In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Senator Tom Cotton urges additional steps to protect American citizens from the coronavirus.
Transcript of Senator Cotton’s recommendations about China Travel Ban
Senator Cotton: I want to talk about the biggest and the most important story in the world, the Wuhan Coronavirus. This Coronavirus is a catastrophe on the scale of Chernobyl for China, but actually probably worse than Chernobyl, which was localized and its effect. The coronavirus could result in a global pandemic.
While you were all sleeping overnight the number of diagnosed cases in China increased by 30%. Let me be clear, that’s not new cases, that is just newly admitted cases. It is probably several orders of magnitude higher than that. Also while you were sleeping China now has its entire border with Russia closed, 2600 miles, Russia is closed that border. El Al has shut down travel between Israel and China. Air France has shutdown China between travel between China and France, and that’s in addition to all the other countries that have already shut down travel.
From what we know so far, and there are still many unknowns, this virus could have both a long incubation, as much as 14 days, and, individuals could be contagious while asymptomatic which was not the case with SARS in 2003. Furthermore, from some cases it appears the virus could be aerosolized, which means, it doesn’t require the kind of contact that you have with say, a married couple kissing each other, or family living in close quarters in hotel or apartment, but rather the distances we are all sitting apart right now. Yet China is still lying about all of this. They’ve been lying about it from the very beginning, and you don’t need their history of lying about Saar’s in 2003, though is relevant to here, you just have to see what’s happened over the last two months.
We now know that the first case manifested no later than, no later than, December 1, even though China didn’t reveal it to the WHO until a month later on December 31st., when they continued to hide it from their own citizens, and they continued to say that it had been contained inside of Wuhan. Today it is in every single Province in China. They also claimed, for almost 2 months, until earlier this week, that it originated in a seafood market in Wuhan, that locals had contracted it from animals, in say, bat soup or snake tartar. That is not the case, a Lancet published study last weekend demonstrating, that of the original 40 cases, 14 of them had no contact with the seafood market, including patient zero. As one epidemiologist said, that virus went into the seafood market before it came out of seafood market. We still don’t know where it originated. Could have been another seafood market, could have been a farm, could have been a food processing company.
I would note that China, that Wuhan, also has China’s only biosafety level-4 let super laboratory that works with the world’s most deadly pathogens to include yes Coronavirus. No look at China’s own actions. they have quarantine 60 million people, 60 million, more than the entire population of our West Coast. They’ve shut down schools and indefinitely. Classes canceled nationwide indefinitely.
Hong Kong, a part of China, has basically shut down all travel from the mainland. That’s why it is essential that we immediately stop all travel on commercial aircraft between China and United States, making exceptions, of course, for American citizens to come back, as we just got back yesterday, allowing a central trade to flow as long as cruise on ships and aircraft are not allowed to go into the general population in America, and making exceptions, of course, for medical personnel to going into China to try to get a handle on this.
It is essential that we take those steps and essential that we get to the bottom of China’s deceit and incompetence on this measure, and gentleman I raised this with you because you’re responsible in your combatant commands for some countries that have the most fragile public institutions, to include the most federal Public Health institutions, in the world. So I ask, even though as of this morning there are not yet confirmed cases of coronavirus in your combatant commands, though I suspect there will be soon. What is your assessment about the ability of the government’s in your combatant commands to handle a potential Global pandemic like this? General Townsend.
General Stephen Townsend: So there are not, that I’m aware of, any confirmed cases you mentioned, but there are some suspected cases. The first suspected, report suspected case, I’ve heard of, is in Djibouti, which you would imagine with the significant Chinese presence there. So the capacity of African nations to deal with this problem varies widely, for example in Eastern Africa, Central East Africa, there’s a, they’ve been dealing with Ebola and they’ve been dealing with a Ebola largely on their own and doing a pretty good job of it, so I think capacity there, but anywhere else in Africa is probably not to that degree.
Senator Tom Cotton: Admiral Faller.
Admiral Faller: The Venezuela a crisis has already strained to Social Services of many of the nation’s as you’re aware Senator, we’ve had to deploy the hospital ship Comfort twice in one year to last deployment to 12 different nations. In one five-day span it can do the equivalent of a whole month for region of some of the major countries, so I would be extremely concerned, like John Townsend, the capacity vary widely, but in many cases are strained to the limit and I would be very concerned if we saw this spread.
Senator Tom Cotton: Thank you. As a defense measure, I just say again that it is essential that we shut down all commercial air travel immediately between the United States and China. As an offensive measure, because that probably won’t stop it entirely, and because if it becomes a global pandemic, we have to deal with countries with very limited capabilities here, we need a Manhattan Project level effort to work with our best research scientists and laboratories in this country to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.