Van Hollen and 32 other senators send critical letter to the secretary of health and human services for COVID-19 response

Maryland

HAGERSTOWN, Md (WDVM) — Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen sent a scathing letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on Friday in regards to how the Trump administration has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senators Van Hollen, Patty Murray of Washington, Chuck Schumer of New York, and thirty other senators sent a letter to Secretary Alex Azar criticizing the administration for the political interference in the coronavirus response efforts.

The letter referenced past claims about the virus and a potential cure without scientific data made by the president as well as withholding guidelines from the cdc that would help our country safely reopen.

An excerpt from the letter reads:

“More than ever, public trust in our core public health agencies must be fiercely protected. We will not beat this pandemic without that trust, and allowing political interference in these processes is harmful to the trust in our world-class scientific institutions and ultimately the health of our population.”

The letter also claims that the Trump Administration has placed more emphasis on politics rather than public health. Earlier this year President Trump insisted on authorizing hydroxychloroquine, an unproven treatment for COVID-19, and even removed officials who insisted it be scientifically vetted. The Administration also blocked previous CDC guidance for reopening.

The senators asked that the Trump administration provide answers to the questions listed in the letter by September 4th.

1.      What is the process by which HHS and its agencies incorporate feedback from political leadership, and specifically members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, into scientific or public health decisions?  How are such considerations weighed against evidence in support of or opposition to a decision?

2.     Please describe the involvement of political leadership in the decision to authorize convalescent plasma, including your personal role and involvement.

3.     Given continued concerns about the effectiveness of convalescent plasma in treating COVID-19, please provide a detailed description of the basis NIH officials provided for delaying the authorization and an explanation for the decision to issue the August 23 EUA without waiting for additional evidence.

4.     Please describe the role of each of the following agencies or offices in providing evidence, information, or feedback about the convalescent plasma EUA: The Office of the Secretary, The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, NIH, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and FDA.

5.     Please describe the involvement of political leadership in the decision to revise CDC’s guidelines for testing asymptomatic individuals exposed to COVID-19, including your personal role and involvement.

6.     Please provide the scientific basis to support CDC’s decision to remove the recommendation for asymptomatic individuals who were exposed to COVID-19 to be tested for the disease.

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