NEW YORK – U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is calling on officials to declare a “public health emergency” amid the word wide coronavirus outbreak.
Schumer additionally said he was able to increase a source of special federal funding account known as the Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund from $50 million to $85 million to help combat the virus.
“If we have learned anything from the risks that new viruses pose to public health it is that a ‘stitch in time saves nine,’ and the more we can do to be proactive, the better off the public will be,” said Schumer. “The CDC has been doing a tremendous job so far at being proactive and working around the clock to protect public health, but if we are going to make sure they can sustain this pace and remain at-the-ready should the outbreak get worse, they will need immediate access to critical federal funds that at the present time they remain unable to access.”
Schumer said the dollars could also be used by the CDC for, amongst other things:
+ Epidemiological activities, such as contact tracing and monitoring of cases;
+ Additional or enhanced screenings, like at airports;
+ Support for state, local, and tribal health departments;
+ Public awareness campaigns;
+ Increased staffing.
Schumer explained that the sole purpose of his push is to ensure the feds have the dollars necessary to wage a proactive and ongoing war against this developing outbreak. Even though the current risk to the American public remains low, Schumer said the federal funds must be unlocked now so that the CDC has them at-the-ready.
He added that, thus far, the CDC’s work has been critically important and that the agency will need immediate access to more funds if coronavirus continues to infect more Americans. He made the case for the emergency declaration as he detailed what happens next at the federal level amid this developing outbreak.
The novel coronavirus (termed “2019-nCoV” by CDC) can cause a wide range of symptoms, from those similar to the common cold to more severe respiratory illness that can be fatal. There is currently no direct cure-all, but a vaccine is currently under development at the National Institutes of Health.
To date, there are nearly 2,000 confirmed cases in China, more than 50 reported deaths, and confirmed cases across 10 countries. The first case in the United States, discovered in Washington State, was confirmed on January 21st, and there have been reports of a second case in Illinois and a third in California.
To protect against infection, the CDC recommends basic hygiene techniques such as frequent hand washing, staying hydrated, and coughing into one’s arm or a tissue. If there’s a fear of animal transmission, CDC officials urge people to wash hands after contact with animals and thoroughly cook any meat before consumption.