tv U.S. Senate Sen. Blunt on Coronavirus CSPAN March 4, 2020 5:16am-5:26am EST
public health experts that can guide us through this in the appropriate way. and in the meantime, realize we are blessed to live in a country with the best, most talented medical professionals in the world and the best medical resources on earth. we want to make certain that we give them all the room they need to lead us through this crisis and challenge in a very positive way. he approval of the majority and noornls. the presiding officer: -- noonls -- minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. blunt: i want to talk about the coronavirus response and where we are. i think all senators need to be updated again. this is not a new place for us to be. this time last year the labor, health and human services committee held a hearing on emerging threats, and at that point we were experiencing the second-largest outbreak of ebola in the democratic of the congo.
there was a flu outbreak bigger than we had seen a in long time. one year later we're fighting the ebola outbreak in the d.r.c. antibiotic resistance continues to be a global problem. and according to the director of the national institutes of allergy and infectious disease, the flu we're seeing this year is shaping up to be one of the worst in decades. there are several -- several,000 americans die every year from the flu. usually at least 35,000, sometimes as high as 75,000. i think about 350,000 americans have died from the flu in the last decade. we're now facing a new danger, the covid19 danger.
that's the new coronavirus we haven't seen before. as we learned from ebola, patient zero, who doesn't know he has it can board a plane or cruise ship and be in another country or continent in a matter of hours, and this lesson is reinforced. like all other diseases it doesn't know any boundaries. we're no longer living in a world where our health can be separated from the health of other countries. last week the number of new coronavirus infections outside of china outpaced those inside of china for the first time. maybe the good news is china is beginning to seeing is headed in a different direction, but the bad news infections in iran and italy and south korea and japan and other places, this has moved
into europe now and in south america a case was just announced in brazil. but this is kind of that moment, mr. president, where we have some opportunity to do everything we can to prepare for the worst but we still have the option of hoping for the best. that's what happened with zars and that's what happened with zekea that wasn't as bad as we anticipated at one point it might be. disturbing to see the first deaths in the state of washington, but certainly the message to us is be more vigilant and be better prepared. the congress, in the last five years, has increased money. that doesn't count whatever we do this week and next week, has increased money for preparedness
by 44%. a year ago we created, for the first time, mr. president, an infectious disease fund. our colleague in the house, tom cole, one of the major proponents of this, to let the health and human services people to have access to money immediately. because of that they had $105 million that they wouldn't have previously had to be able to spend immediately to help contain this problem where it can be contained, to bring americans back here, particularly from china, to keep them in a known location for the 14-day incubation period to see if anything happened. all of that was possible because we had given them the flexibility that they hadn't had before. the first line of defense funding has been there. we're now moving toward a conclusion of what we can do to make more money available for a
back scene -- vaccine. vaccine takes a while. we're not going to have a vaccine for a while. we will continue to talk to dr. fouchy and his team about this. we're working with experts at what's called barta, the biomedical advanced research and medical authority to move those vaccines quickly. even if we had a vaccine -- if we had a vaccine in 18 months, that would be the u.s. world record to develop a vaccine here with the safety that we would think that it would need to have to that anybody could take a vaccine and with that vaccine this particular virus would likely be dealt with. so, you know, there's no treatment right now. there's no cure right now. but the treatment is to handle these issues in the way that we
can in a public health system that's been built over decades. there are 50 states, the district of columbia, all have local public health providers. we're going to have new money available to work with them, but, again, the prepareness money that they've had for the last five years should have been used in a way, and i believe was used in a way that gets them all more ready to deal with this than they otherwise would have been. we need to continue that the centers for disease control and prevention have what they need to improve the surveillance systems, the testing systems. i think we'll find quickly there will be a test that will be approved quickly by the f.d.a. that allows people to check in a number of locations and have that processed in a number of locations that test to see if, in fact, you have what you
thought was a worse than usual cold or maybe you thought it was not a worse than usual cold. sometimes this particular disease doesn't evidence that much happened at all, and because of that, i think there's probably at this point a bigger number of people who we think would be a percentage of people that would have really negative consequences, even death from this disease, rather than all the people that had it and didn't know they had it. we've learn in the past through outbreaks of a flu strain that we didn't have a vaccine for ebola and other diseases what protects people in other countries winds up protecting people. we have to understand that a lot of our fate in this has been determined and will continue to be determined by what we do to first try to contain this virus,
and secondly, to provide the money to be sure that when we do have an outbreak which has already begun in our country, that it's an outbreak that is really held at the lowest possible level of people impacted. and if you are infected by this disease, that you have the ability to work from home, to do other things, hospital not always the place to go. we're working with local and state health officials right now to see that happens. the money that's been used i think has been used effectively. clearly we're trying to agree between the house and the senate and the administration of exactly the right number. i would say that at this point the administration's been the most green new -- most agreeablo whatever money we would provide
but would like to have the money quickly. i feel confident we'll have the resources to deal with this. i feel confident that this will be a problem that will not impact more people than would usually be impacted by something like the flu, but, again, we need to prepare for the very worst, hope for the very best. but our job right now is to prepare for the worst things that could happen with having the funding available so that we don't have to go through a couple of weeks again where an easy determination should have been reached. you know, one thing we could have done is give the administration exactly the amount of money they asked for. we could have decidedded to spend it differently -- decided to spend it differently two weeks ago and then get into a discussion of what we need next. that's not the course we decided to go down. we are trying to come up with an amount of money it appears that would get us through this entire
incident with this virus, but it's time to get that done. hopefully we'll see a bill filed later today and the house able to vote on that bill before they leave this week. once that number is done, i think it will be seen as almost certain that the senate will be able to deal with that bill and approve that number and we're going to move forward. i think, again, we're going to move forward in a way that minimizes as much as possible the impact that this has on families and on individuals and, mr. president, i look forward to you and i both having a chance to learn more about this even today and to learn more as we move forward and the big thing we need to learn now is what the