WASHINGTON – This week, Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Vice Chair Katherine Clark (D-MA) [far right] held the House Democratic Leadership’s weekly press conference where they outlined steps that Congress is taking to keep all Americans protected from the Coronavirus. They were joined by Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA) [left], a pediatrician and the only female doctor in Congress, and Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL), who previously served as a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), helping communities across the country prevent, prepare for and respond to disasters, bioterror threats and public health emergencies.
On Monday, Hakeem Jeffries, Chair, Democratic Caucus, led a very “robust discussion” press conference on the meeting in Washington, D.C. on the threat presented by the Coronavirus. He said, “It’s clearly a national emergency. It requires an all-hands-on-deck approach.”
“Our goal is to make sure that we do not leave Washington this week without an allocation of resources to deal with the Coronavirus. It is our expectation that that number would be substantially greater than the amount requested by the administration, and that it will involve new funds, not a reallocation of existing funds.”
Congresswoman Kim Schrier from Washington stated, “We’ve known from the start that COVID-19 would come to the United States and that it was a matter of when, and not a matter of if, and that is why preparations have been ongoing. We know for sure that this disease will spread, especially at the beginning in urban and suburban areas, and it will get worse before it gets better. We all have a role to play and we need to do our part. There are things that we can do to limit the spread and protect our communities, and these (like handwashing) should not be underestimated, even though they’re simple. They also should not be dismissed by people who consider themselves “low-risk” because of their age or their health. This disease can be very serious for certain populations of people. It is incumbent on every one of us to do our part to slow the spread as much as possible, but total containment is not likely.”
REP. UNDERWOOD stressed, “When it comes to this Coronavirus, the most important thing is, now is the time to prepare, not panic.”
“Prior to being elected, I worked as a senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. In that role, I worked on the department’s responses to public health emergencies like Ebola and the Zika virus. I remember feeling the weight and gravity of our work, of knowing the American people and the world were looking to us. The threat was grave, but we took it with resolve, with focus and with coordination. Our communities were left stronger and we must do that again. That means ensuring an all-of-government response that builds sustainable capacity within our local public health systems. That is essential, as is relying on experts and putting them directly in front of the American people to communicate about steps that they can take to minimize their risk of infection and to prevent transmission to others.
“We need to support the essential role of state and local public health officials with more sustained funding.
“I convened a call with those in my community last Friday to gather information about what they’re seeing and hearing and to thank them for their work. These are the people truly on the front lines. I’m so proud of the work that they’re doing to protect our communities. Here in Congress, make no mistake: we will answer this call with the policy direction and the resources required to fund an all-of-government approach that supports state and local government responses, guarantees affordable vaccines for all and prioritizes an COVID-19 response without diverting funds from other essential public health needs. The safety of our community depends on it.”