Sen. Cruz Calls on Administration, Congress, Business Leaders to Take Four Concrete Steps to Combat Coronavirus
With the rapid spread of this virus, time is not a luxury we can afford. The coronavirus is a serious and immediate threat that requires a serious and immediate response
March 13, 2020
HOUSTON, Texas - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today called on federal officials to take four immediate, concrete steps to detect, treat, and prevent the spread of coronavirus or COVID-19.
Upon sending letters from self-quarantine to Vice President Pence, Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Carvajal, Health and Human Services Secretary Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Verma, and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Hahn, Sen. Cruz said:
"With the rapid spread of this virus, time is not a luxury we can afford. The coronavirus is a serious and immediate threat, especially for sick and elderly Americans, that requires a serious and immediate response - and everyone has a role to play. I believe there are four concrete steps we can take immediately to help curb this virus and ultimately defeat it. Specifically, we need to first, make testing more accurate and available. Second, make sure we have enough of the essential medical supplies for first responders. Third, create more capacity and provide critical resources for hospitals and other medical facilities. And fourth, we need to find cures, and quickly. Today I'm calling on the Trump Administration, Congress, and business leaders to move forward with these steps."
On making testing more available and accurate, Sen. Cruz urged Vice President Pence to direct federal agencies to deploy mobile COVID-19 testing sites. In a letter, Sen. Cruz wrote:
"As you lead the effort to address the COVID-19 pandemic and protect the American public, I strongly urge the deployment of federally supported or managed field medical stations and mobile testing sites to assist state and local governments in identifying and treating COVID-19 infected patients.
"These mobile testing sites and field medical stations will provide overburdened local health systems with the ability to diagnose and treat more patients, thereby alleviating the pressure the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on our state and local healthcare systems."
Additionally, Sen. Cruz is urging CDC and HHS to:
- Publish a list of labs that can perform testing for state and local health agencies, providers, and hospitals,
- Clarify federal criteria for who should be tested and encourage state health agencies to expand the criteria, and
- Refine a more accurate test - one that detects coronavirus before symptoms start to emerge.
On making sure there are enough of the essential medical supplies for first responders and healthcare professionals, Sen. Cruz called on Director Carvajal to prioritize the production of personal protective equipment in the Federal Prison Industries' UNICOR program. In a letter, Sen. Cruz wrote:
"As people across this country and around the world work diligently to protect themselves and their communities from the spread of coronavirus, the demand for goods that can help prevent transmission of the virus will far outstrip supply. Americans are already walking into stores only to find empty shelves where hand sanitizer, face masks, disinfectant wipes, and other vital products are usually displayed for sale. I therefore urge the Bureau of Prisons through UNICOR to prioritize and increase the production of personal protective equipment to help alleviate this dangerous shortfall and keep Americans healthy."
Additionally, Sen. Cruz is calling for further tariff and trade enticements for countries that manufacture personal protective equipment to sell more products in the United States, and the development of strategies for companies to keep production running and increase the manufacturing of necessary equipment and supplies. Sen. Cruz is especially focused on encouraging the manufacturing of ventilators, which are critical to hospitals and in short supply.
On creating more capacity and providing critical resources for hospitals and other medical facilities, Sen. Cruz urged Secretary Azar and Administrator Verma to waive regulations that limit hospitals' capacity to serve more patients. In a letter, Sen. Cruz wrote:
"On March 9, 2020, CMS released guidance that addressed several obligations of hospitals under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). At a time when expanding hospitals' capacity is critical, CMS and HHS should be commended for seeking to provide hospitals greater flexibility.
"However, additional aspects of EMTALA and many other federal requirements hinder the ability of hospitals to surge capacity and screen, treat, and discharge patients properly and efficiently. CMS and HHS should do more. ... I strongly urge CMS and HHS to waive these and other requirements that prevent hospitals from increasing their capacity to handle surging cases of COVID-19 in their communities."
Specifically, in addition to waiving capacity limits, Sen. Cruz is urging HHS and CMS to expand options for hospitals to share medical talent and equipment across state lines and screen patients in safer off-site locations without violating existing laws.
On finding cures, Sen. Cruz called on Commissioner Hahn to expand the FDA's Parallel Track. In a letter, Sen. Cruz wrote:
"Currently, there is neither a vaccine nor antiviral drugs for coronavirus. Many Americans have become infected with coronavirus and many have died. Americans need life-saving treatments as soon as possible.
"Sadly, such a situation is not new to the FDA. The FDA faced a similar situation with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. ... To help confront this epidemic, FDA took the heroic step of creating the Parallel Track to speed access to drugs that were in the FDA approval process. The FDA's actions enabled patients to access a breakthrough drug to treat HIV/AIDS years ahead of the drug's final FDA approval. Simply, the Parallel Track saved lives.
"I urge you in the strongest possible terms to expand Parallel Track-a proven solution-to provide Americans access to drugs and other therapeutics to combat the coronavirus."
Sen. Cruz is also introducing with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) the RESULTs for Coronavirus Patients Act, legislation specifically designed to expedite the U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval process for drugs and devices approved in other countries that could treat COVID-19 patients and help stop this outbreak.
Read Sen. Cruz's letter to Vice President Pence here.
Read Sen. Cruz's letter to Director Carvajal here.
Read Sen. Cruz's letter to Secretary Azar and Administrator Verma letter.
Read Sen. Cruz's letter to Commissioner Hahn here.
For more information and additional resources, visit www.cruz.senate.gov/coronavirus/.