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Sen. Cruz: Coronavirus Is a Real and Serious Challenge That Requires Cool Heads and Fact-Based Decisions

Chairs subcommittee hearing examining role of aviation industry in reducing spread of coronavirus

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, today convened a hearing on the role commercial air travel plays in containing the spread of coronavirus and steps the U.S. can take to prevent further outbreaks.

In his opening remarks, Sen. Cruz said:

"COVID-19 is a real and serious challenge, and we need cool heads and fact-based decisions-not panic, not hysteria. Unfortunately, some in the media-whether intentionally or not-seem to be inciting panic in Americans over the virus. That is a large part of the reason why we convened this hearing-to give the American public the opportunity to hear straight from officials on the frontlines without spin or partisan bias.

"So here is what we know. This is a rapidly changing situation. Every day, and on some days every hour, we are learning more about the virus, where it has spread, and how the human body responds. So far, the mortality rate has been around three percent, and most of the deaths have been in the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. The virus appears more transmissible than the typical seasonal flu, but so far, reports indicate the vast majority of cases are moderate to mild-requiring little to no medical attention."

Sen. Cruz also raised his concerns about the incident with a patient at Lackland Air Force Base, who tested positive for the coronavirus after being released from quarantine.

"There is more that can be done. There is more that should be done. Communication between agencies and municipalities is vital to containing the spread of the virus. In San Antonio, communication was lacking, and a patient was released from Lackland Air Force Base prior to testing positive. After testing positive the patient was returned to quarantine and is currently under the supervision of the CDC. I urge the CDC to stay vigilant in keeping lines of communication open with all localities to ensure the safety of the public health in Texas and all across the United States."

Sen. Cruz, who also sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted that the Chinese Communist Party has been more focused on "protecting its image than the life and safety of its citizens."

"As dedicated public health experts scrambled to warn each other and to collect more information on what was happening, China's security services were busy trying to stop them. In probably the starkest example, on January 1, the Wuhan Public Security Bureau summoned eight doctors-including Dr. Wenliang-for posting and spreading ‘rumors' about Wuhan hospitals receiving SARS-like cases. While Dr. Wenliang was eventually released two days later, that wasn't before he was forced by police to sign statements acknowledging that his warnings had been ‘illegal behavior.'

"At 2:58 a.m. on February 7, in the city of Wuhan, Dr. Wenliang died from the very virus he had tried to warn about. A virus which as of today, has infected almost 95,000 men, women, and children, across the globe, including right here in the United States, and has killed more than 3,200 people, including nine who were in Senator Cantwell's home state of Washington."

During his line of questioning, Sen. Cruz commended the Trump administration's handling of the outbreak, dismissing false partisan claims:

"I do not believe it is accurate that the President has said the coronavirus is a hoax. And in fact, I think that's quite contrary to what he has in fact said and in fact done. The President can obviously speak for himself. But my understanding is what the President referred to as a hoax, was the partisan claim that some are advancing for partisan advantage, that the administration is not treating this public health crisis seriously and is not marshalling the resources to keep Americans safe. And I will say in my observation, having yesterday met with the Vice President of the United States, with the Secretary of HHS, with the Commissioner of the FDA, with the head of the CDC, that the resources being marshalled are significant."

When Sen. Cruz asked whether halting commercial flights to and from China was the right call, Dr. Stephen C. Redd, Director of the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response responded:

"I think it was a very important decision to make. And I think that there was a prolonged period of time when we had a very small number of cases. So I think that was the right decision at the right time. I think we'll be in a better decision to evaluate that more fully as time goes on. But at the present time, it was an important decision. [...] We would have more cases, I think we can say for sure, if those measures had not been put in place."

In his closing remarks, Sen. Cruz said:

"I want to thank all the witnesses for your testimony, and I want to echo, you've heard Senators from both sides of the aisle thank the professionals. I know you guys are not getting a lot of sleep right now. You're working hard. This a serious challenge. This is not easy. There are a lot of unknowns, and I believe we need to follow the science, we need to follow the medicine, but we need to also be proactive protecting the American public. I thank each of you for doing so.

"I also want to underscore a point that was made from multiple Senators, which is: if there are legal authorities that any of your agencies need right now to protect public health and safety and prevent the spread of this virus, tell us and tell us quickly. I think you will find a bipartisan eagerness to ensure we have the tools to prevent this outbreak from growing, to prevent further deaths."

WATCH: Cruz on CNBC's ‘Squawk Box': U.S. Must Be Driven By Facts, Marshal Every Resource Necessary to Protect Life

As chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Cruz is leading the effort to protect the health of the flying public and all Americans since the outbreak was first reported. Specifically, Sen. Cruz:
• In January, called for a travel ban to and from China, as well as advanced screenings at U.S. airports.
• Sent a letter with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and other members to the World Health Organization concerning Taiwan's exclusion from the World Health Organization.
• In February, sent a letter to the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) calling for Taiwan to be fully included in the international response to coronavirus.
• Participated in a roundtable discussion with the Coalition of Airline Pilots Association, where he commended their efforts to contain the coronavirus.
• Held a bipartisan briefing for members of the Commerce Committee to hear from officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the World Health Organization (WHO) about how the U.S. government is working with other countries on a coordinated, global response, to this public health crisis and what more Congress can do to prevent further outbreaks.
• Sent a letter with Sens. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan requesting information on the agency's readiness to prevent the transmission of coronavirus across American ports of entry.
• This week, sent a letter with Sen. Cornyn to get answers about the incident in San Antonio, when an individual was released from isolation at Lackland, despite testing positive for the coronavirus.

WATCH: FULL HEARING: Sen. Cruz Chairs Aviation & Space Subcommittee Hearing on Coronavirus