By Ilana Siyance
On Sunday January 26th, Senator Chuck Schumer urged federal officials to declare coronavirus a public health emergency in the US, making millions of dollars in funds available to fight against the spread of the deadly disease.
As reported by the NY Post, Schumer appealed to the Department of Health and Human Services to make the declaration, which would grant the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention access to $85 million in funding allocated to fighting infectious diseases. “Should the outbreak get worse they’re going to need immediate access to critical federal funds that at present they can’t access,” Schumer told reporters from his Manhattan office. He said the declaration would empower health officials with the ability to respond rapidly should the virus spread.
The never-before-seen flu-like virus has already claimed 80 lives in China, and five cases have been confirmed in the United States. As of Monday, no cases have been reported in NYC, though on Friday, state health department officials were monitoring three people who they thought may have come into contact with the virus. By Saturday, there were no cases being monitored, as per a state health department spokeswoman. There are cases in Los Angeles, California, Orange County California, Chicago Illinois and near Seattle, Washington with the latest case in Arizona. “If we have learned anything from the risks the new viruses pose to public health, it is a ‘stitch in time saves nine,’ and the more we can do to be proactive, the better off the public will be,” Schumer said.
The additional funds can be used for screening, tracing the virus and to increase public awareness. “We aren’t here to propel panic or stoke fear, but to rather keep a good proactive effort by the CDC from going on interrupted,” said Schumer.
Last month, the mysterious virus crept up in Wuhan, Central China’s most populous city. Its population of more than 11 million people was previously quarantined. On Saturday, China extended the lockdown, restricting another 39 million citizens, in an effort to thwart the crisis. All tour-group operations have also been halted in China. As per the CDC, symptoms of the coronavirus are similar to pneumonia and include difficulty breathing, fever and lesions on the lungs, detectable through chest X-rays.
The Democratic NY Senator also addressed the issue of the Stony Brook college professor who went to visit family in Wuhan, China and is currently stuck due to flights being suspended. “My office is working with the State Department and embassy officials to ensure the Stony Brook professor is in constant contact with U.S. officials and we are all working to arrange a flight home for him ASAP,” Schumer said.