Grassley Oversight & Investigations Staff Receive Briefings from HHS and its Subcomponents
Washington – Oversight and investigations staff for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), today received a classified briefing from the HHS Office of National Security (ONS) regarding the coronavirus threat and the status of U.S. government efforts to combat the spread of the deadly virus.
“The coronavirus doesn’t appear to pose any imminent threat to Americans who have not recently traveled to the Hubei province of China. I’m encouraged by steps the federal government is taking to protect Americans abroad and at home. The quarantining process for at-risk Americans returning to the United States from China is necessary for both their health and safety and the health and safety of the rest of the country,” Grassley said.
“While the coronavirus is not yet a pandemic, there are signs that it could develop into a worldwide threat. Based on public reports, I’m concerned that China may not be accurately reflecting the scale or scope of the problem or sharing information with global health organizations. The United States stands ready to assist China in any way it can. I would hope that on matters with global health implications, the United States and China could work together, especially to prevent the spread of disease.
“China’s reluctance to share data makes it all the more important that U.S. federal agencies work together and allow for maximum access to information across the government. The intelligence community is hard at work to protect Americans. It’s critical that their hard work not go to waste and that all federal health agencies have access to the information they need to do their jobs. Over-classification during a public health emergency could have deadly consequences. Federal health agencies must also have a seat at the table with the intelligence community when its makes decisions related to this issue.
“For now, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control have the resources needed to prevent any significant contagion from spreading into the United States. If more resources are needed, Congress stands at the ready.
“In Iowa, there have been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus. My office has been in contact with several Iowans who were or still are in Wuhan, China seeking to return home to the United States. I’m confident that the State Department is taking every reasonable measure to evacuate any remaining Americans in China and to ensure their health and safety as well as those around them.”
Grassley’s office, along with other Senate offices, also received an unclassified briefing from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Department of Homeland Security, and United States Department of State this week as well as last week.