Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Americans are understandably on edge as more cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) appear in the U.S. and the death toll continues to rise around the globe. My colleagues and I understand this anxiety, and have come together to step up efforts to prevent the spread of the disease, treat those infected and support research to find a vaccine. However, it is important to maintain perspective as we address COVID-19, as misinformation will only create more panic over what is already an emergency situation.

It remains unknown how life threating COVID-19 is on a case-to-case basis. Symptoms tend to mimic those of other well-known respiratory illnesses like the flu. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most individuals with mild symptoms have recovered quickly, which has also made identifying cases of COVID-19 a challenge. This, in turn, has exacerbated the spread of the disease and increased risk worldwide.

The rapidly escalating death toll in other countries has led to fears of fatalities on a similar scale in America. I believe our robust public health sector puts us in a good position to stop that from happening.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, on which I serve, has worked closely with our colleagues and the administration to ensure the federal government has ample resources to address a public health crisis of this magnitude. In recent years, we have increased funding for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other key government agencies charged with overseeing public health.

Taking a government-wide approach is the key to preventing an outbreak in the U.S. that is on par with what we have seen in other nations. This means channeling the collective energy, knowledge and talents of federal, state and local public health officials and healthcare professionals to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The CDC began tracking the new coronavirus from its onset in Wuhan, China, working with our partners in the international community to identify and isolate the new form of coronavirus that caused the outbreak. Now that cases of COVID-19 have been identified within our borders, we must take the proper steps to detect possible cases and provide medical care to individuals with this diagnose, as well as ensure that transmissions of the disease do not reach epidemic proportions here.

The Trump administration has taken proactive measures to counter the spread by restricting travel from nations with widespread, ongoing transmission of COVID-19. The president has appointed a task force, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, to coordinate intergovernmental response and mitigation efforts. The task force is also working with pharmaceutical companies to accelerate the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. While I appreciate the president’s leadership, more must be done.

The emergency funding legislation passed by Congress will provide a surge in funding at every level—local, state and federal—to confront this challenge head on. It allocates $7.767 billion—more than triple the administration’s original request—to address the COVID-19 crisis.

Nearly 85 percent of this funding will be spent on domestic programs, ensuring that the focus remains on protecting Americans here at home, while still providing ample funding to fight the spread of COVID-19 abroad. Arkansas’s public health agencies are set to receive at least $6.2 million in funding as a result of this bill.

Specifically, the COVID-19 emergency funding package appropriates:

  • $2.2 billion is for the CDC, including no less than $950 million to help state and local governments prevent and combat the spread of the coronavirus. 
  • $836 million will go to the NIH to train health care workers on the front lines and to develop diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines related to the virus.
  • $61 million will support the Food and Drug Administration’s role in approving such products.
  • $3.1 billion is for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund. This money will used to supplement the Strategic National Stockpile; develop and purchase diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines; provide resources for community health centers; and help hospitals and health systems adapt and respond.
  • Another $300 million is made available for the purchase of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to ensure that all Americans will have access to the medications they need to combat COVID-19.
  • $1.25 billion is provided to the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development to continue working with our international partners to stop the global spread of COVID-19. 

This is a robust response, which is the right approach to take when facing a crisis of this scale. We can’t afford to fall short in this effort.

Our top priority must be keeping Americans safe. A potential massive outbreak of COVID-19 is truly a national emergency. We are in a position to combat it, but federal, state and local agencies must be prepared for worst-case scenarios. Congress must be willing to provide the resources it takes to keep our country safe. I am committed to working with my colleagues to make sure that happens. 

Resources for Arkansans 

An informed public is one the best weapons in this fight. Along with avoiding traveling to areas where exposure risks are high, the CDC has issued commonsense recommendations for everyday preventive actions to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • NOTE: CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.

Below you will find additional resources to help answer questions you may have about COVID-19:

Additionally, CDC offers free informational material including video, fact sheets and posters. Below are links to current communication tools and resources available for use and distribution.