with those caused by it, saying that new aid packages should be specifically for the latter. Reed was also optimistic that as devastating as the first wave has been, deaths have been well below initial estimates.

"The good news is, at every public health briefing I've been receiving the initial concern is we were supposed to have two million dead by now in America, because they weren't sure exactly what the virus would be doing," he said. "There were some early indications of it mutating up and becoming more aggressive. And obviously we've seen a different outcome. A lot of that has to do, obviously, with social distancing. But it also has to do with what Mother Nature has done with this coronavirus."

Reed said that the emerging technology on vaccine and treatments has been amazing, and that FDA fast-tracking of potential treatments bodes well for the United States to be in a position of having effective treatments and/or a vaccine sooner rather than later.

"Because we learned the lessons of social distancing, masking and supply chain, and PPE delivery and having those national and state stockpiles replenished that will hopefully mitigate any adverse consequences and avoid any type of shutdown that we do not want to see happen on a mass scale on this winter," Reed said. "We're seeing that it's not mutating up -- it's mutating down, which tells you that it looks good in the sense that any type of winter re-emergence is going to be one that we typically could anticipate."

Both congressmen agreed that continuing to practice social distancing and taking other measures adopted in the first wave of the pandemic will be key in preventing a second wave from devastating the population and further eroding the economy.

"We have to do more testing, not just to people with symptoms, but people that are asymptomatic group of exposed as well as people for antibodies," Suozzi said. "We need to have contact tracers. If someone's infected, who else did they come in contact with? We need medical detectives to go out and find out who else they've come in contact with to make sure we can test those folks even if they're asymptomatic and see if we can get them to isolate as well. So again, testing, tracing, isolating wear your mask wash your hands, social distancing. We can avoid this from becoming a big crisis."

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