Michael Burgess

09/16/2020 | Press release | Archived content

Homeland Preparedness News: House Republicans question CDC on plans to address COVID-19, seasonal flu

by Dave Kovaleski

House Republican leaders are seeking information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how it plans to manage COVID-19 response efforts in addition to the flu and other respiratory issues this season.

'We share your concerns about the unprecedented convergence of two highly contagious respiratory viruses that can cause life-threatening illness and death. Experts have noted that, in the upcoming influenza season, there could potentially be 100 million cases of influenza-like symptoms that could overwhelm current testing capacity. Health experts also note 'the stress on hospitals will be greatest if the COVID-19 and influenza epidemics overlap and peak around the same time,' Reps. Greg Walden (R-OR), Michael Burgess (R-TX), and Brett Guthrie (R-KY) wrote in a letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield.

Walden is the Republican leader on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Burgess is the Republican leader on the Health Subcommittee, and Guthrie is the GOP leader on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

The lawmakers point out that in the last 10 years, less than half of adults in the United States have typically received the flu vaccine. They would like to see the flu vaccination rate increase.

'Health officials are particularly concerned about people at higher risk for both COVID-19 and influenza, such as African Americans and Hispanics, with traditionally lower vaccination rates. Public health experts have stressed the importance of high vaccination rates in the upcoming influenza season. Public health experts have stated that '[h]igh vaccine coverage would reduce influenza-related mortality, while also helping to preserve the capacity and function of the health system during circulation of influenza viruses and [COVID-19].' In addition to preventing influenza, the influenza vaccine can also decrease the severity of illness,' Walden, Burgess, and Guthrie continued.

E&C Committee Republicans have released recommendations in their Second Wave Preparedness Project on how the health care system could fight the COVID-19 and seasonal flu at the same time.

'In the first pillar of the Committee Republicans' Second Wave Report on testing and surveillance, we noted the importance of differentiating COVID-19 cases from influenza cases, to rapidly detect outbreaks and prevent co-infections. The report urged that combined diagnostic testing kits for both COVID-19 and influenza, also referred to as multiplex assays, be developed and made widely available for the fall,' they wrote.

Published here.