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Sen. John Cornyn: 'I'm proud of the way that people have rallied, but I think there's a lot of lessons to learn'

The Texas senator weighs in on small business funding, coronavirus testing, PPE and reopening the Lone Star State.

HOUSTON — Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) joined KHOU11 in a recorded Zoom conversation about the second multi-billion-dollar coronavirus aid package the Senate approved Tuesday.

Cornyn, who’s up for re-election in November, said he was sure this addition to the CARES Act will not be the last.

“No one in Congress has ever voted on bills this big before,” Cornyn said. “What we're trying to figure is a way to be responsive both to the public health consequences and to the economic consequences.”

Small businesses are expected to receive the most help from the nearly $500 billion aid package. The money from the first CARES Act windfall ran out before some smaller employers could get it.

“We set up a threshold of 500 employees or less, and unfortunately, some of the more aggressive, better-off, publicly owned companies that could have weathered this much better than the mom-and-pops got to the head of the line,” Cornyn said. “But that's why it's so important for us to replenish these funds in the vote that was cast in the Senate yesterday.”

RELATED: No more money: Small business loan program on hold after reaching limit

“We're going to monitor this to see and make sure that it has its intended effect on those businesses,” Cornyn added. “So that, as I said, once we defeat the virus, we can go back to work and these employment relationships still exist and people are getting paid.”

The aid package includes $25 billion for COVID-19 testing.

RELATED: Senate, President Trump reach deal on $500B small business payroll fund

According to the Texas Health and Human Services numbers published April 22, 216,783 total tests have been administered in Texas.

With a population of 29 million, Texas has tested less than 1 percent of the state’s population.

Both Louisiana and New York have tested more than 3 percent of their populations as of April 21, according to the COVID Tracking project.

KHOU 11 asked Cornyn if that level of testing gave the state enough information about the prevalence of COVID19 to safely reopen the economy.

“As you know, Midland, Texas, is not Dallas. It's not Houston. And what we've seen is the incidents of confirmed cases is highest in the places where we have the most congestion,” Cornyn said. “The local response and a local effort to slowly reopen based on circumstances ... is something that would inform any decision about additional testing. I think we're going to see a lot more opportunities to test people not only for whether they're currently have the coronavirus or whether they've had it through the antibody tests. As I said, we're trying to do a lot of different things at one time.”

Personal protective equipment shortages across the country and in Texas have been well-documented. KHOU 11 has done a series of stories where family physicians and funeral directors expressed frustration about the lack of supplies and their inflated price. 

RELATED: Funeral workers concerned about not getting enough PPE during COVID-19 pandemic

RELATED: Texas doctors struggle to stay afloat as in-office patient visits drop amid coronavirus outbreak

“Personal protective equipment is one of the first things that I talked to (Texas) Gov. (Greg) Abbott about when this crisis arose,” Cornyn said. “Unfortunately, one of the lessons we've learned is that we can't depend on the supply chain from China, where much of the medical equipment and pharmaceuticals are made.”

Cornyn said if anyone was having a problem in Texas with PPEs to reach out to his office and he will be “glad to help.”

“Here's the dichotomy or the split,” Cornyn said “We are a federal system of sovereign states and one nation. And so we disperse the authority to local officials and governors as well as the federal government.”

“I think no response is ever going to be perfect,” Cornyn added. “This one was not perfect. I'm proud of the way that people have rallied. But I think there's a lot of lessons to learn. And if something like this happens again, I think we'll do better.”

Coronavirus symptoms

The symptoms of coronavirus can be similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Some patients also have nausea, body aches, headaches and stomach issues. Losing your sense of taste and/or smell can also be an early warning sign.

Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80 percent of the cases there were mild.

But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk for becoming seriously ill. However, U.S. experts are seeing a significant number of younger people being hospitalized, including some in ICU.

The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.

Human coronaviruses are usually spread through...

  • The air by coughing or sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Help stop the spread of coronavirus

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Eat and sleep separately from your family members
  • Use different utensils and dishes
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hand.
  • If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.
  • Follow social distancing

Lower your risk

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.

Get complete coverage of the coronavirus by texting 'FACTS' to 713-526-1111.

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