Byrne: Combating coronavirus misinformation
Although the COVID-19 coronavirus is dominating the news, it’s important to know the facts about the virus and the ongoing work to prevent its spread. I’d also like to dispel some misinformation regarding your government’s actions to fight it.
Despite what some fearmongers have said, the federal government has been preparing for a public health challenge such as this. In fact, according to the 2019 Global Health Security Index, the United States ranks number one in a “comprehensive assessment and benchmarking of health security and related capabilities across the 195 countries.” No country is better prepared than we are to deal with a challenge like this. And despite politically motivated accusations by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, Republicans have increased funding to public health agencies. For example, since 2015, we have increased funding for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) by 24%, National Institutes of Health by 39% and infection disease response by a whopping 70%.
Just last week, Congress passed a coronavirus bill that provides over $8 billion in emergency funding. This package will speed the development of vaccines, increase access to testing and treatments, and expand access to telemedicine services so more people can see their doctor remotely — a trend that will continue to accelerate in the years to come. This bill will ensure the CDC, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Department of Homeland Security have the resources needed. If further action is needed, Congress stands ready to act quickly.
The Trump administration has also acted aggressively to protect Americans. I’ve been very disappointed in my colleagues who have used this opportunity to mislead and divide Americans. We must be better than that. Make no mistake, since day one, President Trump and his administration have made the safety, security, and health of the American people their top priority. The administration instituted travel restrictions for incoming flights from places like Iran and China, declared a public health emergency, and appointed Vice President Pence to lead the coronavirus task force. They have continued to host bipartisan briefings for members of Congress and called for health care providers across the county to ensure they are implementing their infection control procedures. And HHS is purchasing 500 million respirators over the next several months for the Strategic National Stockpile.
The risk to the average American remains low, but as testing continues, there are certain to be more cases. Most cases will be mild, but seniors, especially those with underlying health conditions, can be most at risk. The CDC says there is no need for Americans to change their day-to-day lives, but there is plenty that you can do to protect yourself. CDC’s website is the best source of information about prevention and treatment. Most importantly, avoid close contact with people who are sick, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. And you should know the warnings signs of fever, shortness of breath and a consistent cough.
Most importantly, there is no need to panic. If we all work together, we can continue to control this situation in the best interests of every American.
While this situation can and most certainly will change rapidly as more data and information becomes available, you can be assured that your government has prepared itself for this challenge and is doing all it can to continue prioritizing the health and safety of Americans and mitigate the spread of the virus. I will continue to monitor this situation and do all I can in Congress to work with the administration to take all necessary steps to ensure the well-being of the American people. We can all do our part by staying informed and practicing good hygiene.
U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.