Coronavirus: Lawmakers react after briefing: ‘I do not think we’re prepared’

"This is potentially a huge issue for the country, and I don't think we're prepared," the rep said. Pramila Jayapal, a Democratic Judiciary Committee member, as she left the entire Coronavirus orientation.

The Washington congresswoman said they are unprepared "at several levels," including at the local level, as well as in terms of resources such as masks, test kits and the possibility of quarantine.


"If this is really going to be a serious epidemic in the country, you know, how do we deal with quarantine and isolation?" she asked.

Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, said he believes "everyone is squabbling for information," and members are frustrated at not being able to answer many of their questions.

He added, "there must be all hands on deck … There is a lot of work to be done."


Friday morning's briefing for lawmakers in the house started a rocky start with a room that was too small – the room only had 50 chairs in it – a situation that caused complaints from some lawmakers. Members later moved massively to a larger room down the hall.

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"We have a group of experts sitting at a table. It's eight in the morning. They cramp us in small rooms," said GOP Representative Paul Mitchell of Michigan.


In recent days, Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have expressed alarm over the outbreak and have raised questions about how prepared the US government is at fighting the virus.

Congressional grants are now working to determine the details and top number of an emergency coronavirus funding package in an effort to address the threat to public health.

A number of figures have so far been discussed as potential toplines. Senate Democrats has moved $ 8.5 billion as an opportunity, a higher number than the White House had requested earlier this week. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has said the appropriations looking at around $ 4 billion.

After leaving Friday morning's briefing, Legislative Director of the White House Eric Ueland said the spending discussions have been "very good, very robust." He also said the goal is to reach an agreement by "early next week", but that he would not discuss the price tag.

The information played out as an alert at the Department of Health and Human Services seeks federal protection after complaining that more than a dozen workers who received the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, lacked proper training or protective equipment for coronavirus infection control.
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The House Ways and Means Committee sent letters to Health and Humanitarian Secretary Alexander Azar, the HHS Deputy Inspector, and the Control Office asking for more information after the complaint was sent.


Rep. John Garamendi, a California Democrat, said in-room informants pushed back on the whistle-blower complaint that public health authorities were not properly trained or protected at the March Air Reserve Base when they left to meet incoming travelers from China.


Rep. Mark Takano – who represents California's 41st District, which includes the March Air Reserve Base where the 195 evacuees from Wuhan, China, were dispatched – talked a lot with reporters after the briefing, raising questions about the evacuees being tracked.

"I would also like to know to what extent the 195 individual evacuees who have returned to the local community if they are tracked. Does our public health system track them?" he asked.

Takano listed five specific questions he had, saying that the only one addressed in the briefing that morning was not answered to his satisfaction.

"They should – very briefly – answer question # 1, which was & # 39; what assurances you had the proper protocols being followed under the federal quarantine? & # 39; It was not a satisfactory answer," he said .

And as lawmakers struggle with the implications of the spread of coronavirus in the United States, they now also have to deal with emergency preparedness on Capitol Hill, including in their own offices.

Sergeant at Arms has sent home offices guidance on the coronavirus, according to screenshots of an email obtained by CNN from a home assistant.

The guide says "there are several steps you should take to prevent the spread of bacteria," and advises "avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth," "cover the cough or sneeze with tissue," and "clean and disinfect frequently affected objects and surfaces. "

CNN's Kristin Wilson, Lauren Fox, Kristen Holmes and Priscilla Alvarez contributed.

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