March 13, 2020
BRUNSWICK, ME – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) released the following statement in response to the President’s announcement that he will be declaring a national emergency in response to the continuing spread of the coronavirus. The announcement comes one day after Senator King and a group of his colleagues urged the President to take this step.
“It is clear that we need aggressive, forward-thinking action to prevent this pandemic from continuing to spread,” said Senator King. “Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction to begin to get our planning together. But in order for this to have its full effect, the President needs to put politics aside, stop downplaying the challenges we face, and lean on the expertise of his leading scientists and public health officials.
“To Maine people who might be concerned by the use of the phrase ‘national emergency’, please know that it is a legal distinction that expedites and funds a thorough response to this threat. We will get through this, together. Be smart, take care of yourself, and listen to the Maine CDC.”
Senator King has strongly pushed for proactive efforts to protect global public health amid the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier today, he introduced legislation that would ensure free coronavirus tests for all Americans, and wrote a letter urging the top internet service providers to take steps to accommodate the increased reliance on telepresence services as more people shift to telework, online education, and telehealth. Yesterday, he shared a video to his social media channels to highlight steps Maine people can take to stay healthy. Last month, Senator King introduced the Global Health Security Act to officially establish 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. Senator King also joined a bipartisan group of senators to introduce the Public Health Emergency Response and Accountability Act, which would create a permanent reserve fund to enable quick and effective responses to future public health emergencies.
Senators King and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter in February 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 last year’s inquiry by Senator King, where he asked for information on USAID’s decision to end PREDICT. In January, 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.