Sen. John Kennedy Grills Trump’s DHS Admin on Coronavirus

While most of his constituents were out enjoying a beautiful Mardi Gras day, Sen. John Kennedy was at work, grilling acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf on DHS’ ability to respond to the coronavirus threat.

The exchange began badly from the beginning, with Wolf unable to answer the simple question of how many potential cases of the coronavirus are currently active in the United States. Wolf responded that there were 14, but was unsure of how many potential cases have been repatriated to the US from cruise ships, simply answering “20- or 30-some-odd.”

Following that, Wolf was also unable to answer how many cases DHS was anticipating, deferring the question to the Department of Health and Human Services instead. “We only know that, again, we anticipate those numbers to grow in the US,” Wolf said.

“You’re head of Homeland Security, and your job is to keep us safe,” Kennedy responded. “Don’t you think you ought to check on that, as the head of Homeland Security?”

Wolf was also unable to answer specifically how the coronavirus is transmitted through person-to-person contact, and whether the government has enough respirators and face masks to handle an outbreak. Wolf initially answered that DHS has enough masks, a statement met with skepticism from Kennedy. “I’m not asking for the Department of Homeland Security, I’m asking for the American people,” Kennedy retorted. “For the entire American republic? No, I would say probably not,” Wolf responded.

On Tuesday, the Center for Disease Control announced yesterday that the coronavirus could cause “severe disruption” across the US, and urged families and communities to begin preparing for the spread of the disease. Currently, only five states have the ability to detect the virus – the CDC recently stopped the distribution of coronavirus testing kits after they were found to be faulty.

The CDC’s announcement sent markets plunging for the second day in a row; the DOW closed down more than 1000 points on Monday and more than 900 points on Tuesday. President Donald Trump attempted to calm market worries at a press conference on Tuesday evening, insisting that the coronavirus is “very well under control in our country,” and “is going to go away,” directly contradicting the message from the CDC. However, the DOW continued to fall on Wednesday and was down over 130 points at the time of this writing.

After a new case of coronavirus was confirmed in the US on Wednesday (bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 15), President Trump has called for a 6 p.m. news conference with officials from the CDC and others.

Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist whose work has been featured on Yahoo News, Wander No More, Big Easy Magazine, and more. In 2019, she was given the title of “Most Fearless” by The Bayou Brief. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_

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