Like national defense, protection of public health is an indispensable function of the federal government. Only Washington, D.C., can mobilize the resources necessary to wage a national war against the outbreak of an infectious disease - like coronavirus.
Every day, global concern grows as coronavirus cases and deaths grow. As of Tuesday, more than 80,000 cases of the respiratory illness were diagnosed and more than 2,700 deaths were recorded across the world. The World Health Organization on Monday said it's too early to use the word "pandemic," but urged nations to prepare as if a pandemic was declared.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control said Tuesday, 14 cases have been diagnosed, in addition to 39 cases among repatriated individuals, for a total of 53 cases, with no deaths. “Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in the United States," a spokeswoman for the CDC, told reporters on Tuesday. "It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses.”
In response, the Trump administration earlier this week requested $2.5 billion in emergency funds from Congress. Some members of Congress, from both parties, have raised concerns the amount requested isn't enough.
"It seems to me at the outset that this request for the money, the supplemental, is lowballing it, possibly, and you can't afford to do that," Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, told Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during a hearing on Tuesday. "If you lowball something like this, you'll pay for it later."
We share Shelby's concern. If the Trump administration errs, it should err on the side of caution and prepare for the worst. In consultation with proper, informed health officials, President Trump should make sure whatever emergency appropriation he makes will be sufficient to manage an epidemic. Without delay, Congress should free the money requested.
President Trump should not casually dismiss this threat. Comments from the president like "I think that's a problem that's going to go away" and the untrue "we're very close to a vaccine," both made during a trip to India earlier this week, serve no useful purpose.
We aren't suggesting President Trump and his administration overstate the problem, thus creating unnecessary panic. We simply urge the administration to give the public facts in open, honest fashion.
Through regular, perhaps daily briefings by administration figures, Americans should be educated about coronavirus and should be kept informed about its spread here at home and elsewhere and on the status of steps taken or planned by the U.S. government. In our view, no information is too much information.
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