Cantwell Calls on Colleagues to Support More Resources for Testing, Billions in Supplemental Funding to Fight Spread of Coronavirus

Cantwell: “We need these funds. We need them now. And we need other states to heed the early testing that would’ve been helpful in our state.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ahead of the Senate’s vote on supplemental funding to fight the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) took to the Senate floor to speak about recent developments in Washington state and to urge her colleagues to approve the bipartisan $7.8 billion supplemental funding package to fight the coronavirus and mitigate its spread.

“No state has been more hard hit than the state of Washington,” said Senator Cantwell. “What's clear in this supplemental is that we need more resources for testing.”

The Washington state Department of Health is now reporting 70 confirmed cases of coronavirus, an increase of 31 since Wednesday. Cantwell confronted Vice President Mike Pence earlier this week about the shortage of available tests and the lack of transparency provided by officials responsible for the Trump administration’s response to the virus.

“I know there are people in the state of Washington who feel ill, who feel like they might be subject to this coronavirus and aren't getting tested. We want to make sure that the public clearly understands what their paths are for getting those tests, and we want to make sure that every lab, commercial and academic, in the United States, is getting prepared to help us in the advent of the spread of this virus,” said Cantwell today on the Senate floor.

Cantwell emphasized the steps that companies and school districts in Washington are already taking to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Major employers are encouraging their employees to work from home, and school districts throughout the state have temporarily shut down in an abundance of caution after it was determined the facilities may have been exposed, either directly or indirectly, to the virus.

“We're taking all these steps now because we are at the epicenter of this crisis. But I want people to know that there are other things that other states can be doing to learn from what we've done in Washington,” Cantwell said.

As part of the supplemental funding package passed by the Senate today, Washington state will receive $11.5 million in funding to help the Washington state Department of Health respond to the crisis. Cantwell highlighted that the funding can be used to “increase access for public lab testing, help pay for isolation and quarantine, help pay for sanitizing in public areas, better track the virus and those who might come into contact with it, help labs who are trying to identify hot spots, and to limit exposure.

“I can tell you we need these funds. We need them now,” Cantwell concluded. “And we need other states to heed the early testing that would’ve been helpful in our state, and now may be helpful in yours. Let’s get as aggressive about testing as possible, let’s get aggressive about sharing information about flu and tracking this virus, let’s get aggressive about trying to mitigate the impacts of this deadly disease.”

On Wednesday at an aviation subcommittee hearing, Cantwell pressed Trump administration officials for more information on the coronavirus and emphasized the need for coordination across government agencies and with the private sector to mitigate its spread. Earlier this week, Senator Cantwell sent letters to major airlines and airports asking for their plans of action in response to the coronavirus outbreak. She also joined her Democratic colleagues in a letter urging Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to commit to making any potential coronavirus vaccine affordable to all. Cantwell has remained in constant contact with state and local officials since the first case of coronavirus was detected in Snohomish County, and she has been closely monitoring the spread of the virus and its impacts on Washington state. 

Video of Senator Cantwell’s floor speech is available HERE, and audio is HERE.