For almost two years, no dedicated senior public health expert has been in place as head of global health security at the National Security Council
Washington, DC - Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), led 25 of their Senate colleagues in sending a letter to National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien pressing him to appoint a qualified, dedicated, senior global health security expert to the White House's National Security Council (NSC) to address and coordinate administration efforts in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus and other global health security threats.
The lawmakers urged immediate action because the top global public health position at the NSC has remained vacant for almost two years. Senators Murray and Warren sent a May 2018 letter to then-National Security Advisor John Bolton raising concerns about this vacancy and asking a series of questions about how the NSC would handle global health security threats - but received no response.
"These questions are even more salient today," wrote the lawmakers, citing the more than 44,000 people in more than 20 countries who have contracted the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,100 people. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and on January 31, 2020, HHS Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in the United States.
"Families concerned about the novel coronavirus threat need to know the NSC has a dedicated, senior official with appropriate expertise and authority to address the domestic and global health threats from the virus. It is of paramount importance that this person approaches this role through a public health lens," wrote the lawmakers. "We urge immediate action."
The lawmakers have requested responses to their letter by February 27, 2020.
Joining the letter are U.S Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai'i), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
The full text of the letter is HERE.