WASHINGTON, D.C – U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and an advocacy group gave tepid support Thursday to President Donald Trump’s coronavirus response, but also said it was “too little, too late.”
The Senate passed the bill 96-1 Thursday, after it sped through the House 415-2 Wednesday afternoon. All the members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the funding
The bill totals $8.3 billion and includes a number of provisions:
— $826 million for developing coronavirus vaccines, treatments and tests. FDA is set to receive $61 million to speed review of those new therapies and handle potential drug and device shortages;
— $300 million to purchase vaccines and treatments once they’re approved. The language is a win for Republicans and the drug industry, which had balked at Democrats’ initial demand for penalizing drug makers if their medication prices are deemed too high;
— $950 million in grants to states and localities. The legislation mandates that half that sum be paid out within 30 days — a bid to alleviate the stress on front-line health dep. artments;
— $3.1 billion in part to buy medical supplies. Congress wants to beef up the Strategic National Stockpile, which represents the nation’s largest repository of emergency treatments, and other resources for vaccine development and hospital preparedness.
The World Health Organization urged governments around the world to pull out “all the stops” in the fight against the increasingly pervasive and deadly outbreak of the new coronavirus.
“This is not a drill. This is not the time for giving up. This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.
“Countries have been planning for scenarios like this for decades,” he said. “Now is the time to act on those plans.”
The U.N. health agency called on all nations to “push this virus back.”
In a conference call with reporters Thursday, Murphy, said, “in many ways this is the moment that a lot of us have worried about.”
He said the administration has never taken the virus serious enough from the beginning, not asking for anything to fight the outbreak; then $1.25 billion; and finally the $8.25 billion agreed upon Thursday.
But Murphy said Trump has to stop the rhetoric.
Trump told Sean Hannity on Wednesday night that he didn’t believe the 3.4% mortality rate from the World Health Organization.
“Well, I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number. Now, and this is just my hunch, and — but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this. Because a lot people will have this and it’s very mild. They’ll get better very rapidly. They don’t even see a doctor. They don’t even call a doctor,” Trump said.
As of mid-day Thursday, nearly 97,000 people in 81 countries have been infected with the virus and more than 3,300 people have died. There have been 11 deaths in the United States—10 in Washington state and one in California.
California declared a state of emergency after the first death was confirmed there Wednesday. A cruise ship that the victim had traveled on was being held offshore in San Francisco, while all passengers were tested for the virus.
China, the country where the outbreak started, appeared to be over the worst of the epidemic, with daily death and infection rates declining.
The disease’s impact on everyday life is mounting. Some of America’s biggest corporations have told employees in West Coast offices to work from home. The United Nations education agency UNESCO said more than 290 million children were out of school around the world due to closures in more than 20 countries.
During the press call, Public Policy Polling unveiled a new poll that showed that voters disapprove of Trump’s administration response to the virus so far, and that it could make them less likely to vote for him this fall.
“Even though our American president is pretty flippant about the coronova virus, families are very concerned,” said Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling (PPP). “Only 37% said they agreed with the president that he is doing a great job fighting the virus. Only 8% agreed with his claim that it was a Democratic hoax.”
“It is hard to find anything where voters don’t go along with him,” Jensen said. “Americans are taking (the virus) very seriously and don’t think Trump is taking this seriously.”
With the caseload in Europe passing 4,000 and rising fast, major conferences, trade shows, cultural events and sporting competitions have been canceled. Officials warned that the outbreaks — the largest is in Italy, but France, Germany and Spain are also being hit hard — will continue to grow.
Italy and Iran ordered all schools and universities to close. School closures have impacted 300 million students globally.
Financial markets, battered by the epidemic, fluctuated wildly and travel industries are booking staggering losses. Major businesses like Amazon and Facebook reported the first coronavirus cases in their U.S. work forces.