Airmen assist one another in donning their personal protective equipment, while on-board an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III during transportation isolation system training at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. Engineered and implemented after the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014, the TIS is an enclosure the Department of Defense can use to safely transport patients with diseases like novel coronavirus. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody R. Miller

Washington – As cases of coronavirus in the United States near 60, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy came out of a closed-door briefing on the disease Tuesday and said they are alarmed and disappointed by what they heard.

In that briefing, and in a conference call with reporters afterward, U.S. health officials warned that the spread of coronavirus across the United States appears inevitable.

“Ultimately we expect we will see community spread in the United States,” Nancy Messonnier, a top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters.

Connecticut’s senators joined other Democrats and some Republicans who are critical of the administration’s efforts to safeguard the nation from a new virus that has perplexed scientists and medical experts.

“Many of us were calling for major emergency funding weeks ago and (President Donald) Trump ignored us. Now it’s likely too little and too late,” said Murphy.

The Trump administration is sending Congress a request to approve $1.25 billion in emergency funding to fight coronavirus, which has been given the name COVID-19. It also plans to transfer about $500 million from the fund, earmarked initially to fight Ebola, to efforts to protect Americans from the latest global health threat.

“Many of us were calling for major emergency funding weeks ago and (President Donald) Trump ignored us. Now it’s likely too little and too late.”

Sen. Chris Murphy 

Murphy said the president’s request for $1.25 billion in new funding “is a tenth of what he has already spent in so-called emergency funding for his worthless border wall.”

In a tweet sent after he left the briefing, Murphy said “the Trump administration’s failure to take coronavirus seriously is so frightening. It will cost lives.”

The CDC’s Nancy Messonnier says coronavirus spread in the United States is inevitable.

The senators were briefed by officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the State Department.

When he left the briefing, Blumenthal said “the approach right now seems to be ‘take two aspirin and call us in the morning.’”

“The supplemental is way below what’s needed to protect the American people against an outbreak that seems to be, from my impression, virtually inevitable,” Blumenthal said. “This briefing, which was classified, should be made available to the American people because there would be an outcry, an uproar.”

Several Republicans who attended the briefing were also concerned that more money is needed to fight COVID-19.

“This is not the time to try to shortchange the American people. This is the time to step up,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

On Tuesday afternoon, at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Murphy asked Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar why the administration had not asked for additional money to fight coronavirus earlier and why it had not asked for more money.

Azar said, until now, HHS did not know enough about the virus and how much money the administration should ask from Congress to combat it.

“We believe we know enough to do that now,” Azar said.

He also said the amount the administration had asked Congress to provide would be sufficient.

Sen. Chris Murphy says Trump administration coronavirus response ‘will cost lives.’

The Trump administration said more than $1 billion of the money requested for coronavirus would go toward vaccine development and the other funds would go toward stockpiling protective equipment like masks.

Azar said the United States has a stockpile of 30 million surgical masks, but HHS estimates suggest the country needs 300 million masks.

Ultimately, Congress will decide how many resources there will be to combat COVID -19.

Meanwhile the global spread of COVID-19, which was first detected in China, continued to spread. South Korea has reported nearly 1,000 cases, Iran has reported 15 deaths, and cases have been detected in 22 other countries, including Italy and Afghanistan.

As of yesterday, the total number of cases in China were 77,658, with 2,663 reported deaths.

At a news conference in New Delhi Tuesday, Trump downplayed concerns about the coronavirus spreading in the United States, saying the situation is “under control” and a “problem that’s going to go away.”

And, testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday, Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said Trump administration travel restrictions and quarantines of travelers from China have been effective.

“The risk from COVID-19 to the American public remains low,” Wolf said.

“The approach right now seems to be ‘take two aspirin and call us in the morning.’”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal

Those comments contradicted the CDC’s message on Tuesday, which said coronavirus is expected to begin spreading at a community level in the United States and disruptions to daily life could be “severe.”

“As we’ve seen from recent countries with community spread, when it has hit those countries, it has moved quite rapidly. We want to make sure the American public is prepared,” Messonnier said.

The CDC said there have been 12 cases of coronavirus diagnosed in the United States linked to travelers from China and another two cases of infection of people who came into contact with those travelers. Another 43 cases were reported among repatriated U.S. citizens, residents, and their families

Three cases resulted from people returning from China’s Hubei province, while 40 are from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was docked in Yokohama, Japan. Despite increasing numbers of cases, no deaths have been reported yet in the United States.

The CDC announced earlier this month that it would distribute dozens testing kits to allow states to test people for coronavirus on site, instead of sending samples to the CDC.

But the CDC said Tuesday that few laboratories have received the kits, which can test up to 800 people.

When it receives its kit, Connecticut plans to deploy it at the state public health laboratory in Rocky Hill.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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11 Comments

  1. Memo to our two distinguished Senators… When you criticize EVERYTHING all the time you come off as nothing more then partisan hacks!

    1. Things to see,
      And vice versa.
      I like to see a commentor’s reasoning for their opinion. Then reader’s can decide where they are coming from on any given issue.

  2. Yesterday Trump said that “I think that’s ( the coronavirus) a problem that ‘s going to go away” and that “we’re very close to a vaccine”.’ ???? All the infectious disease experts say we about a year away from a vaccine. He also said all U.S. patients “are all getting better”, when the U.S.citizens in Japan are seriously ill. Then he tops it off by saying “stock market starting to look very good to me”. Compassionate guy , huh?? Folks dying and he’s talking stock market effect.
    Even though everyone knows he’s the biggest liar and exaggerator on the planet, these statements, coming from a U.S. President, are an incredible embarassment.

  3. And if POTUS had done exactly as they claim he should have, they’d have attacked him for over-reacting.

    We need new National politicians in this State.

  4. Why isn’t it called the Wuhan virus, or just Wuhan? The Ebola virus was named after a tributary river to the Congo, where it was first detected in 1976. So why does the WHO say the “Wuhan Virus” label is too “culturally degrading”? Why the cover up of where and how it originated? Scientists have published in Scientific American, Lancet and other journals about the genetic characteristics of this virus. The media squelches. the news. No investigative scientist would tell you that the origin of a virus (where and how) does not matter.

  5. Blumenthal, Murphy are too open borders to contain anything. It is likely that as flu season ends so will this. Immigration control is the best solution, along with hand washing until then. As always, ignoring Blumenthal and Murphy is always good policy.

    1. Can you please explain the science behind your statement that, “It is likely that as flu season ends so will this.”? Your statement is contrary to what those in the medical profession are stating. I understand that the current administration has publicly stated that this pandemic will end when the weather turns warmer in April but that isn’t based on any science. Also, can you explain how “immigration control” will help curb the spread of the virus? The last I knew, this originated in China…

  6. Must’ve been a camera on so they had to make a negative statement, that’s their standard mo. Like there is something the government is supposed to do right now that already isn’t being done.

    Its funny that these two guys don’t see or acknowledge that the Democratic party is imploding right before our eyes.

  7. How I wish CT had the type of elected officials that people could regard without an immediate eye roll. Joe Lieberman was a leader that was generally thoughtful and respected on a bipartisan basis. Made me proud to have him represent our state, and I am from the ‘other’ party. Voted for him for senator every time.

    Not this vociferous trio with their names always in the news! Is this the behavior that the party rewards? Or perhaps the voters? Is this how they burnish their credentials, make names for themselves, move up the ranks to better represent their constituents? Is the new path to leadership through whining, complaining and mudslinging?

  8. To Laurie, Fred, America First, Papa and Things to See,
    I know how you feel about CT Senators, but what do you think of Trump’s comments I noted below? (and I will restate now):

    “I think that’s ( the coronavirus) a problem that ‘s going to go away”;
    “we’re very close to a vaccine”
    “stock market starting to look very good to me”
    and I’ll add to that ;
    “go away in April as the heat comes in”

    Presidential?

  9. More shameful political posturing by what passes for Connecticut’s political “leaders.” We have a national health crisis and these “leaders” should be working together with the administration for the benefit of us all.

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