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Lawmakers discuss growing concerns about the coronavirus

Published: Feb. 25, 2020 at 8:04 PM EST
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A spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that they ultimately expect the coronavirus to spread in communities in the U.S.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, spoke on the potential spread of the new virus also referred to as COVID-19.

She said the public should “prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.”

“It’s not so much a matter of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” she said.

Health and Human Services Secretary also addressed COVID-19 in a Senate committee hearing Tuesday. He called it an unprecedented and potentially severe global challenge.

“We cannot hermetically seal off the United States to a virus, and we need to be realistic about that," he said.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) spoke to Gray DC Tuesday about the measures Colorado is taking amid coronavirus concerns.

"Colorado is a very cutting-edge state when it comes to our healthcare, and I'm very confident in Colorado and the Governor and his plans," said Gardner.

Gardner said he went to the CDC facility in Fort Collins to talk about the measures they are taking to fight the threat.

The Colorado Senator also said he talked with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to talk about how the Department of Defense is protecting the men and women at Fort Carson and military installations in Colorado Springs.

President Donald Trump tried earlier in the day to minimize fears about coronavirus spreading rampantly. At a news conference during his trip to India, he said the situation is “very well under control in our country.”

His administration has asked Congress for an additional $2.5 billion for preparations in case of a widespread outbreak. He says the urgent $2.5 billion funding request he sent lawmakers will help prepare the U.S. in the event of a coronavirus outbreak.

The Republican president says some of the money will help other nations ill-equipped to prepare for a deadly outbreak. Democrats say $2.5 billion is not enough.

The White House budget office says the funding would be used for vaccine development, treatment and protective equipment.

The U.S. has 53 of the more than 80,000 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide. The drugmaker Moderna has shipped a potential vaccine for humans to government researchers for testing.

Shares of the biotech company soared Tuesday, a day after the company said it sent vials to an arm of the National Institutes of Health for early-stage testing in the U.S.

The first clinical trial is underway in Nebraska and eventually expected to include 400 patients at 50 locations around the world. Half the patients will receive the antiviral medicine remdesivir while the other half will receive a placebo.

Several other studies are already underway internationally. Dr. Andre Kalil, who will oversee the study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said Tuesday the clinical trial was developed quickly in response to the virus outbreak that is centered in China.

Coronavirus fears were credited with Monday’s 1,000-plus-point drop in the stock market. The virus has slammed the economy of China, where it originated.

Now, as the world teeters on the brink of a pandemic of the new virus, hospitals are counting boxes of masks and gloves.

Authorities are asking for cooperation from schools, churches and businesses.

In many nations, existing plans for pandemic influenza are being adapted because the new virus spreads in much the same way as flu.

With no vaccine or specific medicine yet available for the new coronavirus, authorities are ready to keep people away from crowds, even if it means canceling large events.

Researchers are still at least a year away from having a vaccine ready for widespread use.

Copyright 2020 Gray DC. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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