Murkowski Questions Agency on Alaska-Specific Concerns over COVID-19 Outbreak

Hearing Focuses on Efforts to Mitigate Outbreak, Treatment of People Affected

Today U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) participated in a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee focused on how the U.S. is responding to the emerging threat of COVID-19, the Novel Coronavirus. The Senate HELP Committee hearing highlighted how the U.S. federal government is responding to the outbreak and actions the administration is taking to ensure that the U.S. is prepared for, and responding to, COVID-19 at the federal, state, and local levels. The hearing delved into what we know about the virus, mitigation, and treatment—hearing from leaders in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

During the hearing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health explained the need to be prepared, while also not inciting unnecessary panic.

“It really has to do with what you consider relative risk and how that relates to the unknown. The thing about what’s going on now is that since it is a new virus, we don’t really know exactly where it’s going to go. If you look at the disease burden, morbidity and mortality, every single year influenza does a significant amount of health damage, not only to our country, but to the rest of the world,” Fauci said. “The thing about influenza is that although there are many things about it that are unpredictable, we kind of know the bracket of how many people are going to get sick and how many people are going to die. It’s tragic. It’s death. It’s suffering. We don’t like but we kind of know, when you’re in the area of the unknown you have to walk a delicate balance on not overshooting and having panic but also not undershooting the situation where you don’t respond as aggressively as you should.”

Senator Murkowski directed a written question for the record for Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the supplemental appropriations package currently being prepared in response the COVID-19 emergency.

Murkowski asked, “Although there is debate from public health groups, Republicans, and Democrats, on the amount we need to appropriate to address this public health threat, my biggest concern is that the State of Alaska has the resources it needs to continue a sustainable response. We need to work together to ensure that Alaska has the funding to create quarantine facilities, invest in equipment, and invest in supplies for a sustained response. I also want to make sure that tribes and tribal organizations have access to supplemental funding and that our rural areas are prepared for a response.”

In Senator Murkowski’s question, she raised the issue that there are many unanswered questions surrounding supplemental funding for states, tribes, and tribal organizations to respond to COVID-19.

“My understanding is that by declaring a public health emergency under the Public Health Service Act, states have been instructed to reallocate funding from current CDC grants to respond to the virus. However, there are many unanswered questions surrounding this instruction. Is it practical or ethical to ask states to use funding that has already been allocated for this year to public health prevention programs, to be used for their response?” Murkowski questioned.



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