Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas on Tuesday supported President Donald Trump’s initial response to the coronavirus outbreak, but said he worries that not enough people are being tested.
Cotton, who has lambasted China for its lack of transparency about the origins of the virus, named COVID-19 by health officials, made his comments during an interview on the Fox News show “Fox & Friends.”
“I want to commend the president’s decisive action last month for shutting out travel from China. About 20,000 passengers a day were coming to the United States from mainland China, so that bought us several weeks to try to get our hands around the coronavirus problem,” Cotton said.
“I’m optimistic about a vaccine, as the president is, in a much faster time frame than you’ve heard from some experts, you know, 12 to 18 months. I think we can do it much faster than that.”
But Cotton said that at the moment, there are a lot of unknowns.
“What we really need focus on now, what can be a big difference in a matter of days or weeks is testing kits and testing criteria. I think we need to expand the testing criteria, and the FDA needs to move faster to get testing kits approved, out on the front lines,” Cotton said, noting that fewer than 500 people in the U.S. have been tested for the virus.
“The simplest way to stop this outbreak is to test aggressively so we can identify any possible cases,” he added.
Trump has said that known cases of Americans who have been infected are being monitored.
“I think the president is right that all the known cases in the United States are quarantined and they’re being monitored by health officials,” Cotton said.
“What worries me is possible unknown cases. I mean, take, for instance, in New York City, you had 1,500 people fly directly into New York from Wuhan itself in the month of January before we shut down air travel from China,” he said.
Americans should brace for the likelihood that the coronavirus will spread to communities in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday.
“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters.
Messonnier said a significant disruption to Americans’ daily lives is possible, depending upon the severity of the outbreak.
“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare, in the expectation that this could be bad,” Messonnier said.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar also warned that with the virus having established a foothold around the globe, the U.S. cannot expect to be forever immune.
“This is an unprecedented, potentially severe health challenge globally,” told Senate lawmakers Tuesday.
“We cannot hermetically seal off the United States to a virus,” Azar said.
“And we need to be realistic about that.”
As of Wednesday, 81,279 people had been infected with the disease globally, and 2,770 had died.
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