U.S. health officials brief lawmakers on spread of coronavirus
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Top U.S. health officials held a closed-door briefing with lawmakers on Capitol Hill today to discuss the spread of coronavirus.
The meeting, which lasted just over an hour, was organized at the request of U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and comes as the number of confirmed cases around the world has risen to 7,711 and the total number of deaths from the virus has reached 170.
DeGette, who serves as chair of House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations panel, which oversees the CDC and NIH, said after the briefing that while the virus remains mostly contained in China, she remains concerned about the amount of time it will take to develop and deliver a vaccine to people throughout the U.S. should it start to spread here.
“This is a dangerous virus but, as health officials told us today, it still remains largely contained to mainland China,” DeGette said after the briefing. “That said, if this does turn into some kind of pandemic situation here in the U.S. – which we hope it will not – I am concerned about the time it will take to develop a vaccine and get it distributed to the American public. While we have been able to shorten the time it takes to develop new vaccines, the time it takes to ramp up production and deliver those vaccines to the public is something that I am still very much concerned about.”
The lawmakers were briefed by CDC Director Robert Redfield, National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci and HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, among others.
Shortly after the briefing concluded, CDC officials confirmed a sixth case of the virus in the U.S. The newest patient is the spouse of a Chicago woman who had contracted the virus while in Wuhan, China.
According to DeGette, lawmakers who attended the briefing were told, among other things:
- CDC has sent a team to China to work directly with health officials there to address the virus.
- There is no antiviral yet that has proven to completely treat the virus.
- The 200 individuals evacuated to a National Guard base in California yesterday are all being held in single rooms. They are being constantly monitored by the CDC. The CDC expects to have an update on their status in the next 24 hours.
- One of the challenges health agencies currently face is the availability of medical face masks, as there is only one U.S. supplier and most are manufactured in China.
- India has reported its first case of the virus.