CORONAVIRUS

Sen. Chuck Grassley: U.S. 'on top of' efforts to combat coronavirus

Iowa senator attends top-secret government briefing

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, answers a question during a town hall in April 2019 at the Independence Public Library in I
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, answers a question during a town hall in April 2019 at the Independence Public Library in Independence. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Following a top-secret briefing Tuesday morning, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, expressed confidence the United States is “on top of” efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

That doesn’t mean the virus, which already has claimed about 2,700 lives, is contained, Grassley said during his weekly conference call with Iowa reporters.

“I don’t think that I could give Americans any certainty that it couldn’t crop up in the United States like it did in Italy over last weekend or 10 days ago in South Korea, where all of a sudden, you get an explosion of it,” Grassley said after joining more than a dozen senators at the briefing. Among those presenting information were the departments of State, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration.

Officials scrambled Tuesday to halt the spread of the burgeoning virus, from northern Italy, where troops were dispatched to enforce quarantines and schools were shuttered, to South Korea, where some neighborhoods in a city of 2.5 million were brought to a near standstill.

In Italy, where more than 200 people were sickened, a dozen towns were sealed off and police patrolled wearing face masks.

In South Korea, the caseload has grown to 977 people sickened by coronavirus.

The virus is having a terrible impact on the world economy and trade, Grassley added.

“Just think of the manufacturing supply chains that are being broken up because people are so dependent upon on China,” Grassley said. A long-term impact may be less reliance on China as a supplier of parts and goods.

“So more at the corporate level than at the government level you’re having people scrambling to see can they replace their supplies,” he said. “I’ll bet you in the future they’re going to make sure that they don’t have so much dependence upon on China. They’ll have another source.”

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Forecasts say coronavirus will “shorten” first- quarter economic growth in the United States and globally, especially in China, Grassley said.

Members of Congress were told there will be another $1.2 billion appropriation to combat coronavirus and probably another $1 billion transferred at the discretion of the presidential from other health programs to stay on top of the spread of the virus.

“But (there’s) no certainty, you know, that what happened in Italy couldn’t happen here,” Grassley added.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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