In the ever-changing world of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us may be struggling to interpret and understand the facts about this virus and how it is impacting our state and nation. A rift has developed between the extremes on this issue, with some politicians and experts disagreeing on how to keep people safe while getting our economy going again.
North Carolina Congressman Greg Murphy is a physician and surgeon, and served in the NC House of Representatives from 2015-2019, until he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives last fall. Congressman Murphy joins Traci DeVette Griggs on this week’s Family Policy Matters radio show and podcast to provide his take, as a doctor and a legislator, on the pandemic and our state and federal responses to it.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people have been playing the blame game,” says Congressman Murphy, “which is just in my opinion simply ridiculous and counterproductive. I think the pendulum swung to the extreme because we did not know much about this virus and I believe it was the right thing.”
But now, he believes we can start to move back towards a sense of normalcy. “I think there is light at the end of the tunnel. I think there will be a new normal and we as humans and as people will learn to adapt.”
“I think it’s time that we put down the partisan swords and realize that we are all in this together. We’re not all in the same boat; we’re in the same storm, and we’re all handling it a little differently. We have different circumstances, but I think we can really use this as a time to come together as a nation and realize that as a people, we’re much stronger together than we are divided.”
Tune in to Family Policy Matters this week to hear Congressman Greg Murphy elaborate on our state and federal responses to COVID-19, and how you can make sure you are getting to most accurate, unbiased information during this pandemic.
TRACI GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. We’re grateful to be joined today by United States Congressmen Greg Murphy, who represents North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Dr. Murphy is a licensed physician and surgeon from Greenville, North Carolina, who served in the North Carolina State House from 2015 until 2019 before going to D.C. to represent North Carolinians in Congress. And of course, our topic today is none other than COVID-19, what else?
Dr. Murphy, I’ve been following your posts throughout the pandemic. You’ve done a very nice job of balancing the need to get people back to work with efforts to keep as many people as possible safe. Well, this balance is all the more remarkable in light of the chasm that has opened up between the extremes on this issue. Why are you choosing to take a more measured approach, and why do you think that’s important for our nation’s wellbeing?
US REP. GREG MURPHY: Traci, I’ve been a surgeon for over 30 years, and as surgeons we look at the world a little bit differently and we try to be very measured in our responses. We try to be very objective looking at science—looking at data—and be able to interpret them in an objective manner. And I think that’s where the message really is best spent on people, because as we’ve seen now, things have become so emotional and you can flip emotions. Emotions change from minute to minute, day to day, and they’re transient. If we have data and we have science, then we can actually explain things, I believe, in a much more calm, reassuring manner and more predictive manner as to what’s going on and what the future looks like. I think it is a much more truthful way to approach this crisis.
TRACI GRIGGS: Yeah, it’s tough when the scientists seem to disagree though, which comes down to the judgment, doesn’t it, as to who to listen to? How do you do that?
US REP. GREG MURPHY: Well, I think that’s a very good point. I will tell you the lead of the Department of Health and Human Services and I differ on some of the data that I’ve seen and what it means. She is a little bit different as far as moving the goalposts and everything. I think there is a much more optimistic picture than I believe she does, and I believe there are definite ways that we—now that we have more information—can look and see who are the populations that are most at risk, and who are not. I believe that therefore actually gives us a much better avenue as to how we can get our state moving back towards a sense of normalcy.
I think again, we’ve learned over the last two or three months a lot about this virus. At first we thought one person could infect three. Now we find out that really one person can infect one. And so then we look and see, well, okay, who is susceptible to being infected? Everybody. But then of those individuals who become infected, who becomes severely ill? Who becomes truly, deathly ill? And that’s an older population that is over age 65, individuals who have other diseases, kidney failure, lung failure. The biggest risk factor we now find is morbid obesity. And so those individuals are much more at risk to have a bad outcome from this. And again, trying to get the data out of Raleigh, it took us awhile unfortunately. We found that three out of five individuals in this state who have succumbed to the disease came from nursing homes. Now we know that those individuals who go into nursing homes are already very sick. In fact, when one goes into a nursing home here in the United States, half of those individuals pass away within six months. So again, it helps us understand really who is at risk and therefore we need to keep those people sheltered in place, keep the nursing homes especially watched very, very carefully. But then that puts the other, you know, 90-plus percent of individuals out in the state at a much lower risk category and therefore we can use that data to get our economy and a life of normalcy back going again.
TRACI GRIGGS: Yeah. You know, it is interesting, we do have a better view of things now. It seems there’s always a blame game, right? Everybody wants to say, “Oh, we overreacted,” or “Oh, we’re not reacting strongly enough.” But in your sense, and having seen what you saw on the state level and now on the federal level, how do you think from your perspective that we’ve done so far?
US REP. GREG MURPHY: Well, I think it’s always good if we look objectively backwards in time to say, “Hey, this is what we did. What we could have done better?” Unfortunately, a lot of people have been playing that, playing the blame game, which is just in my opinion, it’s simply ridiculous and counterproductive. I think the pendulum swung to the extreme because we did not know much about this virus and I believe it was the right thing. In fact, I urged the governor to lock the state down when he did, and I think that was the appropriate thing. Now that we know more about the virus, who is infected, who is more susceptible to this, I believe we can then use that information to dial things back. I think it’s been an appropriate measure at first, I truly do, but now I believe that now that we have more information we can reset the clock and move forward.
TRACI GRIGGS: Okay, so let’s talk about the stimulus packages. The original one—the federal government’s earliest response—they passed a stimulus package. It sent a $1,200 check out to every qualifying adult, people who had children got some more than that, and then added $600 per week to regular unemployment checks and everybody was very thankful for that at the time. But now that things are beginning to open back up, some people are saying it’s making it difficult for employers to get their people back to work. Now, are you hearing this is the case and if so, what are your thoughts on that?
US REP. GREG MURPHY: I am hearing that over and over again and so let me clarify one thing: I really don’t look at this as a stimulus package; I look at it more as a stabilization package. It was very different than in 2008, because what happened to our economy then was because we had financial problems. We had infrastructure financial problems, and so we needed to correct those and then get people to get consumer confidence back. What we’re trying to do now is actually stabilize business, which was doing fantastic. The best economy we had had in 50 years before this pandemic! So the stabilization measures were meant to keep that infrastructure in place until we could learn more about the virus, figure out how to live with it rather than run from it, and then start things back up. Lindsey Graham—about the $600 a week—he fought hard against this in the Senate before it came to the House. But Speaker Pelosi would have none of that, and to try to get some relief to the people, that had to be included. It is a terrible thing because some individuals now are earning more money staying at home than they were in their jobs, and that’s wrong. You know, the good thing is it says on people’s unemployment form, “If you’ve been offered a job in the last week, check your point, because you can lose your unemployment if you do not accept that job.” So yes, it was meant to stabilize things while workers were down, but if businesses are opened back up and you’ve been offered your job, you need to go back and take the job.
TRACI GRIGGS: So many have said, as you mentioned, this pandemic has revealed vulnerabilities in our country. Once we’ve gotten through all of this, is China the first priority? What are some of the other vulnerabilities that we need to address as a country?
US REP. GREG MURPHY: Well, China, hands down is our first priority, and to be honest with you, the American public really isn’t aware of this. We’re at war with China, whether people want to agree with it or not. They are stealing technology; they’re stealing our intellectual property on a regular and daily basis. They’ve continued to do it through this entire thing. They lied to us; they lied to the world about this virus and outbreak at first, that is well-documented. They shut down their own country and their own domestic flights, but they didn’t shut down international ones. Their requests for personal protective gear skyrocketed during December and January, but again downplayed the whole virus thing. So, they are not our friend. It’s shown to us that we have way too much dependence upon China for our pharmaceuticals, for so much of our other products, and hopefully we can work and use that to get things either back home, or to countries that are actually allies and friends to us that we can depend on in times of need.
TRACI GRIGGS: Okay. Is there another vulnerability that you would want to mention here that we’ve discovered?
US REP. GREG MURPHY: Yeah, our food vulnerability, because now we’re seeing that because of the virus, as far as our production facilities, we are vulnerable. We’ve seen in some of the chicken houses and some of the poultry plants that individuals are side by side, shoulder to shoulder. We’ve seen that the virus can be transmitted very quickly that way. So therefore we’ve readjusted; we put plexiglass between the workers to try to get things done in a safe, healthy manner. But also our food supply, which is our primal concern really in this country. If a nation cannot feed itself, that nation is doomed.
TRACI GRIGGS: I want to ask the question to you, what is your sense of the American people as revealed through this pandemic? I read this very interesting quote yesterday that says that we have become flabby and soft as citizens. That we don’t read, we don’t know our history, we idolize reality stars, we want cheap goods at any price. So which side is it? Do we still have the great American spirit, or are we flabby and soft in your opinion?
US REP. GREG MURPHY: We live in a world where things are instantaneous, gratification is instantaneous. You know when I grew up, if I wanted to know something, I went down to the library, went through the Dewey decimal system, and then searched and searched and searched through the library or the Encyclopedia Britannica to find out something. Now you click on your phone and you know anything within 15 seconds. It’s instant gratification, and I do believe we’ve become soft. We don’t know how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. And so it has shown that we are a nation that has gotten, in my opinion, too complacent, too comfortable rather, with having everything that we need when we need it.
TRACI GRIGGS: What word of encouragement would you like to offer our listeners as we move forward during this time of uncertainty?
US REP. GREG MURPHY: Well, I think there is light at the end of the tunnel. I think there will be a new normal and we as humans and as people will learn to adapt. I went out on social media over two months ago; I was one of the town criers originally in Congress talking about what this was going to do. And we talked about flattening the curve. But remember, the whole purpose of flattening curve was not only to save lives, but to push down the curve so that we would allow our hospitals to gain resources if, God forbid, we had a big spike. Well, our hospitals have done that. They have the resources now, if God forbid these spikes occur, which I don’t think are going to occur. Now that said, the virus is not going to go away. And so we have something when these pandemics occur, when flu seasons occur: we have vaccines, vaccines that give us, give our bodies immunity to attack this virus.
But the other way we do it is for people who have had the virus to be exposed to it so they get better. Those individuals, if they were to come in contact with someone who was infected, don’t transmit the virus anymore. So as more and more people get exposed, we’re going to have less and less chance of this virus propagating. It’s not going to go away, but with every year as time goes by, we’ll have better and better medicines. We’ll have a better understanding of how to keep this quarantined and deal with this virus. This is not going to change us as a people. It’s not going to change us as a world. We just see the world a little bit differently, but that’s what we do, we adapt; we’re humans, we adapt. I think it’s time that we put down the partisan swords and realize that we are all in this together. We’re not all in the same boat; we’re in the same storm, and we’re all handling it a little differently. We have different circumstances, but I think we can really use this as a time to come together as a nation and realize that, you know, as a people, we’re much stronger together than we are divided.
TRACI GRIGGS: Well, thank you. We’re just about out of time for this week now, but before we go Dr. Murphy, where can our listeners go to get the best information about this COVID-19 pandemic and the response here in North Carolina?
US REP. GREG MURPHY: There are different websites that I use. I use COVID-19, that’s the modeling that comes out of the University of Washington. I think that’s been a very, very good predictive model if you like statistics. You can go to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website, but also I think if you go to the Johns Hopkins website. Again, that’s another one that has very good objective information about what’s going on. And to be honest with you, you use common sense. We’ve learned a lot of things: washing hands, wearing masks, and social distancing; we know all those maneuvers help keep individuals safe. But we can use those measures and still start our lives back again and start becoming the people that God meant us to be.
TRACI GRIGGS: U.S. Congressman and physician Dr. Greg Murphy, thank you so much for being with us on Family Policy Matters.
US REP. GREG MURPHY: Well God bless everyone. Stay safe.