Earlier this year, the Obama administration requested $1.9 billion from Congress to fight the global health emergency that is the Zika Virus in order to “protect the health and safety of Americans.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hosted a Zika Summit with state and local officials in Atlanta during the first week of April to discuss the ongoing threat and potential actions to contain the dangerous outbreak. The CDC Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat went on record saying “everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought.” The World Health Organization declared it a “Global Health Emergency”. Just as April came to a close, the first U.S Zika death was reported, making it the first case EVER where the Zika infection has contributed to a death in the United States. With a clear and present threat to public health, what is holding up decisive action to combat this emerging crisis? Republican budget approval, of course.
Top House and Senate Republicans are currently stalling on considering the White House’s funding request to combat a global health emergency that, if left unaddressed, will be the next major public health crisis in the United States.
“The first death from the Zika virus on our country's soil is just a harbinger of what’s to come,” said Agenda Project Action Fund President Erik Altieri, “The GOP’s commitment to saving a buck, while ignoring the real world implications of this ideology, has already caused countless deaths and resulted in tragic health outcomes for American citizens. By refusing to approve the White House’s request for funding to combat Zika, they are condemning more innocent people to die and potentially thousands of newborn children to be permanently and direly disabled. To avoid further tragedy, Republicans need to approve the White House's request for funds and they need to do it immediately."
As of April 27, 2016, there has been 426 travel associated Zika virus disease cases reported in the United States proper. Of these 426 cases, 36 of them were found in pregnant women, 8 of these cases were transmitted sexually, and 1 resulted in Guillain-Barré syndrome. In the U.S territories of American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, there are 596 locally acquired cases, 56 of which are in pregnant women, and 5 of which lead to Guillain-Barré syndrome. Now, one has led to death.
Despite the imminent threat, prominent Republicans continue to balk at the idea of spending government funds to fight this growing crisis. House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters that the House “will address this situation through the regular appropriations process as the need arises.” The regular appropriations process is to take place in the fall. Given the widespread tragedy and suffering that has already occurred globally and domestically since the start of this year, the ignorance demonstrated by Republican lawmakers thinking that we can kick the can down the road and not address this until the fall, after the height of mosquito season, should appall and outrage the American people.