February 12, 2020

“We have to plan for the possibility that we have thousands of coronavirus cases in the U.S.,” – Dr. Asha M. George to Congress

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SRA Communications
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WASHINGTON, DC (Feb. 12, 2020) – The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs today hosted a roundtable discussion called, Are We Prepared? Protecting the U.S. from Global Pandemics. Dr. Asha M. George, Executive Director of the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense was among five experts invited to participate.

“It is important for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to be studying what is happening now in China and considering how that might impact America’s infrastructure to properly respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak,” Dr. George told the senators attending the roundtable. “We are not yet at the point where individual states need to be declaring emergencies, but other agencies, such as FEMA, could start to provide guidance for states on how they can prepare to do so, should that become necessary.”

In an op-ed published this week in the New York Daily News, Commission Co-Chairs Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge wrote that the coronavirus outbreak has exposed huge weaknesses in America’s preparedness to respond to such incidents. The op-ed can be found here.

“We have to plan for the possibility that we have thousands of cases in the U.S.,” added Dr. George. “In schools of public health, they train us to look at the data you’ve been provided, assume you don’t have all the data – even here in the U.S. you don’t have a comprehensive data set – and then multiply by seven or eight times what you’ve been told. For every one case you see, there are seven or eight out there that you don’t. So that means actually we’d be looking at hundreds of thousands of cases potentially. I think that’s the scale at which we should be planning.”

About the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense

The Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense was established in 2014 to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the state of U.S. biodefense efforts, and to issue recommendations to foster change. The Commission’s 2015 report, National Blueprint for Biodefense: Leadership and Major Reform Needed to Optimize Efforts, identified capability gaps and recommended changes to U.S. policy and law to strengthen national biodefense while optimizing resource investments. Subsequent Commission publications have addressed critical needs for agrodefense, biodefense budgeting, and State, Local, Tribal and Territorial support. In September 2018, the White House released the National Biodefense Strategy, a top recommendation from the Blueprint. The Commission continues to assess biodefense challenges and to urge reform. Former Senator Joe Lieberman and former Governor Tom Ridge co-chair the Commission, and are joined by former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, former Representative Jim Greenwood, former Homeland Security Advisor Ken Wainstein, and former Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco. Hudson Institute is the Commission’s fiscal sponsor.