HSGAC Hearing Hosts DHS, HHS to Discuss Federal Response to Coronavirus

WASHINGTON — The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing Thursday to examine the actions the federal government is taking to contain the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19, and prevent future pandemics. 

In his opening statement, Chairman Johnson noted, “the continued spread of the virus should focus us on addressing top priorities. First, we must ensure that we are protecting our medical responders: doctors, nurses, and other medical staff, as well as first responders at Customs and Border Protection and the Centers for Disease Control.

“Second, we need a sufficient supply of testing kits to diagnose persons that have potentially been infected by COVID-19. On February 4, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the CDC to develop test kits to be used by qualified public health labs. I hope that we can clarify the administration’s strategy for the supply and distribution of testing kits during today’s hearing.

“Finally, we need to address the insecurity of our medical supply chain, both in the short term to address COVID-19 and in the long term. The virus has produced demand for personal protective equipment approximately 100 times higher than normal, resulting in extremely high prices and a supply that may be insufficient to meet our needs. Experts have also warned that COVID-19 could result in potential shortages of drugs, as we are over-reliant on active pharmaceutical ingredients manufactured outside the U.S.  We will want to hear what actions are being taken to address the current shortage.

“Although unique, COVID-19 is not the first disease outbreak that has spread globally and it will certainly not be the last. Our response to each outbreak should help us prepare and protect against the introduction and spread of future global pandemics. It should also help us reflect on the consequences of our reliance on drugs manufactured outside of the U.S. and provide us an opportunity to think long-term about what we need to improve our strategic stockpile and what, if any, steps Congress should take to help increase U.S.-produced, FDA-approved drugs and other necessary medical devices and supplies.”

Video of the hearing is available here.