COVID-19: Groups urge Congress to provide emergency funding needed for domestic, global coronavirus responses

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A coalition of medical, health care, health policy and other groups are calling on the United States Congress to swiftly and meaningfully fund emergency multifaceted domestic and international responses to contain the novel coronavirus that now has spread to 61 countries and led to more than 3,000 deaths worldwide.

In a letter to House and Senate appropriators, the groups cite the first signs of community spread of the virus, as well as accelerated spread in a succession of countries during the last week as signs that outbreaks are eluding current containment efforts. Their letter was delivered Friday, before a weekend that saw the first deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, as well as an outbreak in a Washington state long term care facility in which, also, the first U.S. health provider was infected. The weekend also saw more new confirmed cases of the illness caused by the coronavirus outside of China than within the country and the Hubei province that has been the epicenter of the spread.

The signers include Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Georgetown University Center for Global Health Science and Security, the American Geriatrics Society, the American Public Health Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America, which produces this blog. They ask for sufficient funding to support strengthened domestic public health and healthcare responses,the development of medical countermeasures and global preparedness, through federal and international efforts.

The groups note the Trump administration’s recent request to Congress for emergency supplemental funding of $1.25 billion for coronavirus responses, but caution that the amount is inadequate to respond to the scope of the threat, and note that it proposes the diversion of funds from other existing public and global health responses. Supplemental funding, by definition, has traditionally referred to new, rather than repurposed funding, dedicated to needs arising from an emergency.

They also note the range of funding appropriated to responses to previous infectious disease emergencies has included $7.7 for responses to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, and $5.4 billion in emergency funds for global and domestic responses to the 2014 Ebola response.

Needs raised by the continued spread and linked epidemics of COVID-19 worldwide include large-scale surveillance, monitoring, contact-tracing, training, and equipment, at home and in countries vulnerable to both the spread and the impacts of the disease, as well as research and development of treatments, rapid testing and a vaccine against the virus.

Stay tuned — legislators are expected to reach a deal this week that will present an funding response to the House and then the Senate in the days. ahead.

For more on challenges requiring funding see IDSA’s Considerations for COVID-19 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations.

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