Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the Trump Administration and state and local health systems are “doing their job” to protect Americans against the coronavirus – a viral disease that was first detected in Wuhan, China – and asked U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar about specific steps the Administration is taking to help control this public health threat.
“Looking around the world, there is reason to be alarmed. Ten days ago, for example, there were over 49,000 confirmed cases [of coronavirus] in the world,” stated Senator Alexander.
“Today, there are over 79,000 confirmed cases in the world. But, now looking at home, we had 14 cases ten days ago and still have only 14 cases today, plus the 39 Americans that were brought back from China and Japan, mostly from the cruise ship. With this alarming situation in the world, what have you been doing right here at home?” Senator Alexander said.
“My guess is 20 years of preparation by Democrats and Republicans on this committee and Democrats and Republican presidents to be ready for pandemics, number one. Number two, it’s the extraordinary public health system we have in this country, state and local, doing their job. And number three, the first and most aggressive quarantine requirements that have been done in 50 years,” continued Senator Alexander.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar: “So we are bearing the fruits actually of our pandemic flu preparedness activities, which I was one of the architects of in the Bush administration and that Congress funded. We’re seeing the public health infrastructure from that is coming to form. One of the most important things we did as soon as alerted to this and as soon as we had a genetic sequence and understood the nature of the symptoms of this disease was to alert our state and local public health partners and our health professionals.”
“And that’s why 13 of those 14 cases were identified by healthcare professionals astutely seeing that these were individuals who had been in Wuhan province and presented with flu like symptoms, got into the system, and took advantage of that one-week- developed CDC test to confirm results. So that kind of public health infrastructure, the world’s best, is the backbone of our response activities here. In addition, we worked on the aggressive border containment measures, and we’ve worked with China to try to get transparency and get information,” stated Azar.
Alexander discussed the coronavirus with Secretary Azar at today’s Senate Labor Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. You can watch their full conversation here.
After the White House requested additional funding yesterday for the coronavirus response, Alexander, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he will work to make sure the government continues to have the resources it needs.
Alexander, as chairman of the Senate health committee, also plans to hold a hearing next Tuesday to find out more about what the Trump Administration is doing to prevent spread of the coronavirus and what steps have been taken to coordinate the federal response.