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CDC OKs $500K in initial Oregon funds for coronavirus response


Separate from $8.3 billion emergency funding package halfway through Congress

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Oregon's congressional delegation on Wednesday announced $500,000 in Centers for Disease Control funding for the state of Oregon to help fight the coronavirus.

Wednesday's CDC award is in addition to any funding that will come out of the $8.3 billion emergency funding package that was announced Wednesday. That package passed the U.S. House on Wednesday and is expected to pass the Senate Thursday.

The Democratic members also pushed the White House to heed Governor Kate Brown’s request for additional federal support—specifically on protective equipment, testing, and additional funding—to help the state respond to the outbreak in Oregon.

“With now three cases across Oregon, it’s clear that this virus is spreading and that our state will need significant resources to respond effectively and keep Oregonians safe,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, who has been pushing for and delivering emergency funding as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

“We need an all-hands-on-deck approach to support our communities as they fight this virus, and it’s good news that the CDC is sending initial funding to Oregon today. I will keep pushing fiercely to support Oregon’s needs and make sure the federal government is doing everything it can to respond swiftly and effectively to this outbreak.”

“Right now, our number one priority is ensuring the health and safety of all Oregonians, and that urgent business means making sure the state has all the resources it needs as soon as possible to effectively combat the threat posed by COVID-19,” Sen. Ron Wyden said. “These initial funds are a welcome first step in that fight, and I’m going to keep pushing for more federal dollars and resources to keep our communities safe.”

“A serious public health emergency such as the spread of COVID-19 requires a coordinated response between state, local, and federal agencies,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio. “The federal government must ensure states like Oregon have the tools and funding they need to treat and fight the spread of this disease. I will continue to push to ensure Oregon has everything it needs to keep our communities safe.”

“Over the past several days I’ve spoken with Governor Brown, Pat Allen at the Oregon Health Authority, county public health officials, school superintendents, health care leaders, and workers across NW Oregon about the coronavirus,” said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici. “Every one emphasized the need for immediate and robust funding. Earlier today the CDC announced it will allocate $500,000 immediately to Oregon. Importantly, the House also just passed a robust funding package that will build on this initial installment of funding to help make sure our communities have what they need for the strongest possible response to this public health crisis.”

“It is essential that we dedicate our attention and resources to the experts working to fight this crisis,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer. “My community in Oregon was one of the first in the country exposed to the coronavirus. As more suspected cases arise, the funding package passed by the House today is imperative. Alongside Governor Brown, the rest of the Oregon delegation, and local health officials, we are working to address this crisis and prioritize the needs of Oregonians. I’m committed to keeping our community and people across the country healthy and safe.”

"This funding is welcome news for Oregonians,” Rep. Greg Walden said. “I applaud the CDC for selecting Oregon to receive initial funding to help support our response to the coronavirus outbreak. This will help fund needs such as monitoring travelers, supplying medical equipment, staffing, and infection control." 

Oregon will receive $500,000 in funding out of an initial $25 million awarded by the CDC Wednesday. That funding is being awarded to the states that have had the heaviest load in response and preparedness activities so far in the outbreak. The funding can be used for monitoring travelers, data management, lab equipment, supplies, staffing, shipping, and infection control.

The members are continuing to push the federal government to meet Oregon’s full need for emergency funding, which Governor Brown has estimated at $7 to $10 million per month.

In addition, in their letter to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, the Democrats in the delegation asked for the federal government to support two key requests from Governor Brown:

  • Releasing additional personal protective equipment from the federal government’s stockpile, including N95 masks, gowns, gloves, Tyvek suits, Biocell Ambulance Protection Systems, and 75 to 100 ventilators.
  • Enabling flexibility on testing criteria for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Specifically, Oregon would like the federal government to provide states with the ability to develop and order the materials needed to build and perform their own tests, or to use CDC’s template to scale up capacity to conduct tests and produce results more quickly.

The full text of the members’ letter follows below.


March 4, 2020

The Honorable Mike Pence

Vice President of the United States

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20501

Dear Mr. Vice President:

Thank you for the briefing you and members of your Coronavirus Taskforce provided to Congress on the administration’s efforts to respond to the ongoing threat coronavirus (COVID-19) presents to the American public and the world. It is critical that states, local governments, and tribes remain in close contact as the outbreak evolves. We specifically write to support the request of Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown for additional federal assistance and resources.

To date, Oregon has one confirmed case and two presumed positive cases of COVID-19 and over a hundred individuals who are under monitoring although they do not have symptoms but have been exposed through close contact with a confirmed case or from travel to mainland China. We have been tracking this situation closely and have been in constant communication with state health and education agencies, unions, hospitals and health systems, tribal leaders, superintendents, and other leaders. While the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low, it is critical that Oregonians are advised on science-based precautions to protect themselves and their communities—this includes handwashing and hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when ill, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying current on vaccinations, eating well, and exercising to help our bodies stay resilient.

Like other states with cases of COVID-19, we are concerned that Oregon does not have a sufficient supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should COVID-19 spread more widely among the community, especially in Oregon’s rural and frontier communities. While actions by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to increase access to respirators, including N95 masks, for health care personnel may help in the short term, we strongly urge you to release additional PPE from the federal government’s strategic national stockpile, including 400,000 N-95 respirators, gowns, gloves, Tyvek suits, Biocell Ambulance Protection Systems (Biocell-APS), and 75 to100 ventilators.

We also request flexibility on testing criteria for COVID-19 as covered by FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to expedite the agency’s permitted use of the CDC diagnostic panel and provide states with the ability to develop and order the materials needed to build and perform their own tests, or use CDC’s template to scale up capacity to conduct tests and produce results more quickly to contain this outbreak.

Additionally, as a state with large, rural, and frontier regions we remain concerned about potential workforce shortages in small rural hospitals and other providers in areas that already struggle to maintain adequate staffing levels for provider and patient safety.

A significant amount of federal resources and funding will be needed to contain this outbreak, which will evolve as the outbreak evolves. Currently, Oregon estimates a financial need of $7 million to $10 million per month to support the additional resources needed for state, local, and tribal health—in addition to reimbursing the costs already incurred.

As you work to contain this outbreak, we request your continued partnership and urge you to work with state, local, and tribal governments to ensure our communities have the resources they need to protect public health.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to your response.


News release from Merkley:

Senator Jeff Merkley, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced today that the House and Senate have reached a bipartisan agreement on a $8.3 billion package of emergency funding to help contain and fight the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Merkley, as the top Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), worked with his counterparts to write Title I of the bill, including emergency authorizations and $61 million in new funding for FDA to help protect Americans from this emerging public health threat. He also pushed strongly to secure more funding for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), small business disaster loans, reimbursements for state and local government expenses incurred fighting the coronavirus, and support for tribal governments—all of which are included in the package.  

“Americans and Oregonians deserve a federal government that is doing everything we can to protect our communities from the coronavirus,” Merkley said. “While the CDC and public health professionals are working hard to meet this challenge, the administration’s overall response has been disorganized and dangerously inadequate. Today, Congress is coming together on a bipartisan basis to bring the resources and urgency we need to tackle this crisis. I will continue doing everything I can to keep Oregonians safe and informed, and I will be pushing to pass this bill and get it signed into law without delay.”

Last Thursday, Merkley launched a coronavirus resource page for Oregonians, which includes information on risk of exposure, prevention and treatment, and steps that he is taking to push the federal government to respond effectively and with urgency. That resource, which is being updated regularly, can be found at

“I’d like to thank Senator Merkley, as well as Senator Wyden and Oregon’s congressional delegation, for displaying unhesitating leadership in bringing together this bipartisan agreement to protect the health and safety of our families and communities across the state,” said Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown. “In the face of this global health crisis, this emergency funding package will provide additional support to our health professionals as they address the immediate concerns of identifying, treating, and containing novel coronavirus cases in Oregon, and will put us on the path for the long-term containment of this disease.”

“As we watch this virus spread, the leadership of Senator Merkley is crucial and we thank him. The mask shortage is impacting healthcare workers even this moment as they are not fully protected from the speared of the virus,” said Adrienne Enghouse, RN and President of the Oregon Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals (OFNHP) Local 5071. “This bill is a template for all potential epidemics now and in the future. We need all elements of this bill put into place immediately to ensure front line workers and our communities are safe.”

“Healthcare workers are on the frontlines fighting COVID-19. Ensuring that they are adequately protected is a critical step to prevent the spread of the disease. If we can’t protect our healthcare workforce then we can’t protect our patients. I thank Sen. Jeff Merkley for his efforts to ensure our members have the resources they need in the COVID-19 emergency spending bill,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 170,000 healthcare professionals. “The federal government must do everything possible to protect the health of Americans and to ensure that healthcare personnel—who are key to that effort—are trained, protected and have the resources they need to do their jobs: caring for our communities.”

The funding and authorizations that Merkley secured for FDA in today’s package will help FDA fight the spread and severity of the coronavirus in numerous ways, including:

  1. Vaccine development. All vaccines in the U.S. must be approved by FDA. FDA works with manufacturers in evaluating potential vaccines for safety and effectiveness. Once a vaccine shows promise, it goes through clinical trials. A potential coronavirus vaccine will take months if not years for final approval.

Why it matters: Senator Merkley is making sure that FDA has the resources and support it needs to expedite a coronavirus vaccine through its approval process, so that any successful vaccine can quickly get to the patients who need it.

  1. Medical countermeasures (MCM). MCM are used during an emergency to diagnose, prevent, and protect the public from an emerging disease threat. MCM can include vaccines, blood products and antibodies, drugs, and protective equipment such as masks and respirators. FDA’s role is to work with local, state, tribal and international governments to coordinate all of these activities.

Why it matters: It’s critical to make sure that public health agencies and other government actors are well-coordinated to prevent, track, and control the spread of the coronavirus. Senator Merkley is securing funding so that FDA can coordinate these activities at every level, from local to international governments, and ensure that communities are using best practices and evidence-based decision making to the greatest possible extent.

  1. Medical shortages. Monitoring of medical supply chains and product shortages, including outreach to manufacturers on drug supply shortages.

Why it matters: With many drugs and medical devices reliant on supply chains in China, there is a risk that as the crisis continues there could be shortages of both drugs and equipment.  Already there is a shortage of some medical supplies like facemasks. Senator Merkley is working to bolster FDA’s ability to monitor shortages of supplies and drugs, and to work with manufacturers to resolve these shortages as quickly as possible.

  1. Continuous manufacturing. Provide funding to bolster investments for continuous manufacturing so drugs can be manufactured in one location.

Why it matters: With the worldwide spread of the coronavirus, we are already seeing disruptions to international markets and global supply chains. In this context, it’s more critical than ever that we have the capacity to manufacture critical drugs here in the U.S., without relying on international labs. Senator Merkley is working with the FDA to ensure that key drugs can be manufactured entirely in the U.S., safeguarding American patients’ access to these drugs as this global crisis progresses.

  1. Emergency Use Authorizations. Develop Emergency Use Authorizations for medical products, including diagnostics.

Why it matters: In a medical emergency, it is sometimes necessary to approve medical devices and other products faster than normal. Senator Merkley is ensuring that as the coronavirus spreads, FDA has the authority they need to cut through red tape and get devices to patients as quickly as possible when they are needed.

  1. Counterfeit or misbranded products to treat coronavirus. Support FDA enforcement against counterfeit or misbranded products that claim to treat the coronavirus.

Why it matters: It’s easy for a global epidemic like the coronavirus to make individuals susceptible to disinformation and panic. In this environment, it’s critical to make sure that patients are receiving medically-accurate information and not being duped into spending money on counterfeit or misleadingly-marketed products to fight coronavirus. Senator Merkley is making sure that the FDA has the power and resources they need to keep Americans safe from coronavirus scammers.

Now that the funding package has been agreed upon by both House and Senate negotiators, it is expected to receive a vote on the floor of both the House and Senate in the coming days. Once it has been passed by both houses of Congress, it will be sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics
novel coronavirus

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