HHS tells Congress it may transfer millions of dollars in funding to respond to coronavirus

HHS tells Congress it may transfer millions of dollars in funding to respond to coronavirus
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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified Congress on Sunday that it may need to transfer millions of dollars of funding in its budget to respond to the coronavirus. 

HHS could shift up to $136 million to key agencies responding to the coronavirus, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

An HHS spokesperson said the notice was delivered "out of an abundance of caution and to ensure HHS's ability to respond and adapt to a rapidly changing situation." 

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Federal law requires HHS to notify Congress before shifting appropriated funds from one account to another. 

A person familiar with the notice said HHS did not indicate which accounts it would be transferring the money from. 

The CDC has already dipped into a $105 million fund created by Congress last year to help federal agencies respond to public health emergencies. 

That funding was used to enhance laboratory capacity, communication and education efforts and to provide a surge in support for ports of entry and CDC technical assistance. 

The CDC is performing enhanced entry screenings at five U.S. airports where passengers from Wuhan will arrive. 

The CDC is also increasing staff at 20 ports of entry where the CDC's medical screening stations are located. 

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"We are preparing as if this were the next pandemic," said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The CDC has confirmed 11 cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. Nine of the patients had recently traveled in China. The other two patients contracted the virus from their spouses, who had recently traveled to China.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE declared a public health emergency Friday and banned foreign nationals from entering the U.S. if they had recently traveled to China. 

American citizens can continue entering the U.S. from Hubei province — the epicenter of the outbreak — but may be quarantined for up to 14 days in a facility. 

Other American citizens who have traveled in mainland China but not in Hubei may be self-quarantined in their homes. 

All of these efforts are to prevent the virus from spreading to people in the U.S., the CDC says. 

"The CDC, along with state and local health departments, has limited resources and the public health system could be overwhelmed if sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus occurred in the United States," reads the White House proclamation issued Friday. 

"Sustained human-to-human transmission has the potential to have cascading public health, economic, national security, and societal consequences," it adds.