WASHINGTON, DC – Implementing travel restrictions, delivering medical supplies and test kits, and coordinating with other countries are some of the efforts outlined by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to protect both Americans and people around the world from coronavirus.
The Energy and Commerce Committee has also been monitoring the coronavirus, now officially named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO). Azar, the leader of President Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force, and Pompeo write in a USA Today op-ed about what else the Administration is doing to monitor the virus.
The first duty of the federal government is to keep our citizens safe. Since the United States first became aware on Dec. 30 of what has become known as the novel coronavirus, America’s public health officials have closely monitored the situation, worked to understand the virus and taken steps to limit Americans’ exposure to it.
Our task force is ensuring that our whole of government, layered, public health plan has the resources necessary to protect Americans. We’ve treated the sick, and traced back their travel history and contacts to minimize the spread of the virus. We’ve worked swiftly to screen and safely receive American travelers returning from China, and bar foreign travelers who have recently visited the epicenter of the outbreak.
Consistent with the World Health Organization International Health Regulations, our travel restrictions were intentionally devised to complement the Chinese government’s policy of isolating approximately 50 million of its own citizens in Hubei province. Other nations, such as Italy and South Korea, have taken similar measures.
Thus far, the United States has only had 13 confirmed cases of the virus. We were saddened to hear last week that one American, a 60-year-old woman in Wuhan, China, has died. But we’re undeterred in our vigilance to protect our people. And we’re mobilizing resources around the world to help other nations fight the disease, too. This is American altruism at its finest.
Let’s start with our efforts focused on the country where the virus first appeared — China. In the words of President Donald Trump, “We’re offering them tremendous help.” During the first week of January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made an offer of assistance in order to understand the disease and help bolster response efforts.
We’ve also facilitated the delivery of vast amounts of medical supplies to the Chinese people. Just last week, the State Department helped transport 17.8 tons of relief supplies to Hubei. And more assistance will continue to be offered — the United States is prepared to spend up to $100 million in existing State and U.S. Agency for International Development funds to assist China and other impacted countries to contain and combat the virus.
Then there are America’s actions to help the citizens of other countries, beyond China. CDC staff based in more than 60 countries are working closely with ministries of health and other health partners, often in conjunction with their colleagues at the State Department and other federal agencies.
For instance, the United States has made coronavirus test kits available to 191 qualified laboratories around the world; so far, labs from 36 countries have put in orders. We’ve deployed staff to train health professionals in 15 hospitals in Vietnam. In Kenya, health experts at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, as part of our Infectious Diseases Task Force, engaged the government early on to recommend best practices in airport screening and public health.
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