"UPMC is the biggest hospital system in all of Pennsylvania, and one of the bigger systems in the country. They have 5,500 hospital beds. They have 40 COVID patients. So, there is no chance of overwhelming the hospitals."
By Matthew Boyle8 May 2020 Washington, DC
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview on Friday that American political leaders are “overstating the danger” of coronavirus to most Americans while “underestimating” the economic “carnage” that lockdowns nationwide are causing.
Toomey, a key U.S. senator from a Rust Belt battleground state, conducted this interview with Breitbart News after rolling out a plan to much more quickly reopen Pennsylvania than the plan the state’s Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf has begun. Toomey, a widely respected Republican who serves alongside a Democrat, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), is not known for making outlandish claims so his statements here that the panic driving policy decisions around the country instead of science—which shows the disease is much less severe than originally thought—are a huge step for the country as the conventional wisdom behind the lockdowns nationwide is challenged ever so more. He is the first U.S. senator to offer such criticism of the conventional wisdom that keeps much of the country—and much of Pennsylvania—in a state of perpetual pseudo-lockdown limbo. Toomey in recent days hosted a roundtable with medical and economic experts presenting for U.S. senators actual data about the virus, bringing together top medical and scientific officials from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)—Pennsylvania’s largest hospital system—and Stanford University, Duke University, and New York University.
“Let me start with my starting premise and that is there was a very specific reason why we shut down our economy,” Toomey told Breitbart News on Friday. “Think about how drastic and draconian a step that was. It was completely unprecedented in American history to just forbid economic activity. We did it for one reason. That was to slow down the rate of the transmission of the virus, not to stop it altogether—nobody thought that was possible, but to slow it down so that we wouldn’t have such a rapid surge of sick people that they would overwhelm our hospitals’ capacity to treat them. That was the reason. It is now absolutely clear that there is no danger of overwhelming our hospitals. In fact, the vast majority of hospitals in Pennsylvania are mostly empty. UPMC is the biggest hospital system in all of Pennsylvania, and one of the bigger systems in the country. They have 5,500 hospital beds. They have 40 COVID patients. So, there is no chance of overwhelming the hospitals. Therefore, since the whole reason of depriving everyone in Pennsylvania of an income and a livelihood is no longer a risk, why are we still doing it?”
Toomey’s state of Pennsylvania has begun, under Democrat Gov. Wolf’s plan, a long, slow reopening process as of Friday. On Friday morning, Wolf rolled back restrictions in about a third of the state—in 24 counties total—mostly in the northwestern rural part of the state. Wolf’s reopening plan has three color-coded phases. The lockdown phase, where most of the state remains, is the red phase. The first phase of reopening is yellow, and then eventually certain counties will move to green after some time in the yellow phase. Toomey told Breitbart News that Wolf’s plan does not move fast enough, and that he believes the science supports safely reopening the vast majority of Pennsylvania right now.
“We need to get on with the business of reopening our economy,” Toomey said. “Here’s another very important factor in all of this, it’s now increasingly obvious what was not entirely obvious when this outbreak began and that is this is a disease of the elderly and the ill. In Pennsylvania, 68 percent of all fatalities have happened inside nursing homes. So it’s the most vulnerable subset of the most vulnerable subset—in other words, the nursing home residents of the elderly population, those are the ones who are extremely vulnerable. By all means, we should be doing everything we can to protect them. But the vast majority of people are not vulnerable. So I’ve advocated a phased reopening of our economy. I think that actually most of Pennsylvania, a large majority of Pennsylvania, could be substantially reopened. We’re not moving as quickly as we should and could and need to to allow people to restore their livelihoods.”
Toomey said that scientifically the virus has not been even close to what many doom-predicting experts had feared would be the worst case scenario. He said that while it clearly poses a high risk for elderly and vulnerable communities, especially for people in nursing homes, he believes U.S. policymakers have not effectively balanced the science—especially as new information, data, and facts have changed the way doctors are looking at the bigger picture—with economic impact.
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