No time for partisan politics when we're threatened with a pandemic

It is not a question of whether a pandemic will visit us — it is a question of when. With the spread of the coronavirus worldwide, the more appropriate question may be: “Is it now, and are we prepared?”

What exactly is a pandemic? It has been defined as follows by HHS: “A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. Influenza pandemic occurs when a new flu virus emerges for which people have little or no immunity. The disease spreads easily from person to person, causes serious illness, and can sweep across the country and around the world in a very short time.”

Early in the current outbreak, President Donald Trump formed a coronavirus task force led by a cabinet-level official, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, to organize an all-of-government approach. He has now placed Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Students at school system Pence called 'forefront' of reopening now in quarantine Presidential debates demonstrate who has what it takes MORE in charge of overseeing that process.

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The government’s task force is comprised of subject-matter experts from across the government, including some of the nation’s foremost experts on infectious disease. The administration has taken unprecedented steps to ensure that travelers do not spread the virus in the United States, looping in federal customs and border agents, airlines, airports, shipping companies, and state and local health officials. Airport screenings have been expanded to identify anyone showing symptoms.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE suspended entry into America of certain foreign nationals who have recently traveled to China and who pose a risk of transmitting the disease. The administration has declared a public health emergency and utilized reserved funding to help support response efforts to the virus, including increased education to identify cases.

The U.S. is working to expedite the development of a vaccine and is consulting experts in expanding research to better understand the transmission of coronavirus.

Because of the actions taken by President Trump, the risk of infection for Americans remains low, and precious time has been gained to keep it that way.

The Trump administration has requested emergency government appropriations from Congress to cover the costs of aggressive preparations to prevent an outbreak and to respond. Between the new funding and authorities being requested, the administration expects to allocate at least $2.5 billion in response to the coronavirus, while some in Congress have said that as much as $8 billion is in order.

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This vital funding will be used for a wide-ranging response, including public health preparedness, laboratory testing, quarantine costs and the development of vaccines. The funding will increase personal protective equipment for the national stockpile. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is in regular communication with state and local officials to make sure every community is prepared for any future coronavirus development.

On Feb. 24, the White House met with more than 40 state, county and city health officials from more than 30 States and territories to discuss the federal-state-local partnership to prepare and respond to the coronavirus. Two weeks earlier, the federal coronavirus task force provided an update at the National Governors Association’s winter meeting. Multiple agencies are prepared to assist state and local governments in dealing with any new development that may arise from the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has mobilized state health departments to receive returned travelers. Across the country, 62 Public Health Emergency Preparedness programs are part of the multi-agency infrastructure working on quarantine, isolation, case finding, protecting health care workers and assuring medical supply chains.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is readying more than 50 teams to respond and to support states and territories that may need assistance. The Trump administration has taken steps to ensure medical professionals have the tools they need to confront any outbreak of the coronavirus. More than 30 million face masks have been stockpiled.

Providing critical information to the public on preventing any possible spread of coronavirus has been and remains a critical priority of the Trump administration. This includes the vigilant practice of good personal hygiene, increased understanding of symptoms, and staying home when feeling ill.

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Again — because of the actions taken by the president, the risk of infection for Americans remains low, and precious time has been gained to keep it that way.

Leaders are supposed to prevent bad things from happening, not merely respond to it when it does. We have a plan, and President Trump is coordinating a robust federal, state and local effort to prevent an outbreak of coronavirus and to deal with one when and if it should occur.

America needs to come together at a time of impending crisis. Now is not the time for partisan politics — now is the time for patriotism and resolve. Someone might want to mention that to certain members of Congress.

Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004. A principal of the 1600 Group, a strategic communications firm, he is an adjunct professor of public policy and international affairs at Georgetown University and a frequent guest on Fox News and Fox Business.