(RightWing.org) – Coronavirus, or more specifically the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19, is the latest health panic sweeping the nation, and unlike most of them, there’s actually something serious about this one. With more than 80,000 cases reported worldwide – mostly in China – and almost 3,000 people dead, the disease, with an estimated 1-3% mortality rate, is a real threat.
The good news is that the White House is taking it seriously, remembering the lessons of outbreaks bungled by earlier administrations, and is asking Congress for more resources to protect the American people.
On Monday, February 24, the administration asked Congress for $2.5 billion in supplemental funding to fight the spreading pandemic. The White House is stressing that this isn’t a crisis, but they want to avoid one and be prepared if it becomes one.
- Although most cases are in China, international air travel means clusters have started popping up around the world – 42 countries are affected so far. The worst areas outside China are in South Korea and Italy, but 57 cases have also been reported in the US.
- The Department of Health and Human Services has already spent its emergency response fund for epidemics and is working to transfer another $130 million from various parts of the HHS budget to disease prevention, but the department quickly recognized that it would need more.
- Some of the new funds will go to repay the military, which has been providing transport and quarantine facilities for people evacuated from China.
- Another major priority is developing a vaccine. That could be done quite quickly because the disease organism – COVID-19 – is similar to SARS and other viruses we’ve already had to deal with. It won’t be cheap, though.
- More money will go to expanding screening facilities at ports of entry. Airport screening has already been identified as a weakness globally, and if we want to prevent a major outbreak in the US we need to screen and identify anyone infected with the virus who tries to enter the country.
- HHS Secretary Alex Azar spoke to the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday to ask for $2.5 billion, which should cover all the planned spending on the outbreak.
- In theory, the funding bill should pass through Congress quickly and easily, because it has bipartisan support. However, standalone funding bills like this are often targeted by opportunist lawmakers who try to add riders that fund their own pet projects. That could slow it down considerably.
We need to hope that, for once, politicians remember their duty is to the American people.
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