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Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California, has called for a nationwide shelter-in-place order to mitigate community spread of the coronavirus. Above is a file photo of the Indian American congressman speaking at a rally with MoveOn members and allies with leading senators to demand that the Senate vote to reject Mike Pompeo's nomination for secretary of state, at the U.S. Capitol on April 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for

Indian American Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California, called for a two-week nationwide shelter-in-place order March 24 to mitigate community spread of COVID-19.

Khanna led 19 members of Congress in sending a letter to President Donald Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar calling for a nationwide shelter-in-place. “The strain on the American health care system worsens, the federal government cannot continue to slow-walk its response,” said the congressman, who represents portions of Northern California’s East Bay Area and the Silicon Valley, noting that infection rates have been rising dramatically.

“There is no doubt that an action of this magnitude will temporarily disrupt daily lives and cause short-term economic pain, but it will help prevent an extended outbreak and response that could plunge us deep into a long-lasting recession,” he said.

More than 65,000 people throughout the U.S. have tested positive for the coronavirus, but testing is not yet widely available to determine the actual number of people who have been infected with the rapidly spreading disease. Seventeen U.S. states have issued shelter-in-place orders, mandating that people remain in their homes, and effectively shutting down many small businesses.

New York state has been hardest-hit, though a state shelter-in-place order went into effect last week: almost 31,000 cases have been recorded and 285 people have died from COVID-19 related afflictions, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control

Washington state has also had one of the highest numbers of coronavirus-related deaths: 129 people have reportedly died from COVID-19 related afflictions. California, the first place to impose a state-wide shelter-in-place order, has reported 2,853 infections, and 64 deaths. New Jersey has reported 4,402 infections, and 62 deaths as of March 25, according to the CDC.

Throughout the U.S., 928 people have died from coronavirus-related illnesses.

In a press statement issued March 24, Khanna said: “We’re watching our health care system collapse before us. We’re seeing people separated from their loved ones. We’re witnessing students shut out from their classrooms and workers let go from their jobs,” said Khanna.

“If we want to demonstrate true American leadership and stop this outbreak, we need a nationwide shelter in place order. Let’s listen to the experts who are telling us that step is the only way we can truly mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Months of continued half-measures will cost us far more than two weeks of sheltering in place,” he said.

Khanna noted that the U.S. health system is already operating at near full capacity, and that there is a nationwide shortage of N95 masks, and protective clothing.

“Given insufficient availability of mass testing and the ability for asymptomatic individuals to unknowingly spread the coronavirus, the federal government must reduce person-to-person contact to the bare minimum by issuing a two-week nationwide shelter-in-place order immediately. It is the only proven way to limit the growth of confirmed cases, insulate our health care system, and prevent catastrophe,” said Khanna.

“If we wait to act until the number of sick and dead reaches a certain threshold, then it will be too late. A state-by-state, locality-by-locality approach is not enough,” he said.

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