Coronavirus questions: Lawmakers grill health officials, ask about virus tests


WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – The World Health Organization has officially classified COVID-19 as a worldwide pandemic as cases in the United States continues to grow.

Top health experts say the outbreak will get worse in the U.S. and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are worried our healthcare system isn’t prepared.

“This administration was not prepared for this crisis and it put lives at risk – American lives,” Rep. Gerry Connelly (D-VA) said.

Top U.S. health officials came under fire for the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday. Lawmakers wanted to know whether the U.S. healthcare system can handle the growing outbreak.

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci says the worst is yet to come and that containment efforts can decrease the severity of the outbreak.

But Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) says limited testing makes the virus’ containment difficult.

“Just last week, the Trump administration promised to deliver a million tests by the end of the week but it did not even come close on Sunday – they admitted that they delivered only 75,000 tests,” Maloney said.

Lawmakers said, in some cases, there has been panic and chaos in emergency rooms when people sneeze or cough. They wanted to know whether the United States will follow the example of other countries by offering drive-through testing.

“Not at this time,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I think we’re trying to maintain the relationship between individuals and their healthcare providers.”

Republican lawmakers defended the administration but also had their own questions.

“On the medical supplies and medical devices – are we going to be facing a shortage?” Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) asked.

“The issues around personal protective equipment, much of it is sourced from overseas and yes, we could have spot shortages,” Dr. Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, answered.

The Congressional hearing with health officials was cut short when the officials were told they had to leave and head to a meeting at the White House. The hearing is scheduled to continue on Thursday.


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