As COVID-19 cases grow exponentially across the country, surpassing the grim milestone of 10 million people infected, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) still refuses to address the water shutoff crisis. So we need President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to commit to strong actions to prevent the spread of disease — and that must include a national moratorium on water shutoffs. Right now, only five states (California, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington State) and Washington, D.C., have comprehensive protections against water shutoffs (see our live tracker), and hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of losing their water service because they have fallen behind on their bills. This is dangerous. Water shutoffs can cost lives.
CDC Director Redfield Asleep At The Wheel On The Water Shutoffs-COVID Connection
Before the election, in October, more than 120 organizations across the country and nearly 10,000 individuals urged CDC Director Robert Redfield to issue a nationwide moratorium on water shutoffs to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. These actions echoed the call of the House Oversight’s Subcommittee on Environment Chair Harley Rouda and Vice Chair Rashida Tlaib on October 5.
On November 3, election day, CDC Director Redfield sent a non-response to the organizational letter, simply advising people to use hand sanitizer when water is not available. He completely missed the mark and failed to address the unfolding shutoff crisis. Water access is essential to protect public health — you need running water to thoroughly wash your hands, keep clean, flush toilets and stay safe.
CDC Director Redfield ignored the call for a national moratorium on shutoffs, ignoring concerns and recommending people to use hand sanitizer when disconnected from running water.
It’s Up To Biden And Harris To Show Leadership On Banning Water Shutoffs For Public Health
President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris just announced a COVID advisory board to help address the worsening pandemic and provide recommendations to stem the spread of disease. Water should be part of the response. The new administration can issue an executive order or direct the CDC to stop all water shutoffs.
We also need Congress to step up and finally pass a COVID relief bill for our local and state governments to help make sure everyone has safe water. Twice since April, the House has passed a relief bill that includes Rep. Tlaib’s Emergency Water Is a Human Right Act, to impose a national moratorium on utility shutoffs and provide $1.5 billion in low-income water assistance. It’s long overdue for Republican-controlled Senate to take action. But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has opted not to move forward, in part to make sure corporations get protections against COVID-related lawsuits. This is unacceptable.
As a Senator, incoming-Vice President Harris joined Sen. Jeff Merkley in supporting a national water shutoff moratorium, cosponsoring the Senate version of the Emergency Water Is a Human Right Act. She also co-authorized a powerful opinion piece with Dolores Huerta outlining how the United States can address the racial injustices in access to safe water: “First, we must institute a national moratorium on water shutoffs and implement a water affordability program so that no one must choose between water and other necessities.”
It’s clear that people can’t wait for safe water. Our country needs the incoming Biden administration to act right away by imposing a national moratorium on water shutoffs.
Now, more than ever, we must ensure universal water access to help stem the spread of this deadly disease.