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[Coronavirus Preparedness]
During a hearing, Underwood questioned Acting Secretary Wolf on the steps DHS has taken to ensure the safety of its employees and their work to coordinate efforts with the Centers for Disease Control.
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Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Vice-Chair of the Homeland Security Committee, questioned U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad Wolf on the Department’s efforts to prepare and respond to the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19).

During a hearing, Underwood questioned Acting Secretary Wolf on the steps DHS has taken to ensure the safety of its employees and their work to coordinate efforts with the Centers for Disease Control as well as state and local public health departments. In her remarks, Underwood stressed the economic impacts of the coronavirus on families and workers who are not guaranteed paid medical leave.

Additionally, Underwood questioned Acting Secretary Wolf on the Department’s response to the coronavirus following Wolf’s disclosure in the hearing that he closed a DHS facility in Washington Monday night due to coronavirus. Underwood noted the importance of the Department’s work to coordinate outbreak response with other agencies, as DHS personnel are on the front lines of responding to coronavirus at airports and the border. During the hearing, Underwood asked Acting Secretary Wolf if he expects the Department to close further DHS facilities or implement faculty-wide quarantines. Acting Secretary Wolf was unwilling to answer if there will be further DHS facility closed as a result of coronavirus.

“DHS personnel have been on the front line of responding to coronavirus; at airports, at the border, helping with preparedness and risk management at FEMA, and coordinating outbreak response with other agencies. In these front line roles, they’ve also had an elevated risk of exposure,” said Underwood. “I just want to highlight the real economic impact here: if they run out of sick leave because of coronavirus, federal employees don’t have paid medical leave to care for themselves or their families. A comprehensive federal response to coronavirus should take this into account and include protections for employees in public service who are facing health and financial risks to keep us safe,” Underwood continued.

As Vice-Chair of the Homeland Security Committee and a public health nurse, Underwood is working to protect Illinois families from the spread of coronavirus. On Friday, Underwood convened Illinois public health officials and health to discuss steps that the state of Illinois has taken to prepare and respond to the coronavirus. During the call, representatives from county public health departments, northern Illinois health systems, and community health centers discussed coronavirus preparedness, response, and how the public can best protect themselves from infection.

Additionally, last week in a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing, Underwood questioned U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie on the steps the Department has taken the ensure veterans have the information they need to protect themselves and their families from the spread of coronavirus. Following the hearing, Underwood sent a letter to Secretary Wilkie urging the VA and the Veterans Health Administration to conduct proactive risk communication to veterans in response to growing public health threats of the coronavirus in the United States.

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