Novel virus has potential to become widespread pandemic necessitating early coordination and planning


Washington (January 23, 2020) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), top Democrat on the East Asia subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today sent letters to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the State Department asking about their response to the novel coronavirus originating out of Wuhan, China (2019-nCoV). 2019-nCoV, a new form of coronavirus that can be transmitted by respiratory droplets, similar to influenza. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of 2019-nCoV in the United States on Tuesday and has instituted increased screening of travelers from the affected areas in China. Senator Markey specifically called on HHS to describe how it can use expertise and resources developed in response to the Ebola virus and previous coronavirus outbreaks, such as SARS, to efficiently and effectively respond to 2019-nCoV. China recently announced new additional travel restrictions in the country as the death count grows. 


“Given the quick growth of this outbreak in China, and its expansion across Asia and now to the United States, we need to ensure that our government is prepared for the compounded impact this virus may have during an already active cold and flu season,” writes Senator Markey in the letter to HHS.


A copy of Senator Markey’s letter to HHS can be found HERE.


Senator Markey also called on the State Department to explain its efforts to exclude Taiwan – where coronovirus infections have been confirmed – in the WHO generally, and in particular the global response to 2019-nCoV. “Taiwan’s continued exclusion [from the WHO] may only exacerbate the deadly consequences of this potential international public health crisis and those to follow in the years to come,” writes Senator Markey in the letter to the State Department. Senator Markey also noted that, as of November 2019, the U.S. has not transferred its commitments to fund WHO, and called for explanation of the delay from the State Department.


A copy of Senator Markey’s letter to the State Department can be found HERE.