March 05, 2020

Duckworth Confronts Officials over the Trump Administration’s Botched Response to COVID-19


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – During a Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee hearing this week, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) questioned the Trump Administration’s lack of preparedness in responding to the outbreak of COVID-19, specifically related to data sharing between airlines and the agencies tasked with coordinating an effective response. During her time in the Army, the last project Duckworth worked on at the Pentagon’s Defense Support of Civil Authorities was to help train other servicemembers on responding to global pandemics. Video of Duckworth’s questions at the hearing is available here.

I can’t believe we’re having the conversations that we’re having now after having faced other global outbreaks, such as H1N1 and SARS. Did we not learn anything about processes and procedures from those previous diseases? Americans have been flying commercially for more than a century. Yet today, on the cusp of a global pandemic, the inability of federal agencies to collect and share critical data effectively with U.S. airlines and state and local partners is really hindering our ability to stop the spread and fight this disease,” said Duckworth.

Administration officials present during Duckworth’s questions at this hearing included: Joel Szabat, Acting Under Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Transportation; Dr. Stephen Redd, Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and William Ferrara, Executive Assistant Commissioner for Operations Support, U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

Earlier this week, Duckworth sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging the agency take immediate action to dramatically improve establish clear diagnostic testing procedures, capabilities and production capacity to better mitigate against the impact of the highly contagious coronavirus 2 (COVID-19) that is spreading throughout communities in the United States. Duckworth also wrote to the U.S. Small Business Administration to request the agency establishes a task force focused on effectively and efficiently providing assistance to small businesses harmed by the outbreak of COVID-19.