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22 Days and Over 5,000 New Cases: HHS Stonewalls Congress Over Monkeypox Response in Devastating Public Health Failure

Today, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP),  to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to again demand details on the agency’s plan to combat and contain monkeypox. 

In the 22 days since Senator Burr sent his first request, the painful disease has spread exponentially within the U.S., yet Secretary Becerra still has not responded with the agency’s plan. 

Senator Burr released the following statement, in addition to today’s letter, condemning HHS’ failed response:

“As the number of monkeypox cases reported in the U.S. continues to climb, HHS is once again failing in one of its core missions. A communicable disease outbreak following so closely on the heels of COVID-19 should be met with a swift, decisive, and organized response. Instead, HHS is repeating the exact same mistakes they made during the pandemic: painfully slow to begin testing, wholly disorganized in distributing vaccines and treatments, and messaging that’s confusing and outdated. HHS appears to have learned nothing from the tragedy of the last three years.   

“I have asked HHS repeatedly for their strategic plan to combat monkeypox and have yet to receive an answer. On July 13, I sent a letter to Secretary Becerra asking detailed questions about the outbreak and the Biden Administration’s response. In the three weeks since that letter was sent, monkeypox cases have increased by more than 470 percent to 6,617 reported cases today. Still, the Administration continues to stonewall Congress.

“Recognizing the threat, states are being forced to act where HHS, in particular the Centers for Disease Control, will not. My home state of North Carolina is utilizing technology like wastewater surveillance to track potential spread – something the CDC should be doing as an active collaborator working with states in real time. But the agency appears to have made no meaningful attempt to proactively use the biosurveillance tools available to them for emerging threats beyond COVID-19.

“HHS’ failure to learn from its mistakes is wholly unacceptable. The American people deserve better. HHS must provide Congress and the public with a plan to mitigate these failures and combat monkeypox spread before more Americans are needlessly harmed.”

To read the letter sent to Secretary Becerra today, click here.

 To read Senator Burr’s July 13th letter to Secretary Becerra, click here.