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February 14, 2020

In Face of Coronavirus Threat, King Introduces Legislation to Strengthen America’s Public Health Resilience

As coronavirus threatens international public health, King stresses prevention by improving America’s posture towards infectious diseases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) introduced legislation that would support consistent, proactive American leadership in global public health efforts in order to better protect the health of the American people when infectious disease outbreaks occur. The Global Health Security (GHS) Act, which he is introducing as coronavirus is continuing to spread within China and across the globe, would officially establish an official national policy to create a permanent, Presidentially-appointed position to manage outbreak response efforts, advance the goals of the 2014 Global Health Security Agenda, and authorize annual funding towards that goal. Though a relevant position has existed through executive order since 2016, that position has been vacant for nearly two years – weakening the nation’s preparedness.

“If we’re waiting for a pandemic disease to emerge before we start mobilizing America’s extensive scientific resources, we’re already behind,” said Senator King. “We can’t eradicate all infectious diseases from across the globe, but we can monitor and study them so we’re ready to contain and cure whatever comes our way. The time to come up with a coherent plan to address contributing factors and protect Americans is not each and every time a disease surfaces; there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel when proactive efforts can save time, money and lives.”

The GHS Act aims to:

  • Articulate official U.S. policy on global health security. The legislation will assert that the nation will work to advance the 2014 Global Health Security Agenda, which builds international partnerships to increase global capabilities to detect, prevent, and deter threats to global health.
  • Fund global health security programs through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). For fiscal years 2021 through 2025, the legislation authorizes $190 million per year for the CDC and $110 million for USAID.
  • Establish a Global Health Security Advisor. This position would serve in the National Security Council to oversee and coordinate U.S. efforts to ensure international health. The position currently exists under an executive order but not through a Congressionally-passed law, and has been vacant for nearly two years.
  • Create systems that allow interagency reviews. The processes created will help make sure relevant branches of governments are sharing information regarding potential outbreaks.

Senator King has strongly pushed for proactive efforts to protect global public health. Last week, Senators King and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter requesting details on USAID’s recent decision to shutter PREDICT, a program established to identify and combat viruses that may generate global public health emergencies, such as the recent coronavirus. The letter follows up on a November request from Senator King, who asked for information on USAID’s decision to end PREDICT. Earlier this month, he joined 30 of his Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar requesting updates on the Administration’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak and information on the steps being taken to keep American families safe.

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