On Monday, the Trump administration formally requested $2.5 billion in emergency funding to combat the spread of coronavirus — an illness that has taken more than 2,500 lives, mostly in China where it originated, Fox News reports.
So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed 56 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., with 36 of those diagnosed in cruise ship passengers who were repatriated following a quarantine period in Asia.
A rapid rise in coronavirus cases outside China was blamed for investor jitters that caused the U.S. stock market to lose 1,000 points on Monday. While the outbreak currently has a fatality rate of about 2%, it has caused serious worldwide alarm that has affected how people travel and impacted the global economy.
The Trump administration wants $1.25 billion in new emergency funding to aid in the development of a vaccine and to reimburse the Defense Department, which is housing quarantined Americans on military bases in California. The rest of the money would be taken from unspent reserves in other areas of the government.
Democrats in Congress are reportedly unhappy with the Trump plan because it would take $535 million from an Ebola readiness fund, and they feel it will hurt preparedness efforts if that disease should make its way to the U.S, according to NBC News.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blasted the administration over the substance of the plan and the perceived delay in the funding request:
All of the warning lights are flashing bright red. We are staring down a potential pandemic, and the administration has no plan. We have a crisis of coronavirus, and President Trump has no plan, no urgency, no understanding of the facts or how to coordinate a response.”
In the House, Democrats have been seeking funds to enhance screening at American entry points, bolster labaratory resources and hasten the vaccine development.
An infectious disease outbreak can rapidly impact the global economy if fear of contracting the disease cause significant numbers to avoid travel outside of the areas they consider safe. If disease spread is allowed to continue, activities and societal functions that feed the economy such as tourism, consumer spending and commerce in general can be negatively impacted.
While the worst effects of coronavirus have been visited upon the Chinese economy thus far, businesses in San Francisco’s Chinatown have seen their revenue drop anywhere between 50 and 70%, according to The Hill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who represents San Francisco in Congress, tried to allay fears about visiting the popular business district:
Come to Chinatown. Precautions have been taken by our city, we know that there’s concern about tourism, traveling all throughout the world, but we think it’s very safe to be in Chinatown and hope that others will come.
Pelosi couldn’t resist making a dig at Trump’s coronavirus response efforts, though. calling them “long overdue and completely inadequate to the scale of this emergency.”
Maybe if she and Schumer would work with Trump instead of consistently undermining his efforts, businesses in her district would fare much better, and Americans would begin to have some level of faith that their government has the resources and expertise to prevent coronavirus from transforming into a pandemic.