Even as President Donald Trump sought to minimize fears about the chance of the coronavirus spreading through the United States, administration officials were warning members of Congress Tuesday about the dangers of the virus.
In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said “while the immediate risk to individual members of the American public remains low,” the transmission outside the U.S. in a number of countries is “deeply concerning.”
Azar said the administration is working closely with state, local and private sector partners “to prepare for mitigating the virus’s potential spread in the United States, as we will likely see more cases here.”
The Trump administration asked Congress for an urgent $2.5 billion in funding to help prepare in the event of a coronavirus outbreak in the United States. Many lawmakers expressed concern that amount is not enough.
While questioning Azar, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state said health officials warned members of Congress earlier in the day about a “very strong chance of an extremely serious outbreak of the coronavirus here in the United States.”
“And I want to ask you, is our country ready?” Murray said to Azar.
Azar responded that the administration is taking historically aggressive containment measures but admitted the U.S. is short on supplies such as masks and ventilators.
When asked by Murray if there are currently enough of those items in the case of an outbreak, Azar responded: “Well, of course not or we wouldn’t be asking for a supplemental to seek more money to procure more of that for this for this circumstance.”
“This is a very this is an unprecedented potential severe health challenge globally and will require these additional measures,” he said.
Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican, told Azar he’s worried the administration is “lowballing” the emergency funding request for the virus.
“If you lowball something like this, you’ll pay for it later,” Shelby said.
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In This Story: Donald Trump
Donald John Trump is the 45th and current president of the United States. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television personality. Trump was born and raised in Queens, a borough of New York City, and received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School.