GOP senator calls for public health emergency over new coronavirus

GOP senator calls for public health emergency over new coronavirus

A GOP senator wants the Trump administration to declare the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency.

“We have to get serious about the threat of coronavirus coming from China. I don’t trust Communist China to coordinate in a transparent and efficient manner when it comes to combatting the threat of the virus, so we have to do everything we can to protect Americans,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said in a statement.

“While all of the cases are still travel-related, we must take every precaution,” he added.

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Scott’s comments came after top health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) briefed senators Friday on efforts to try to stop the virus from spreading in the U.S.

There have been two confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. — in Washington state and Chicago — and officials say more cases are likely, with a third potential case being investigated in Texas.

However, all of the confirmed cases are people who recently traveled from China, meaning there is no known transmission of the virus inside the United States. 

Most senators leaving the briefing on Friday said they felt satisfied that administration officials were taking appropriate steps.

The U.S. has already put in place screenings for fever and other symptoms at five major U.S. airports. The State Department and the CDC have also issued a travel advisory, telling U.S. citizens not to take unnecessary trips to the affected areas in China.

Scott did not specify what additional steps he wants the administration to take beyond calling for them to declare a public health emergency. A spokesperson said Scott wants to make sure the administration is using all available resources to combat the virus.

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A public health emergency could allow federal officials to loosen certain regulations, issue grants and pave the way for spending additional money.

However, health officials told senators on Friday they don’t need more money. They also praised China's cooperation on the outbreak.

“I was involved very deeply with the SARS response. And with SARS, the Chinese were not particularly transparent …  It was an embarrassment for them. I think they regretted that. Right now, from what I can see, they're being quite transparent,” Anthony Fauci, head of the infectious disease unit at NIH, told reporters.

Fauci said he was “impressed” with China’s cooperation.  

“There was some skepticism because in the past it wasn’t — in some cases they didn’t want the bad publicity and they didn’t move as quickly as they should. This is different.” Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development Democratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe MORE (D-Ill.) said of Chinese officials.