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Sen. Mitt Romney and the federal response to COVID-19

Posted at 6:21 PM, Mar 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-03 20:28:32-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Is the government prepared for a possible pandemic when it comes to COVID-19?

Sen. Mitt Romney Tuesday, a part of a special committee, was able to question experts in a hearing on what the federal government is doing in response to the latest strain of the coronavirus. He focused his questioning on our country’s ability to create a vaccine and mass produce that here in America, as well as our strategic national stockpile – an area where he says we need to improve.

"I thought that we ought to have a lot more than 10 percent of what the medical professionals would need. And, frankly, I wish we would have some in storage for the citizens of our country, as well," Romney told FOX 13.

Romney is a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee. You can see their full hearing Tuesday here.

"I appreciate the work that’s been done by the public health community and our country to delay the arrival of COVID-19 to our country. It’s really quite remarkable," Romney said before asking questions.

He went on to question what preparations have been made for COVID-19 and specifically our nation's stockpiling.

"What percentage of what we would need for our medical professionals is in the strategic national stockpile?" Romney asked.

Dr. Robert Kadlec, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, responded, "I can give you a rough order of magnitude. It depends what kind of, like you said a severe pandemic, ten percent of what we need right now. If it were to be a severe event, we would need 3.5 billion N95 respirators. We have about 35 million."

Romney replied, "I can’t believe that we as a Congress, I’m not blaming the Administration, this is Congress and appropriating and it’s prior Administrations as well, that should be in place."

During the hearing, Dr. Anthony Fauci from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases made a point to say masks are not currently needed by the general public, "It doesn’t provide the kind of protection people think it does."

But Senator Romney told Fox 13 News he would still like to see masks stockpiled for the general public in case of a major outbreak of the disease.

He also talked about the need for a vaccine and said that's something that should be able to be created and mass produced here at home, "The question I raised is whether or not we should as a government have the capacity to either manufacture these vaccines ourselves or to contract with private enterprises to make sure that in our country – not in some foreign country – but in our country we’re able to make a lot of vaccines in a big hurry in the event that either COVID-19 or some other condition down the road becomes a severe pandemic."

The senator said on a positive note, he was happy to hear from the experts in Tuesday's hearing about the treatment that will become available soon for patients with the coronavirus.