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Walden on coronavirus developments: the focus “ought to be on public health needs.”


Washington, DC – This morning, Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) joined New Day on CNN to discuss the latest developments with coronavirus.

Walden has been on the front lines of Congressional efforts to contain coronavirus, not only as the top Republican on the congressional committee with direct oversight of the Department of Health and Human Services, but also constant engagement with those on the front lines of this outbreak. Last weekend, he held a townhall, roundtable with local health officials, and a press conference in the 2nd District of Oregon, and he will be back this Friday to meet with local officials in Umatilla County where one person has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Yesterday, Walden led a panel with Vice President Mike Pence and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Tony Fauci.

You can watch the full interview here or below.

On the federal government’s efforts to contain the virus

I think you see an all-government approach, led by the Vice President, the President. I think what you’re seeing is Congress coming together, passing the emergency supplemental yesterday to make sure that we have support for our communities, support for our states, support for our citizens, including making sure we get as many test kits as needed out into the public. You know, it’s less than 2 months ago we got the genome to figure out what this disease was. Our incredible scientists went to work developing this test, and then perfecting it, and now within a matter of weeks they’ll be millions of tests for Americans. So, we’re surging in every capacity here, but we know there’s going to be mistakes and we’re going to learn from them.

On the number of test kits

For each test kit, that is not a test. Each test kit has multiple test capabilities in it. So, we think by the end of the week there’ll be one million and one-half tests available out there. The point is, we’re getting them out there as fast as possible, and they’ve opened the door to hospitals that can pass and prove they can create these tests. Do them there. They’re opening the door to the commercial test labs to be able to conduct these tests. As you know, they had to perfect the tests, make sure it was giving you accurate readings. They did that. They found out one of their reagents wasn’t working as it had in lab, so they brought them back. They fixed it. And literally within a couple weeks you’ll have the ability to do millions of tests per week all across the country in labs. You won’t have to get CDC approval.

The test kit vs. test confusion

There is confusion between a test kit and tests. Each test kit has multiple tests available in it. Don’t think of the test kit as a single test.

On the death rate from coronavirus

I don’t think we know [about the exact number of death rates] is the answer. And we’ve been warned about this by Dr. Fauci and others. We’re not sure of the denominator. In other words, in China, many, many people went into the hospitals. We don’t know how many people in China had the virus but never went to the hospital, never were tested. So, it’s going to take us awhile to understand what that ratio is. Here’s the thing to keep in mind though about the danger of this disease: in the regular flu, where we’ve already lost 14,000 or more Americans on the seasonal flu, this season, the death rate is somewhere in the tenths of a percent. Spanish flu, you know which occurred in 1918 and was devastating, was about 2 percent. I’ve heard ranges of 2 and yesterday the WHO said 3.7 or whatever it is – I don’t think we know yet because I think we have a lot of people who are asymptomatic, no signs, but are also carrying the disease. You have to factor that in to get back to what the actual death rate is. But the focus shouldn’t be on that. It ought to be on public health needs. It ought to be on making sure our citizens are safe and secure, that our states and local health authorities are getting what they need. That’s where we should be focused.

On uncertainties, future developments

We’re learning a lot, and there was a report too that there may be a second version of this virus. We expect this virus to mutate. They’ve told us that. And so now there are some media reports that there’s a second strain perhaps in China. We don’t know that for sure. We’re learning a lot. We will adjust. We have terrific people in our National Institutes of Health, CDC, great scientists, and those in the private sector developing hopefully both a vaccine, which will take awhile, but also a treatment that may be available as soon as the end of April, according to some companies.

Health (116th Congress)

Press Release