Welcome to my home. I’m teleworking today to comply with the guidance from Georgia’s public health experts to maintain social distancing. It is encouraging news that Georgia is gradually able to open some businesses. I know we are all anxious to get to work at full capacity as soon as it is safe to do so. We owe a huge thank you to the health authorities, NCDC, doctors and researchers, and the government for managing this crisis responsibly. Their proactive efforts will make it possible for Georgia to reopen safely. We are not there yet, though. As Dr. Gamkrelidze said – “we have not yet defeated COVID-19.” It is so important we continue to take this seriously and take the necessary precautions to stay healthy and safe.
The United States is leading the world’s humanitarian and health response to COVID-19, even while battling the virus at home. As part of this response, the United States has committed nearly one billion dollars to date in health, humanitarian and economic assistance. This is in addition to the funding we already provide to multilateral and non-governmental organizations helping communities around the world deal with the pandemic.
Here in Georgia, the Embassy continues to look for ways the United States can help Georgians. Today, I am very pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through its Food for Progress program, is donating an additional 27,000 tons of high-quality U.S. wheat to support Georgia during this outbreak.
This is in addition to the 27,000 tons of U.S. wheat delivered this past December. As other countries are banning export of their wheat and grains, the U.S. is finding ways to help by providing more. The U.S wheat is being provided through a $14.5 million program called Food for Progress.
We are working with great partners on this project including Land O’Lakes Venture 37, Michigan State University, and the Georgian Farmers Association in collaboration with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, the National Food Agency, and Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency.
By the end of this month, USDA will sign 18 small grant agreements, totaling $400,000, to strengthen the dairy, beef, and farming sectors, and improve food safety standards.
The U.S. also continues to provide new assistance in the health care sector. I am pleased today to announce an additional $3 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or CDC) to support Georgia’s response to COVID-19. Since January, CDC has supported Georgia’s preparation for and response to the pandemic, partnering with the NCDC and Ministry of Health. Some of the activities they have been working on together include:
Training healthcare workers on the proper use of personal protective equipment, infection prevention and control, and contact tracing of suspected cases of COVID-19
They have also been providing technical assistance on patient management and flow systems to mitigate the spread of the virus in hospital settings; and
And they have been training field epidemiologists (or disease detectives) and giving them the necessary skills to collect, analyze, and interpret COVID-19 data.
This $3 million in new funding builds on CDC’s more than 10-year partnership with Georgia, across priority public health programs, such as Hepatitis C Elimination, the Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program, and supporting the Richard G. Lugar Center to provide quality assurance and control for laboratories across the country.
If you’re interested in learning more, please visit the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/covid19
Thank you again for joining me today, and for all of your contributions to the struggle against this virus. The fight is not over yet, but we are definitely making progress.