Peters Continues Efforts to Protect Public Health and Ensure Administration is Prepared to Address Coronavirus Outbreak

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, this week continued his efforts to ensure the Trump Administration is responding appropriately to the global Coronavirus outbreak.

Peters questioned the Trump Administration’s decision to allow patients infected with the Coronavirus to return to the United States on a plane with healthy passengers – possibly risking exposure to the virus. In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Peters and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), expressed their concerns that the Administration disregarded the advice of public health and national security experts, and could have risked a broader community outbreak within the United States.

“We are concerned the expertise of public health officials may not have been given necessary and appropriate weight, resulting in the potential exposure of uninfected passengers to this highly contagious disease…,” the Senators wrote. “In the midst of this domestic and global public health emergency, it is critical that public health officials and their expertise guide any and all decisions about COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts.”

Peters also joined U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, to press the Administration for detailed information on the security of the nation’s medical supply chain, which could lead to shortages of critical drugs and medical equipment due to the global Coronavirus outbreak. This week, reports indicated that a worsening Coronavirus outbreak could lead to shortages of prescription drugs, some of which have no alternatives. Experts have also expressed concern about a potential shortage of medical supplies and personal protective equipment, a substantial portion of which is produced overseas, including from the Hubei province in China, where the outbreak originated. In December, Peters released a report addressing medical supply chain and shortages risks due to American reliance on foreign manufacturing and calling for needed reforms.

“In our February 12th committee roundtable regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19), some of the most disconcerting revelations involved the insecurity of our medical supply chain,” wrote Peters and Johnson. “Witnesses indicated that if the COVID-19 continues to spread, the United States medical supply chain will likely experience shortages of critical drugs and personal protective equipment (PPE).”

The Senators continued: “In the short term, we are writing to obtain information regarding your Departments’ assessments and planned actions designed to mitigate current and potential shortages of drugs and medical equipment that might be essential if COVID-19 becomes a significant problem in the United States.”

Text of the letters are available here and here.

Peters has pressed for a strong federal response to the Coronavirus outbreak. This week, Peters convened a call with public health officials and hospitals from across Michigan on preventing the spread of Coronavirus within the state. Peters also joined Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) in requesting detailed information about the Administration’s strategy for responding to the emerging outbreak and called on the Trump Administration to fully fund pandemic preparedness and response efforts in the 2021 budget. Peters has been briefed at the White House on the Administration’s ongoing efforts to contain the outbreak, and he convened a roundtable discussion with public health and security leaders to examine the federal government’s actions to limit the spread of the deadly virus. Peters also joined his colleagues in calling on the Administration to appoint a global health security expert to the White House’s National Security Council (NSC) to coordinate the Administration’s Coronavirus response efforts. The NSC has been without a health expert for almost two years.