WASHINGTON — As cases of the coronavirus continue to spike in the U.S and around the world, health experts and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are attempting to learn more about the threat.
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“This is deeply concerning event — the coronavirus. We don’t understand its true severity. We don’t understand its transmissibility,” said Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner during a Senate Homeland Security hearing Wednesday.
Health experts have been briefing members of Congress here, and they are warning that the coronavirus may hit the U.S. hard in the next couple of weeks.
Sen. Marco Rubio fears U.S. officials still don’t have the full picture as a result of China’s crackdown on information.
“The Chinese government, the communist party in particular, cares about its image. It doesn’t want to be criticized for not handling this well. My concern is when you have a virus like this you have to share information,” he said in an interview with Spectrum News in his Capitol Hill office.
The senior Senator from Florida believes the Chinese government must be held accountable, but believes it’s too soon for any official punishment.
“Potentially, conversations, certainly. It is not the time for punishment,” Rubio explained.
"I have my issues with China, U.S. Policy on China that needs to change. I don’t think right now, beating up on the Chinese is going to be more forthcoming,” he added.
Sen. Rick Scott is now calling on the World Health Organization to launch an in-depth analysis to determine the scope of the outbreak. So far, he’s been satisfied with the administration’s response.
“I called on the administration to declare a national emergency, which they did. I called on them to be very careful on who is coming into our country — they are. I think we all have to take this seriously,” Scott said.
Florida officials received testing kits for the virus earlier this week, but have not been able to use them yet because it’s unclear whether the tests are working.
“In Florida, we have 21 million people, a lot of folks traveling from around the world. So far, we have been able to protect our state for the most part,” said Rep. Darren Soto in an interview with Spectrum News.
Currently, the Trump Administration does not plan to request emergency funding from Congress to respond to the coronavirus.