February 18, 2020

Senator Warren's Ongoing Oversight of the U.S. Response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

Washington, D.C. -- United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, has spent over seven years in the U.S. Senate fighting to keep families across the Commonwealth and the country safe. Since the beginning of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak, she has worked to ensure that the Trump Administration is effectively responding to the outbreak and has the resources needed to address this public health threat.

Currently, more than 73,000 people in more than 28 countries have contracted the coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,870 people. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and on January 31, 2020, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar declared it a public health emergency in the United States.

"Amid the global coronavirus outbreak, we need to make sure our country is fully prepared, including by adequately funding important agencies like USAID and CDC, which are key to responding to infectious disease outbreaks, and by ensuring that we have a senior global security expert at the National Security Council in place to coordinate an effective response," said Senator Warren in a statement released today. "This is why my Senate colleagues and I are exercising our oversight duties to ensure the Trump Administration is prioritizing public health in the midst of the outbreak."

Senator Warren's ongoing oversight efforts include the following:

  • Senator Warren joined HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and 24 of their Senate colleagues pressing the Trump Administration to request emergency funding for the coronavirus response. Their letter to HHS and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) also expressed their concerns over the Trump Administration'sfailure so far to outline what additional resources it needs to respond to the rapidly developing coronavirus outbreak.
  • Last week, as the virus continued to spread, Senator Warren and Senator Murray led 25 of their Senate colleagues urging the head of the National Security Council (NSC) to appoint a senior global health security expert to manage the response to the threat. Senators Warren and Murray first raised concerns about this lack of public health leadership at the NSC in May 2018.
  • Senator Warren also joined Senator Murray and sent a letter to OMB and HHS opposing their decision to pull funding from existing public health programs to combat coronavirus rather than requesting supplemental funds from Congress.
  • On February 13, 2020, Senator Warren joined Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on a bipartisan letter calling on HHS to establish clear guidelines for how state and local governments will be reimbursed for costs incurred while assisting the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • On February 3, 2020, Senator Warren joined Senator Murray and Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) and 47 of their bipartisan colleagues calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to distribute rapid diagnostic tests for the novel coronavirus as quickly as possible and to prioritize states with confirmed cases of the virus to receive the first available test kits.
  • On January 31, 2020, after the first coronavirus case was confirmed in the United States, Senators Warren and Angus King (I-Maine) questioned the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on the agency's 2019 decision to shutter PREDICT, a global infectious disease prevention program, which from 2009 to 2019, identified nearly 1,000 new viruses, including a new strand of Ebola; trained roughly 5,000 people; and improved or developed 60 research laboratories.
  • Also in January 2020, Senator Warren joined Senator Murray and 29 of their Democratic Senate colleagues sending a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar requesting updates on the Administration's response to the novel coronavirus outbreak and information on the steps being taken to keep families safe.
  • Further, following the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission's 2019 Annual Report that showed U.S. "growing reliance" on products critical to the manufacturing of drugs, which are primarily made in China, Senator Warren and a group of bipartisan Senators wrote to the Defense Department (DoD) seeking answers on how DoD is working to address the risk of reliance on foreign drug makers.