WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker today joined their colleagues in calling on National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien to appoint a qualified, dedicated, senior global health security expert to the White House's National Security Council (NSC) to address and coordinate administration efforts in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus and other global health security threats. Just today, there were 14,840 new cases reported in the Hubei Province of China – making it the largest one-day increase so far.
"Families concerned about the novel coronavirus threat need to know the NSC has a dedicated, senior official with appropriate expertise and authority to address the domestic and global health threats from the virus. It is of paramount importance that this person approaches this role through a public health lens," the Senators wrote in a letter to Mr. O’Brien. "We urge immediate action."
The lawmakers urged immediate action because the top global public health position at the NSC has remained vacant for almost two years.
The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and on January 31, 2020, HHS Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in the United States.
On Monday, Sen. Menendez joined State Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli, chair of the New Jersey Coronavirus Task Force, to discuss the latest efforts in response to the global outbreak and provide the public an update on the current situation in New Jersey.
Last week, Sen. Menendez urged the Trump Administration to fully fund pandemic preparedness and response efforts in light of the global Coronavirus outbreak and warned that its annual proposed funding cut could threaten the government’s ability to effectively combat the spread of the deadly virus. The Trump Administration has repeatedly proposed dramatic cuts to programs and offices that spearhead efforts to respond to this and other pandemics, including a 2020 budget proposal that cut critical pandemic response programs by nearly 20 percent.
Sen. Menendez has co-hosted two Senate briefings in recent weeks on the global coronavirus outbreak by high-level Trump Administration officials, in which he continued to press for additional resources for New Jersey.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai'i) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) also signed the letter to Mr. O’Brien.
A copy of the letter to National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien can be found here.
January 21, 2021