Mar 12, 2020
Bernie Sanders Coronavirus Speech Transcript: March 12, 2020
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders delivered a speech today on the coronavirus, or COVID-19. Read the full transcript of his remarks right here.
Bernie Sanders: (00:00)
The crisis we face from the coronavirus is on a scale of a major war and we must act accordingly. Nobody knows what the number of fatalities may end up being or the number of people who may get ill, and we all hope that that number will be as low as possible. But we also have to face the truth and that is that the number of casualties may actually be even higher than what the Armed Forces experienced in World War II. In other words, we have a major, major crisis and we must act accordingly.
Bernie Sanders: (00:44)
Therefore, it is an absolute moral imperative that our response as a government, as a society, as a business community, and as individual citizens meet the enormity of this crisis. As people stay or work from home and are directed to quarantine, it will be easy for us to feel like we are all alone. “I’m working at home. I’m not at my office.” Or that we must only worry about ourselves and think that everybody else should fend for themselves. But in my view, that would be a tragic and dangerous mistake.
Bernie Sanders: (01:38)
If that ever was a time in the modern history of our country when we are all in this together, this is that moment. Now is the time for solidarity. Now is the time to come together with love and compassion for all, including the most vulnerable people in our society who will face this pandemic from a health perspective or face it from an economic perspective. If our neighbor or coworker get sick, we have the potential to become sick. If our neighbor loses his or her job, then our local community suffers and we may lose our jobs. We are in this together. If doctors and nurses and medical personnel do not have the equipment and the training and the capacity they need right now, people we know may unnecessarily face additional illness and even death. We are all in this together.
Bernie Sanders: (03:05)
Unfortunately, in this time of international crisis, it is clear to me, at least, that we have an administration that is largely incompetent, and whose incompetence and recklessness have threatened the lives of many, many people in our country. So today, I would like to give a brief overview of what, in my view, we must do to respond to this crisis.
Bernie Sanders: (03:37)
First and foremost, we are dealing with a national emergency and the President of the United States must understand that and declare that emergency. Next, because President Trump is unwilling and unable to lead selflessly, we must immediately convene an emergency bipartisan authority of experts to support and direct a response that is comprehensive, compassionate, and based first and foremost, on science and facts. In other words, Congress in a bipartisan manner must take responsibility for addressing this unparalleled crisis.
Bernie Sanders: (04:27)
Further, we must aggressively make certain that the public sector and the private sector are strongly cooperating with each other, and we need national and state hotlines staffed with well-trained people who have the best information available. One of the aspects of the current crisis is there are people who are asking themselves, “What all the symptoms of coronavirus? Well, I have a cold. Do I have the flu? Do I have the coronavirus? Who’s going to help me? Where do I go to seek medical treatment? How do I get a test? When is that test going to be processed?” People have a lot of questions, and at the statewide and federal level, we need experts to provide the necessary information to our people.
Bernie Sanders: (05:17)
The American people deserve transparency. Something that the current administration has fought day after day to stifle. In other words, we need to know what is happening right now in our country, in our states, and in fact, all over the world. If there was ever a time for transparency and honesty and being straightforward, this is that moment. And we need that information coming from credible, respected scientific voices of which we have many in our own country and all over this world, not from politicians.
Bernie Sanders: (05:57)
And during a crisis, we must make sure that we care for the communities most vulnerable to the health and economic pain that is coming, those in nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities. Those confined immigration detention centers, those who are currently incarcerated and in jails, and all people regardless of their immigration status.
Bernie Sanders: (06:29)
Unfortunately, as I think the American people increasingly understand, our country is at a severe disadvantage compared to every other major country on earth because we do not guarantee healthcare to all people as a right. And as we speak, some 87 million Americans are either uninsured or underinsured. And when you are uninsured or underinsured, you hesitate about getting the medical care you need because you cannot afford to get that medical care. The result is that millions of our people cannot afford to go to a doctor, let alone pay for coronavirus tests.
Bernie Sanders: (07:20)
So while we work to pass a Medicare for all single-payer system, the United States government today must make it clear that in the midst of this emergency, every one in our country, regardless of income or where they live, must be able to get all of the healthcare they need without cost. Obviously, when a vaccine or other effective treatment is developed, it must be free of charge. We cannot live in a nation where if you have the money, you get the treatment you need to survive. But if you’re working class or poor, you get to the end of the line. That would be morally unacceptable.
Bernie Sanders: (08:15)
Further, we need emergency funding right now for paid family and medical leave. Anyone who is sick should be able to stay home during this emergency and receive their paycheck. What we do not want to see is at a time when half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck, when they need to go to work in order to take care of their family, we do not want to see people going to work who are sick and who can spread the coronavirus.
Bernie Sanders: (08:53)
We also need an immediate expansion of community health centers in this country so that every American will have access to a nearby healthcare facility. Where do I go? How do I get a test? How do I get the results of that test? We need greatly to expand our primary healthcare capabilities in this country and that includes expanding community health centers.
Bernie Sanders: (09:17)
We need to determine the status of our testing and processing for the coronavirus. The government must respond aggressively to make certain that we in fact have the latest and most effective tests available and the quickest means of processing those tests. There are other countries around the world who are doing better than we are in that regard. We should be learning from them.
Bernie Sanders: (09:47)
No one, none of the medical experts that I have talked to dispute that there is a major shortage of ICU units and ventilators that are needed to respond to this crisis. The federal government must work aggressively with the private sector to make sure that this equipment is available to hospitals and the rest of the medical community.
Bernie Sanders: (10:15)
Our current healthcare system does not have the doctors and nurses we currently need. We are understaffed. During this crisis, we need to mobilize medical residents, retired medical professionals and other medical personnel to help us deal with this crisis. We need to make sure that doctors, nurses, and medical professionals have the instructions and personal protective equipment that they need. This is not only because we care about the well-being of medical professionals, but if they go down, then our capability to respond to this crisis is significantly diminished.
Bernie Sanders: (10:59)
The pharmaceutical industry must be told in no uncertain terms that the medicines that they manufacturer for this crisis will be sold at cost. This is not the time for price gouging or profiteering.
Bernie Sanders: (11:19)
The coronavirus is already causing a global economic meltdown, which is impacting people throughout the world and in our own country, and it is especially dangerous for low income and working class families. People who today, before the crisis, are struggling economically. Instead of providing more tax breaks to the top 1% in large corporations, we need to provide economic assistance to the elderly. And I worry very much about elderly people in this country today, many of whom are isolated, many of whom do not have a lot of money. We need to worry about those who are already sick. We need to worry about working families with children, people with disabilities, the homeless, and all those who are vulnerable.
Bernie Sanders: (12:19)
We need to provide in that context, emergency unemployment assistance to anyone in this country who loses their job through no fault of their own. Right now, 23% of those who are eligible to receive unemployment compensation do not receive it. Under our proposal, everyone who loses a job must qualify for unemployment compensation at least 100% of their prior salary with a cap of $1,150 a week or $60,000 a year. In addition, those who depend on tips in the restaurant industry is suffering very much from the meltdown. Those who depend on tips, gig workers, domestic workers, and independent contractors must also qualify for unemployment insurance to make up for the income that they lose during this crisis.
Bernie Sanders: (13:19)
We need to make sure that the elderly, people with disabilities and families with children have access to nutritious food. That means expanding the Meals on Wheels Program. It means expanding the school lunch program and SNAP so that no one goes hungry during this crisis, and everyone who cannot leave their home can receive nutritious meals delivered directly to where they live.
Bernie Sanders: (13:52)
We need also in this economic crisis to place an immediate moratorium on evictions, on foreclosures, and on utility shutoffs so that no one loses their home during this crisis; and that everyone has access to clean water, electricity, heat and air conditioning.
Bernie Sanders: (14:17)
We need to construct emergency homeless shelters to make sure that the homeless, survivors of domestic violence and college students quarantined off campus are able to receive the shelter, the healthcare and the nutrition they need.
Bernie Sanders: (14:35)
We need to provide emergency lending to small and medium size businesses to cover payroll, new construction of manufacturing facilities and production of emergency supplies such as masks and ventilators, a very serious problem right now in the midst of this crisis.
Bernie Sanders: (14:57)
Here is the bottom line, and that bottom line is that in the midst of this unprecedented moment, we need to listen to the scientists, to the researchers, to the medical folks, not to politicians. We need an emergency response to the current emergency and we needed it immediately. We need more doctors and nurses in underserved areas. We need to make sure that workers who lose their jobs in this crisis receive the unemployment assistance they need. And in this moment, in this moment, we need to make sure that in the future, after this crisis is behind us, we build a healthcare system that makes sure that every person in this country is guaranteed the healthcare that they need. Thank you all very much.
Senator? Senator? Senator? Senator?
Speaker 3: (15:58)
Senator, do you consider going back to Washington and the Senate?