George Hudnet is an Orioles fan but with the team’s home opener on April 8 he hasn’t made plans to see a game at Camden Yards.
The 79-year-old Bel Air, Maryland, resident probably won’t attend a game in person and instead will watch it on TV.
“I don’t think I’d personally go until after the pandemic is over,” Hudnet told Capital News Service.
The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism in the Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland in collaboration with the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at UMD and the Washington Post conducted a national poll of 1,500 U.S. adults.
The online poll from March 12-18 gauged fans’ attitudes toward returning to indoor and outdoor sports events.
Sixty-six percent of poll respondents said they’d feel comfortable attending an outdoor sporting event like baseball, while only 32 percent felt comfortable attending an indoor sporting event like basketball.
“We are very understanding of those fans who are not quite ready to return, but for those fans that are, we’re creating the safest environment possible,” Greg Bader, senior vice president of Administration and Experience for the Baltimore Orioles, told Capital News Service.
Sixty-four percent of those surveyed felt comfortable returning to games with a mask mandate, while 56 percent felt comfortable going to games where attendees are screened for fevers and test negative for COVID-19.
Sixty-nine percent said they would be comfortable returning to games at 20 percent capacity.
“The lower percentage of capacity made people more comfortable than at those venues that were trying for 50 percent or more (capacity) so those were definitely factors that we took into account,” Bader said of the poll.
Sixty-four percent of the poll would be comfortable returning if they received the COVID-19 vaccine and that number rose to 69 percent if all attendees received the vaccine.
“Because vaccinations are still not necessarily available to everyone who wants one, that factored into our decision not to require that,” Bader added.
Some fans like 59-year-old Michael Ruggieri of Glen Allen, Virginia, do feel comfortable returning to games.
Ruggieri is a Mets fan who typically attends one or two games each baseball season.
He explained that when he has received his second dose of the vaccine this week, he will be comfortable going to the ballpark.
He also said that he’d prefer everyone attending games is vaccinated but recognizes that probably isn’t feasible with some people opting not to receive the vaccine.
“If they required everyone to wear a mask, I’d feel comfortable,” Ruggieri told Capital News Service.
“I would like it if there was some kind of reduction in crowds,” he added.
However, other fans, like 35-year-old Jan Glover of Hopewell, Virginia, would only attend games if the teams and stadiums strictly enforced masking and social distancing protocols.
When Glover attends games it’s for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, as she’s several hours away from both Camden Yards and Nationals Park.
“It would depend on how much they’re enforcing the masking, and you have to have space between your party and other ticketed patrons,” Glover told Capital News Service.
At Camden Yards and Nationals Park fans and stadium staff will be required to wear a mask including when in their seats except when eating or drinking.
Gaiters, bandanas, and masks with exhalation valves won’t be allowed.
At Camden Yards, signs and other notifications will be posted reminding fans before and during games to wear their masks.
Fans who don’t comply with the mask mandate will receive two verbal reminders of the policy from ushers and will be ejected from the stadium after a third violation.
“If it does look there’s an intentional attempt to not wear a mask, we will bring in security and have the individual ejected,” Bader said.
“We are taking this policy very seriously, if we feel that people are intentionally trying to skirt this policy we will have them removed from the ballpark,” he added.
At sports venues in recent months, there have been isolated cases in which fans have refused to comply with mask mandates.
At a National Hockey League game in Pittsburgh last month, 17 fans were ejected for not wearing masks, according to KDKA CBS Pittsburgh.
Masking is one of the numerous protocols that will be in effect on Opening Day for the Orioles.
The team is selling ticket packages in pods of two, four, and six seats.
Each pod will be socially distanced with fans unable to join other groups.
The Nationals will be selling tickets in pods of 1-6 people also socially distanced and with fans unable to join other pods.
At Camden Yards fans who seat-hop and migrate to other seating areas will be reminded twice before being subject to ejection.
In an effort to prevent fans from congregating outside their assigned seating pods Camden Yards won’t open until an hour before the first pitch.
Fans will not be permitted to enter until after batting practice.
The delayed opening is in effect “so that fans are not tempted to be running all over the seating bowl chasing home run balls and instead stick with their assigned pod area once they arrive at the ballpark,” Bader said.
Unlike last season, both stadiums will be cashless and will require digital ticketing where fans can access their tickets through the MLB Ballpark App.
Concession areas at Camden Yards will have more barriers set up than usual and will also have decals marked on the floor directing people where to stand.
Additionally, fans won’t be permitted to bring outside food and beverages into Camden Yards.
“We also have made a significant effort for both our planned members and the public to try and educate them in advance about our policies to make sure that when they arrive at the ballpark, they know what they’re getting into,” Bader said.
Also, there will be clear plastic barriers between fans and concession workers, in an effort to diminish contact and create a touchless experience.
As an added safety measure, Camden Yards has 36 dual-sided handwashing stations around the stadium and over 175 hand sanitizing stations.
Despite all 30 teams allowing fans this season, each stadium has varying capacity limits dependent on the safety protocols of their local jurisdiction.
The Baltimore Orioles will have up to 25 percent capacity at Camden Yards, while the Washington Nationals will allow approximately 12 percent capacity at Nationals Park.
“We are hopeful based on what we saw in Florida (at spring training),” Bader said.
“We were very heartened by the fact that fans did adapt very quickly to this significant change of what coming to a ballpark was all about,” he added.
The Texas Rangers’ stadium in Arlington will be at full capacity this season, while the Boston Red Sox and Nationals have the lowest capacities respectively at 12 percent.
The Rangers home opener was a sell-out with 38,828 fans in attendance as fans throughout the game gradually took off their masks.
These protocols will have been put to the test with the Nationals home opener on Tuesday and will continue with the Orioles home opener on Thursday.
“Stadium capacity is probably the biggest (safety) factor and if people wear their masks,” Glover said.
BY JACOB STEINBERG
Capital News Service Annapolis Bureau
LFCC honors retirees and distinguished staff and faculty members
LFCC honored five employees and four retirees during a virtual recognition ceremony on May 13.
Each year the college presents awards to an administrator, a full-time faculty member, an adjunct faculty member, a classified staffer and one part-time staff member. This year’s honorees were:
- Chris Coutts, the Distinguished Administrator Award recipient. Dr. Coutts, the Fauquier Campus provost, was also named vice president of communications and planning in 2020. Prior to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, he had been tapped to take on a short-term interim role.
“When the pandemic hit in March 2020, all of the responsibilities of the interim position were suddenly completely different,” LFCC President Kim Blosser said. “Chris had to manage many shifts in Virginia Community College System (VCCS) policies, implement changes to move to online learning, help support changes to online student services, communicate almost daily with faculty and deans, and through it all remain patient and nimble as conditions changed. According to one of the nominators, he was ‘the glue that kept the administrators at the middle level operational.’”
- Bill Lewis, recipient of the Distinguished Full-Time Faculty Award. During his 38 years with LFCC, Professor Lewis has been responsible for establishing the college’s engineering program. Among the new degrees he brought to LFCC are mechanical engineering technology, computer-aided drafting technology, civil engineering technology, industrial electricity and controls technology and plastics technology.
“Most recently, Bill designed and established the transfer engineering specialization,” said Dr. Ia Gomez, the college’s STEM dean. “Bill has designed and taught more than 35 new courses during his time at the college. Many of these courses were new to the VCCS.”
- Marie Beeler, recipient of the Distinguished Classified Staff Award. An early college specialist, she was the first LFCC career coach placed at James Wood High School 15 years ago.
“A faculty member recently commented, ‘What will we do without Marie?’” said Brenda Byard, dean of early college and high school partnerships. “Marie has served as the trainer for new high school career coaches as they onboard. Many express gratitude to her for sharing resources and imparting her wisdom as a former coach.”
- Patricia Fox, named the Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Member. The anatomy and physiology instructor has taught at various campuses and in various formats: in-person, online and hybrid.
“Trish demonstrates great passion for the subject matter, keeps the students directly engaged with the content topics presented, and makes the class enjoyable and inclusive,” said Dr. Gomez. “Trish is a consummate team player who is always ready to step up when needed. Even as her full-time job responsibilities have changed, she has continued to be an enthusiastic supporter of the college and its students.”
- Chelsea Conrad, Distinguished Part-Time Staff Award recipient. The TRIO receptionist has a can-do attitude and has often been working on campus during the pandemic, according to TRIO Director and Coordinator of Disability Services Vivi Meder.
“You can find Chelsea greeting walk-ins at the Welcome Center, fielding phone calls of all natures, helping to maintain the TRIO program, keeping the food pantry stocked, assisting students in the TRIO lounge, assisting with student outreach and much more,” Meder said.
Also during the employee recognition ceremony, four retiring employees were recognized:
- Engineering Professor Bill Lewis. After nearly four decades at LFCC, Professor Lewis plans to start commercially selling some of the produce he grows on a large scale, as well as enjoy some fishing and other hobbies.
- Math Professor Eunice Myers. She started as an adjunct at LFCC 32 years ago, before coming on full time in 2009. A missionary to Africa as a young adult, Professor Myers hopes to do some more traveling.
- Early college specialist Marie Beeler. The LFCC alumna plans to travel and spend more time with her family.
- Library specialist Annie Cato. Prior to her 10 years at LFCC, Cato’s career path included social work, being a travel agent, and working on a thoroughbred horse farm. She plans to hit as many state parks as possible in her retirement.
Emergency first responders doing vital but dangerous work during the pandemic
Megan O’Brien is an infectious disease epidemiologist by day, and an EMT by night at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad in Maryland.
Her title is roving night crew officer, and she works from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. A volunteer at the rescue squad since 2014, O’Brien believes that it’s a way to be involved in the community, and she enjoys the work.
But the COVID-19 pandemic drastically altered the work for her and her fellow EMTs across the nation. They faced a unique and ever-present danger: 7% of all American frontline deaths due to the pandemic between March 2020 and April 2021 were medical first responders, according to a joint investigation by Kaiser Health News and the Guardian.
Emergency medical services workers are some of the most vulnerable front-line workers, with much of their funding and equipment dependent on the support of local government.
As the coronavirus pandemic raged last fall, a study found that “EMS personnel are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than other healthcare or emergency services professionals.” COVID deaths among emergency services workers were estimated to be three times higher than among nurses and five times higher than among doctors, according to the study, published on EMS1.com, a website that serves the emergency medical services community.
As in countless other communities, O’Brien’s unit had to overhaul procedures to protect the safety of the EMTs.
O’Brien is the head of the COVID task force with the Bethesda-Chevy Chase station. She helped to develop and implement policies on COVID safety.
“Everything was really designed to try to do everything we could to protect our personnel from getting COVID and then take care of our patients as safely as we could,” O’Brien told Capital News Service.
To limit the station’s exposure to COVID, new guidelines limited the time that EMTs spent in the back of the vehicle with patients and reduced the number of personnel that could be in the station to the minimum. The squad stopped hiring new recruits and followed other requirements put in place by the Montgomery County Rescue Service.
“Montgomery County (has) been very helpful in having policies and procedures in place that we should follow to keep ourselves safe,” said EMS Lt. Jay Gruber, spokesman for the nearby Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad. “And they’ve been providing us a lot of PPE. The county’s been very supportive.”
Gruber, who is also the chief of police at Georgetown University and the former chief of police in College Park, Maryland, has been working with the volunteer rescue squad for 35 years.
Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service “pivoted very quickly… helping keep the community safe, and making sure that they get their needs met,” Gruber said.
Protecting the volunteers’ safety also has driven significant changes to official on-scene procedures.
“Normally, an EMS provider will wear gloves… Even during normal times, you have access to face masks, and eye protection,” Gruber explained. “With COVID… we have various types of masks that we wear for various situations. We also have mandatory use of eyewear and gowns on people who are under investigation as COVID patients and multiple layers of gloves.”
After a patient has been transported to a hospital, especially a suspected COVID patient, aggressive cleaning and decontamination of rescue squad equipment – stretchers, electronic equipment, walls, ceilings, floors – follows.
Montgomery County’s emergency medical services system is one of the largest combined career and volunteer emergency services systems in the country, responding to over 120,000 911 calls annually, according to Dr. Meghan E. Quinn, a Navy Medical Corps lieutenant who presented a report about mental health in American volunteer fire/rescue personnel to the American Psychological Association in 2019.
Approximately half of Montgomery County’s approximately 2,500 emergency medical services workers are volunteers, Quinn said in her report.
Many communities across the nation reported that emergency services personnel were quitting or retiring because of the dangers from COVID. With the widespread administration of the anti-COVID vaccines, efforts to recruit and train new EMTs are now intensifying, according to various news reports.
In Maryland, a person can get an EMT license as early as 16 and can certify as a paramedic at 18. Rescue squad drivers must be at least 19.
Iana Sahadzic, 22, has been a volunteer paramedic with the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad since she was 17. She was attracted to the work after watching EMT volunteers driving down the street, lights flashing and sirens blaring and realizing that she has always wanted to be in the health profession and help people.
While a volunteer, Sahadzic is also a student at the University of Maryland, where she studies neurobiology and physiology, with a minor in Spanish.
“Honestly, some weeks I’m not quite sure how I manage to fit everything in,” she told CNS. “I have always been a very organized person, but I think that having to balance both school and volunteering as a paramedic has forced me to manage my time much more strictly – I can’t go anywhere without my calendar.”
Sahadzic volunteers about 36 hours a week, most of which is overnight. During her downtime, she brings her laptop and notebook to study or watch a lecture.
“Everyone has a different hobby and in my mind helping people in a time of need was the way I wanted to spend my free time.,” she said. “Though some days are harder than others, I am proud to have dedicated so much of my time to the community.”
One of the hardest aspects of volunteering to be an EMT during COVID is the strain on the volunteers and their loved ones.
When the pandemic was at its worst, Sahadzic said she showered multiple times before going home to visit family and followed other precautionary measures to ensure she wouldn’t bring anything home.
“I was probably trying to distance myself – because you never knew – and spend a lot more time at the fire station, because I felt like maybe, you know, the less time I spend at home the better,” she said. “But it’s gotten better with the vaccine.”
O’Brien said she slept in her guest room, away from her husband, as a precaution.
“There is a light, we can see the end, which was not the case several months ago,” she said. “I think for health care workers, things have really changed since we got vaccinated because you just don’t have that same level of fear anymore.”
By RAYONNA BURTON-JERNIGAN and LAINA S. MILLER
Capital News Service Washington Bureau
U.S. Attorney recognizes Police Week, virtual candlelight vigil to be held on May 13th
ROANOKE, Va., – In honor of National Police Week, Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel P. Bubar recognizes the service and sacrifice of federal, state, local, and Tribal law enforcement. This year, the week is observed Sunday, May 9, through Saturday, May 15, 2021.
“This week is a time to honor our law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation,” said Attorney General Garland. “I am constantly inspired by the extraordinary courage and dedication with which members of law enforcement act each day, putting their lives on the line to make our communities safer. To members of law enforcement and your families: we know that not a single day, nor a single week, is enough to recognize your service and sacrifice. On behalf of the entire Department of Justice, you have our unwavering support and eternal gratitude.”
“Every day our police officers put on their badges and risk their lives to protect the safety of our communities,” Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Bubar stated today. “They take up the call to serve in the face of great personal sacrifice and increasing adversity. Specifically, this past year’s global pandemic coupled with rising anti-police sentiment presented unprecedented challenges. Instead of wilting in the face of these difficult circumstances, these brave men and women provide security and the rule of law against violence and mayhem. Please join me this week in thanking our law enforcement community and taking time to honor their great sacrifice.”
In 1962, President Kennedy issued the first proclamation for Peace Officers Memorial Day and National Police Week to remember and honor law enforcement officers for their service and sacrifices. Peace Officers Memorial Day, which every year falls on May 15, specifically honors law enforcement officers killed or disabled in the line of duty.
Each year, during National Police Week, our nation celebrates the contributions of law enforcement from around the country, recognizing their hard work, dedication, loyalty, and commitment to keeping our communities safe. This year the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted law enforcement officers’ courage and unwavering devotion to the communities that they have sworn to serve.
During the Roll Call of Heroes, a ceremony coordinated by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), more than 300 officers will be honored. Based on data submitted to and analyzed by the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), of the law enforcement officers who died nationwide in the line of duty in 2020, nearly 60 percent succumbed to COVID-19.
Additionally, according to statistics reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) through the Law Enforcement Officer Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) Program, 46 law enforcement officers died as a result of felonious acts and 47 died in accidents in 2020. LEOKA statistics can be found on FBI’s Crime Data Explorer website.
The names of the 394 fallen officers who have been added in 2020 to the wall at the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial will be read on Thursday, May 13, 2021, during a Virtual Candlelight Vigil, which will be livestreamed to the public at 8:00 PM EDT. The Police Week in-person public events, originally scheduled for May, have been rescheduled due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns to October 13-17, 2021. An in-person Candlelight Vigil event is scheduled for October 14, 2021.
Those who wish to view the Virtual Candlelight Vigil on May 13, 2021, can watch on the NLEOMF YouTube channel found at youtube.com/TheNLEOMF. The FOP’s Roll Call of Heroes can be viewed at www.fop.net. To view the schedule of virtual Police Week events in May, please view NLEOMF’s Police Week Flyer.
To learn more about National Police Week in-person events scheduled for October, please visit www.policeweek.org.
Honoring our Healthcare Heroes
What is a hero? Maya Angelou famously said, “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”
In my role as CEO of Fauquier Health, I have the privilege of working with an incredible team of healthcare heroes who work tirelessly, each and every day, to make our hospital and our community a better place.
Every May, hospitals and communities across the country recognize and celebrate these frontline healthcare heroes over the course of several weeks: National Nurses Week, National Hospital Week, Skilled Nursing Week and National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week. Like many other milestones we’ve experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebrations are especially meaningful.
I’m grateful for our team members who serve at Fauquier Health and the many paramedics, EMTs and EMS personnel who play such a critical role in helping our community members get the safe, excellent care they need. They are living examples of what it means to be heroes who are focused on making our community a better place through their service to our friends and neighbors.
When I think of everyday heroes, I think of our environmental services team members who take pride in ensuring our patients and their families are cared for in a safe and clean environment. I think of our food service and nutrition staff who prepare healthy and comforting meals for our patients while they are away from home. I think of our administrative team members who welcome patients and visitors to our hospital with their kindness and friendly smiles. I think of our EMS partners who remain calm under immense pressure, providing critical care when every minute counts. I think of our dedicated caregivers, technicians, nurses, physicians and more who demonstrate excellence and compassion in all that they do.
Our local healthcare heroes are truly living out our hospital’s mission to make our community healthier. Importantly, their focus and dedication has played a critical role in helping us to make strong progress towards improving COVID-19 here in our community. While we must continue to stay diligent in doing all that we can to fight the pandemic, I know we are all encouraged by the progress we are making together.
As we celebrate this year, I hope you will join me in sharing your thanks and appreciation for the everyday heroes among us. Fauquier Health is honored to serve this community and we are here for you and your family when you need us.
CEO at Fauquier Health
Fauquier Health Wound Healing Center recognized nationally for excellence in healing
Physicians, leaders and clinicians at Fauquier Health’s Wound Healing Center gathered to celebrate their recent achievement of receiving the Robert A. Warriner III, M.D., Clinical Excellence Award. The Wound Healing Center, located in the town of Warrenton, has scored in the top 10 percent of eligible Healogics® Wound Care Centers® on the Clinical Excellence measure, which is the Comprehensive Healing Rate weighted by wound mix. The Center was awarded this prestigious honor by Healogics, the nation’s largest provider of advanced wound care services. This award is named for Dr. Robert A. Warriner III, a pioneer in wound care and the former Chief Medical Officer for Healogics.
Simultaneously, the Fauquier Health Wound Healing Center was also a recipient of the Center of Distinction award by Healogics®. The Center of Distinction award is given to Centers who achieved outstanding clinical outcomes for twelve consecutive months, including patient satisfaction rates higher than 92 percent and a minimum wound healing rate of at least 92 percent within 28 median days to heal. There were 555 Centers eligible for the Center of Distinction award and only 278 achieved the honor.
Sarah Bales, Program Director of the Fauquier Health Wound Healing Center, commented on the momentous occasion, “Achieving the 2020 Clinical Excellence Award and the 2020 Center of Distinction Award deserves celebrating. This recognition is only provided to the top 10 percent of nearly 600 Healogics® Centers nationwide. Despite the challenges of 2020, our team focused on maintaining patient-centered care and the quality outcomes our patients expect and deserve. To say I’m proud of this team is an understatement.”
The Fauquier Health Wound Healing Center is a member of the Healogics network of over 600 Wound Care Centers® and offers highly specialized wound care to patients suffering from diabetic foot ulcers, pressure ulcers, infections and other chronic wounds which have not healed in a reasonable amount of time.
Advanced wound care modalities provided by our wound care experts include negative pressure wound therapy, total contact casting, bio-engineered tissues, biosynthetic dressings and growth factor therapies. The Center also offers hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which works by surrounding the patient with 100 percent oxygen to help progress the healing of the wound.
Dr. Lynn Samuel, MD, Medical Director at the Fauquier Health Wound Healing Center, shared “The 2020 Clinical Excellence Award is another indication of the exemplary care provided by our multispecialty physician panel and experienced nursing team.”
About Fauquier Health
Fauquier Health is a community health system dedicated to high-quality, patient-centered care in a unique environment that considers the multiple facets of healing and respects the individuality of each and every patient. Located at 500 Hospital Drive in Warrenton, Virginia, Fauquier Health serves the residents of Fauquier and several surrounding counties. It comprises: Fauquier Hospital, a fully-accredited, 97-bed hospital; Fauquier Health Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a 113-bed long-term care and rehabilitation facility; the Villa at Suffield Meadows, an assisted living facility; the Wound Health Center and a medically supervised Wellness Center offering health and wellness programs. Fauquier Health also operates nine physician’s offices, including primary care and specialties. More information on Fauquier Health is available online at FauquierHealth.org or by calling 540-316-5000.
Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., Healogics is the nation’s wound healing expert. Last year over 300,000 patients received advanced wound care through a network of over 600 Wound Care Centers. Healogics also partners with over 300 skilled nursing facilities to care for patients with chronic wounds and provides inpatient consults at more than 60 partner hospitals. As the industry leader, Healogics has the largest repository of chronic wound-specific patient data in the country. The Healogics Wound Science Initiative offers peer-reviewed research and advanced analytics in the pursuit of not only better outcomes, but a better way to provide care.
Biden: ‘America is on the move again’; wants $2 trillion to aid families
In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Joe Biden on Wednesday urged Congress to pass a nearly $2 trillion plan to help American families – spending that would build on his administration’s efforts during his first 100 days in office to end the coronavirus pandemic and restore the American economy.
Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made history as the first women, next in line to the presidency, to occupy the two prominent seats on the dais behind Biden.
After inheriting “a nation in crisis,” Biden told the Congress that a day shy of his 100th day in office, “America is on the move again. Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength.”
Only 200 members of Congress viewed the address in-person due to COVID health and safety regulations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III stood in for the rest of the cabinet, while Supreme Court Justice John Roberts represented the high court. The House chamber normally holds about 1,600 people.
The nationally televised Biden speech mixed reminders of what his presidency already has tried to achieve with calls to go bigger – and spend bigger – on a host of new programs.
The centerpiece of Biden’s address was a proposed “American Families Plan,” which would expand pre-K education by two years and make community colleges free; provide affordable child care to lower- and middle-income families; allow up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, and extend a series of tax credits and tax cuts for millions of families.
“When this nation made 12 years of public education universal in the last century, it made us the best-educated and best-prepared nation in the world,” Biden said, adding “the world is catching up. They are not waiting.”
To pay for his plan, the president has proposed increasing the tax rate for the top 1% of earners back up to 39.6%. It was lowered to 37% by former President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans in 2017.
“I will not add to the tax burden of the middle class of this country. They’re already paying enough,” Biden said. “What I’ve proposed is fair. It’s fiscally responsible. It raised the revenue to pay for the plans I’ve proposed that will create millions of jobs and grow the economy.”
Biden’s speech also asked Congress to pass legislation on police reform, just one week after former Minnesota Police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on three charges stemming from the murder of George Floyd last year in Minneapolis.
“We have all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black America,” Biden said. “Now is our opportunity to make real progress.”
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed in the Democratic-led House in March and is awaiting action in the Senate.
The president also repeated his call for lawmakers to pass election reform and voting rights laws, both of which are being resisted by the GOP.
“More people voted in the last presidential election than ever before in our history – in the middle of one of the worst pandemics ever,” Biden said. “That should be celebrated. Instead it’s being attacked.”
A bill to protect the rights of LGBTQ Americans also must get to his desk, Biden said, adding that he wanted transgender people to know “the president has your back.”
In support of the right to unionize, Biden called on the members of Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. He also urged them to pass the $15 minimum wage and the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would ensure equal pay for women.
The president reiterated his determination to pass a $2 trillion infrastructure package, which he called “a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America” and the greatest job plan since World War II.
He said he welcomed Republican ideas on infrastructure spending, but warned: “doing nothing is not an option.”
Biden said he wanted to expand cancer research, a topic close to Biden’s heart, as his late son, Beau Biden, died from brain cancer in 2015. He said the National Institutes of Health should embark on a massive effort to create a new center focused on breakthroughs for preventing and treating diseases including not only cancer but also Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
“I can think of no more worthy investment. And I know of nothing that is more bipartisan,” the president said. “Let’s end cancer as we know it. It’s within our power.”
Biden also urged Congress to tackle a host of issues that have eluded resolution for years: stricter gun laws, reform of immigration laws, and lowering prescription drug costs.
While Democrats generally applauded the president’s proposals, Republicans were highly critical.
“Our president seems like a good man. His speech was full of good words,” Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, said in the official Republican response.
“Our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes,” he said. “We need policies and progress that bring us closer together.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called Biden’s speech a “bait and switch.”
“The ‘bait’ was he was going to be a moderate, a unifying force and bring us all together,” the senator said. “The ‘switch’ is that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, for all practical purposes, won the debate in the Democratic Party over what it ought to look like.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, tweeted after the address: “This whole thing could have just been an email.”
But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, called Biden’s speech “an agenda of justice, equality, security, and opportunity.”
“I was glad to hear President Biden set out his vision and call our country to the higher purpose of living up to the promise of its Founders: that all our people must not only be treated equally under our laws but that all equally deserve a chance to make it In America,” Hoyer said.
Pelosi characterized Biden’s remarks as a “unifying message of resilience, resolve and hope.”
“The Democratic Congress looks forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration to enact this historic vision for lower health care costs, for bigger paychecks, for cleaner government, for the people,” the speaker said.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, praised the president’s address, saying Biden “spoke to the country with confidence and conviction; seriousness and resolve; realism about the challenges we face; and optimism about America’s future.”
“The best way to face these challenges is together. President Biden has already worked to bridge the divides of this nation, and we must forge ahead,” Van Hollen said.
Biden began his address by marking his administration’s progress in the first 100 days in fighting the pandemic.
“After I promised 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots in 100 days, we will have provided over 220 million COVID shots in 100 days,” Biden said. “Our progress these past 100 days against one of the worst pandemics in history is one of the greatest logistical achievements our country has ever seen.”
By LOGAN ARNESON, HANNAH FIELDS, ANEETA MATHUR-ASHTON and JENNIFER MANDATO
Capital News Service Washington Bureau