Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal condemned the Trump Administration’s response to the growing outbreak of coronavirus Wednesday morning, saying that Trump’s description of the deadly virus as a “hoax” was “extremely damaging.”
“It is time to stop playing politics with this,” Jayapal said during a Wednesday hearing in the House of Representatives. “We are losing people’s lives as a result.”
Jayapal further criticized the Trump Administration’s botched handling of coronavirus testing kits and the Center for Disease Control's strict testing criteria, which has blocked many Americans from being tested for the flu-like illness, called COVID-19.
“The initial botched test kits and the slow response from the administration on testing protocols were incredibly detrimental to our efforts,” said Jayapal, a Democrat from Seattle. “In fact, Washington state is still waiting for half of the requested medical supplies.”
Vice President Mike Pence announced Tuesday night that the government had broadened the testing criteria to allow more people to get tested. Officials with the Food and Drug Administration claimed in congressional testimony earlier this week that over one million COVID-19 test kits would be distributed by the end of the week, although independent experts immediately questioned the government's ability to distribute that many kits.
Jayapal’s remarks come amidst growing criticism that Republican attacks on healthcare over the last three years, which have caused millions of people to become uninsured, are directly worsening the coronavirus epidemic by reducing the amount of care people can get. Sen. Patty Murray grilled the administration in a hearing yesterday and sent a letter today to the secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services that said she was “deeply concerned” about the administration’s “numerous policies that make it harder to get care during an outbreak.”
“This administrations’ health care sabotage also undermines readiness for COVID-19 outbreak in the United States by endangering patient access to care,” said Murray’s letter, which was also signed by 39 other Senators.
Jayapal said during Wednesday's hearing that the Trump administration’s attempts to punish immigrants for using government assistance, like Medicaid and food stamps, through the so-called “public charge” rule was threatening the health and safety of all Americans.
“This is a public health issue for all Americans if people do not seek care because they are going to be deported the next day or seen as a public charge,” Jayapal said.