Gov’t. taking strong actions to respond to coronavirus

Published 9:14 am Wednesday, March 11, 2020

This week, I held a hearing in the Senate health committee I chair to provide the American people with accurate information about the coronavirus that they can rely on in their everyday life.

Tennesseans want to learn the truth from people with experience who can provide answers, and our hearing was an opportunity to hear from four respected professionals, who have decades of experience and are the right people to give accurate information about the coronavirus — both what individuals can do and what the federal government is doing to respond.

One of the main things we learned from these experts was really quite simple — one of the best ways to protect yourself from the virus is to wash your hands, drink a lot of water, and isolate yourself if you feel sick. If you have a fever and a cough, call your doctor. Stay home, and don’t infect your neighbors.

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Around the world, the spread of the coronavirus is alarming, with around 100,000 cases in at least 85 countries and over 3,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

And on Thursday, Governor Lee announced the first case of the coronavirus in Tennessee.

But despite these developments, it remains true that most people in the United States are at low-risk, and the United States is one of the countries that is best prepared to confront this virus.

Here is what the New York Times said on their front page on Sunday:

“Much about the coronavirus remains unclear, and it is far from certain that the outbreak will reach severe proportions in the United States or affect many regions at once. With its top-notch scientists, modern hospitals and sprawling public health infrastructure, most experts agree, the United States is among the countries best prepared to prevent or manage such an epidemic.”

The Trump Administration has taken strong actions to respond to this virus:

• On January 29, the Administration announced a coronavirus task force to coordinate the government’s response.

• On January 31, at a time when there were only six confirmed cases in the United States, the Administration, for the first time in 50 years, announced they would quarantine Americans who may have been exposed to the virus while in China, and impose travel restrictions on foreign nationals who have traveled to China in the last 14 days. They have expanded these restrictions as outbreaks have developed in other countries.

• The CDC has developed a test to diagnose the coronavirus, which FDA authorized on February 4, and that has been made available to 70 labs in 44 states and Washington, D.C.

• According to one of our witnesses, we are developing a vaccine for the coronavirus more quickly than ever before, and President Trump met this week with drug manufacturers to see if vaccines and other treatments would be available more rapidly.

• And scientists at Oak Ridge, Argonne, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories are conducting research using the extraordinary computing and imaging capabilities to understand and respond to the coronavirus, which could speed up the development of treatments and vaccines.

According to one of our expert witnesses — Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health — if we had not taken these steps, we would have many more cases right now.

Congress is doing its part too. This week, I voted for and Congress approved $7.8 billion to fight the virus, including $950 million for state and local governments.

As a member of the Senate appropriations committee, I will work to ensure the financial resources are available to help combat the spread of this virus. And as chairman of the Senate’s health committee, I will continue to work to make sure that the Administration is implementing the preparedness and response framework for emerging public health threats that Congress has already provided.