Senator Chris Murphy says government has “no concept of the scope” of coronavirus spread

Washington — Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy lambasted the Trump administration for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak and said the federal government has “no concept” of the virus’ spread due to a lack of extensive testing.

Connecticut is one of the 33 states with confirmed cases of coronavirus, though Murphy believes there could be “hundreds if not thousands” of additional unknown cases in his home state.

“I think we have no concept of the scope of this epidemic yet because we have not been able to test,” Murphy said Sunday on “Face the Nation.” “The fact of the matter is we can’t make good judgments about the measures we should be taking in Seattle or Danbury or Hartford unless we are able to do these tests.”

  • Transcript: Senator Chris Murphy on “Face the Nation”

There have been more than 107,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide and 460 in the U.S., with the most in Washington state. Seventeen people alone have died in Washington, as well as two more in Florida and one in California.

As local and state officials work to limit the spread of the deadly virus, including by postponing events that draw large crowds and in few cases canceling school, the Trump administration is facing scrutiny for its readiness to address the outbreak, which began in Wuhan, China, but has since spread to more than 100 countries.

President Trump on Friday signed a $8.3 billion emergency supplemental spending package, which funds research and development of a vaccine, support for state and local governments and assistance for small businesses impacted by the outbreak.

But a significant issue is the availability of tests in the U.S., a lack of which may have allowed the virus to spread undetected for weeks, critics warn.

“What is unforgivable is that the administration didn’t see this coming and didn’t put the resources in early to make sure everybody had these tests available,” Murphy said.

The Connecticut Democrat said he believes that local and state officials will “likely have to take stronger measures as time goes on.” But he said no one will know where the virus is the worst until tests are widely deployed.

“We saw this epidemic coming,” he said. “We could have made a decision back in January or February to accept the [World Health Organization] test that was available to us or start putting serious resources into developing our own test. And the administration did neither.”

Murphy accused the president of creating a “culture of misinformation in which no one wants to give him bad news.”

“That created a disincentive in the White House and in the administration to come up with an early test,” he said.

While there have been a limited number of school and business closures in the U.S., Murphy warned Americans should be “prepared” for that to occur.

“We need to understand that no city is going to take those measures unless there is some assistance from the federal government,” he said. “So what we should be talking about right now are things like paid sick leave, putting the federal government in a position to be able to assist workers if they have to stay home to take care of a sick child or to quarantine themselves. Instead, we’re talking about industry bailouts and tax cuts. We should be talking about assistance for average Americans.”

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