Sen. Graham: Economy must reopen even if it leads to more COVID-19 cases
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Friday that reopening the economy is "the only answer that's sustainable" even though it will likely lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
Speaking to the media after touring the Milliken & Company plant near Pendleton, Graham acknowledged "there will be an increase in infections the more people get around each other."
"But we’ll have the capability to deal with it and manage it," Graham said. "And hopefully drug therapies will be available soon to lessen the effect on the individual who may catch the virus."
Recent projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington show that COVID-19 deaths in South Carolina could increase dramatically as state officials seek to reopen the state's economy.
But Graham, a Republican from Seneca, stressed that continuing to keep businesses closed is not a viable option. His comments came hours after the U.S. Department of Labor announced that the national unemployment rate soared to 14.7% percent in April.
"We can't print enough money in Washington to absorb the cost of keeping the economy closed forever," Graham said.
What to know:Coronavirus in South Carolina
Graham said he will introduce legislation next week to spur manufacturing in the United States by making it a requirement that building the nation's stockpile of medical supplies be the job of domestic suppliers..
"What have we learned during this pandemic? That 90 percent of all the compounds that go into making antibiotics that keep us healthy here at home are made in China," he said. "The essential protective equipment for the frontline health worker is no longer made in America.
"The Chinese are supplying the world with junk," Graham said. "They've been hoarding protective equipment and selling it in a gouging manner."
Graham predicted that "South Carolina will lead America when it comes to returning the medical supply chain."
He said 70 workers at the Milliken plant near Pendleton are manufacturing 2.7 million medical gowns.
According to Graham, the $20 million contract for these gowns almost went to Vietnam.
"I got a call from Milliken," he said. "We weighed in, and the right decision was made."
Chad McAllister, president of Milliken's textile division, said his company started making the gowns four weeks ago. He also said Milliken has experience making protective fabrics for the military and firefighters, as well as fabrics used in vehicle airbags.
In a brief interview with The Greenville News, Graham said he would support efforts to boost spending on infrastructure projects and provide cities and counties with federal aid to make up for the revenue that they have lost during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I just think we need to think big," he said. "I know the debt is a problem, but the interest rates are incredibly low."
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