Maui News

Amid Coronavirus Concerns, Schatz Bill Seeks to Quickly Fund Response to Public Health Emergencies

February 15, 2020, 12:01 PM HST
* Updated February 15, 7:54 AM
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In response to the growing global threat of Coronavirus, US Senator Brian Schatz of Hawai‘i reintroduced the Public Health Emergency Response and Accountability Act (S. 3309).

The bipartisan legislation seeks to create a permanent funding mechanism to ensure quick and effective responses to future public health emergencies.

Currently, Sen. Schatz said health officials must wait for Congress to grant permission to shift existing appropriated funds or allocate new funds to respond.  He said the legislation would immediately give federal agencies the resources they need, allowing government to tackle new threats in a more efficient and timely manner.

“This legislation is critical to saving lives and will allow us to tackle new threats in a more efficient and timely way,” said Sen. Schatz.

According to Sen. Schatz, the Public Health Emergency Response and Accountability Act would immediately give federal agencies the resources they need to stop the spread of infectious diseases and protect the public.

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Meantime, Health Director Bruce Anderson said he believes the state has the resources necessary to deal with the current situation.

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“If things change dramatically, and we start seeing hundreds of cases, that may change,” he said, “But the division of outbreak and disease control is well staffed with expert epidemiologists, and I believe we are in a good position to chase down contacts.  Our laboratory is one of the best in the Pacific area, so they are able to run the PCR test that we will be receiving, and there isn’t any additional cost associated with that at this point in time.”

“As it is, I think we are in a good position to respond, and if we do need additional funds, those are also available,” said Anderson during a press conference on Friday in which department officials announced that a man from Japan who was on Maui and Oʻahu in Hawaiʻi recently, is among of the newly confirmed cases of individuals who have tested positive for the COVID-19 novel Coronavirus.

PC: file photo courtesy office of US Sen. Brian Schatz.

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