Feb 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

How Congress is responding to the coronavirus outbreak

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Members of Congress are reacting to the coronavirus outbreak by calling on the Trump administration to do more to combat its spread — with some calling for even harsher restrictions on travel to and from China, where the virus originated.

Where it stands: 11 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the disease, per the Centers for Disease Control, and it has killed at least 360 people and infected nearly 18,000 in mainland China, per official data.

  • Over the weekend, the U.S. declared a public health emergency, which comes with a mandatory quarantine for U.S. citizens arriving from Hubei province, and a temporary ban on foreigners without family in the U.S. who have recently visited China.

What's happening:

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a leading 2020 presidential candidate, released a plan last week to fight the spread of infectious diseases. It calls for investments in the government's health agencies, as well as hospitals and health care providers.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has called for the administration to issue a complete travel ban to and from China: "Given the severity of the coronavirus in China and its rapid spread across the region, as well as the mounting public fear, it's imperative that this disease is contained."
  • Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) similarly issued calls to restrict travel, though not quite to the level of Cruz's proposal.
  • Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, asked the DHS to outline its plan for screening those who enter the country and to explain how it is working with other government agencies to address the virus.

Yes, but: Americans are skeptical that Congress can do anything to contain the coronavirus' spread — as nearly 60% of Americans are "not that confident" or "not at all confident" that the legislature has the ability to take care of the outbreak in the U.S., per a Morning Consult poll released last week.

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Why it matters: The public health emergency comes with a quarantine for U.S. citizens arriving from Hubei province, and a temporary ban on foreigners without family in the U.S. who have recently visited China.