Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) questions Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf on coronavirus at an Appropriations Committee hearing this week.
SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Thank you, Madame Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for being here. How many cases of Coronavirus do we have right now in the United States? ACTING SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY CHAD WOLF: Well, we have 14 cases plus an additional I believe it’s 20 or 30 some odd cases that we have repatriated back into the U.S. from a number of cruise ships. KENNEDY: And how many are you anticipating? WOLF: Again, we are working with HHS, to determine that. KENNEDY: I understand that. How many are you anticipating? WOLF: We do anticipate the number will grow. I don’t-I don’t have an exact figure for you though. KENNEDY: Do you have an estimate? Is someone–is someone modeling that? Do you have any way of guessing? WOLF: Again, HHS through their medical professionals are– KENNEDY: But you are head of Homeland Security. WOLF: Yes, sir. KENNEDY: And your job is to keep us safe. WOLF: Yes, sir. KENNEDY: Do you know today how many of the experts are predicting? WOLF: Only–we only know that again, we anticipate those numbers to grow in the U.S. that’s why we are making sure that our operations again, at our airports, land ports and elsewhere are flexible. KENNEDY: But you can’t tell us how many your models are anticipating? WOLF: No, Senator. Again, I would-I would defer you to the–the health and human services for that, CDC. KENNEDY: (INAUDIBLE) you all to check on that? WOLF: We will. KENNEDY: As the head of Homeland Security. WOLF: Absolutely. And again, we have taskforce members that are working this every day. KENNEDY: I–I’m all for committees and taskforces. WOLF: We are coordinating with them to make sure that our operations– KENNEDY: You’re the secretary. I think you ought to know that answer. WOLF: I understand that. KENNEDY: How is–how is the coronavirus–coronavirus transmitted? WOLF: Through a– a variety of ways. Obviously, human to human we’ve seen that and again, we are making sure that those procedures has they come into the U.S. are medically screened so that we can identify those– KENNEDY: How is it transmitted? WOLF: A variety of different ways, Senator. KENNEDY: Tell me what they are, please? WOLF: Again, human to human is what we’ve– KENNEDY: Well, obviously human to human how? WOLF: Being in the same vicinity, physical contact is usually what we have seen from the medical cases that we have seen here in the U.S. We have had several I think two to three human to human cases that have showed up here in the U.S. So it is those that are closest to those individuals that have that human contact. KENNEDY: What’s the mortality rate so far nationwide–worldwide? WOLF: Worldwide, I believe it’s under 2 percent. KENNEDY: How–how much under 2 percent? WOLF: I–I will get you an exact figure. I will check with CDC on their monitoring the worldwide morality rate and I can get that for you. KENNEDY: But you don’t know the mortality rate today? WOLF: It–it changes daily, Senator. KENNEDY: Well, I understand that. What’s the average since we discovered the virus? WOLF: Again it’s under 2 percent it was as high as 3 numbers were recalculated based on reporting from China– KENNEDY: Is it between 1.5 and 2? WOLF: It is between 1.5 and 2 percent. KENNEDY: OK. What’s the mortality rate for influenza over the last say 10 years in America? WOLF: It’s also right around that percentage as well. I don’t have that offhand but it’s right around 2 percent as well. KENNEDY: You sure of that? You sure of that? WOLF: (INAUDIBLE) yes, sir. KENNEDY: OK. Do we have enough respirators? WOLF: To my knowledge, we do. I’m focused on making sure that our operators at–at DHS make sure that they have the protective equipment and I know HHS as part of the supplemental– KENNEDY: Well, we just heard testimony that we don’t. WOLF: Testimony from? KENNEDY: In a briefing. WOLF: OK. KENNEDY: So, you’re head of Homeland Security– WOLF: For medical professionals or for–for– KENNEDY: You’re head of homeland security. Do we have enough respirators or not? WOLF: For patients I–I don’t understand he question. KENNEDY: For everybody. Every American who needs one who gets the disease? WOLF: Again, I would refer you to HHS on that. KENNEDY: Mr. Secretary your–your–your supposed to keep us safe. WOLF: My budget supports the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security. KENNEDY: You’re the secretary of Homeland Security? WOLF: Yes, sir. KENNEDY: And you can’t tell me if we have enough respirators? WOLF: What I would tell you is that the budget, my budget, our operations are focused not only on the men and women of DHS making sure they are protected to do their jobs, to screen individuals coming in. we are working with HHS, CDC and their budgets to ensure that they have enough medical equipment. KENNEDY: Do we have enough face masks? WOLF: We–for the Department of Homeland Security we do. KENNEDY: I’m not asking for the Department of Homeland Security. I’m asking for the American people. WOLF: For the–for the entire American public? KENNEDY: Yes. WOLF: No. I would say probably not. KENNEDY: OK. How short are we? WOLF: I–I don’t have that number offhand, Senator. I will get that for you. KENNEDY: OK. But–but I want to be sure I understand you–somebody– WOLF: Yes, sir? KENNEDY: –is doing modeling– WOLF: Yes, sir. KENNEDY: On how many cases we’re anticipated. WOLF: Yes, sir. KENNEDY: You’re just not aware of that. WOLF: You’re asking me a number of medical questions that CDC– KENNEDY: –I’m asking you questions because you’re Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. And you’re supposed to keep us safe. WOLF: Yes, sir. KENNEDY: And you need to know the answers to these questions. WOLF: –And– KENNEDY: –how far away are we from getting a vaccine? WOLF: In several months. KENNEDY: Well, that’s not what we just heard testimony about. WOLF: OK. KENNEDY: Who’s on first here? WOLF: HHS is the lead federal agency for the coronavirus response. KENNEDY: You–you’re telling me we’re months away from having a vaccine that’s your testimony as chair–as secretary of Homeland Security? WOLF: What I have been told by HHS and CDC, yes. KENNEDY: And, have you proved that to make sure that’s accurate? WOLF: Yes. We continue every day we have taskforce meetings with these individuals and also, we are talking about a number of these– KENNEDY: Well, your numbers aren’t the same as CDC’s. WOLF: Then I would–I would certainly defer to CDC on our medical questions. KENNEDY: Well, don’t you think you ought to contact them and find out whether you’re right or they’re right? WOLF: We are in contact with them every day on this–on our taskforce. KENNEDY: But you don’t know why you have a discrepancy? WOLF: I would refer you to the CDC on specific questions. KENNEDY: I’m going to hush here you’re–you’re supposed to keep us safe and the American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus and I’m not getting them from you. WOLF: I disagree. KENNEDY: That’s all I have, Madame Chair.