In response to the global outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), I want to take a few moments to share some basic information on how to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy. I will continue to closely monitor COVID-19 and share relevant information to make sure you and your family are prepared.
On December 31, 2019, the current outbreak of novel coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China.
On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global emergency as nearly 10,000 coronavirus cases had been reported worldwide at that point.
On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency for the United States to aid the healthcare community in responding to the 2019 novel coronavirus.
On February 11, 2020, the WHO announced a name for the new coronavirus disease: COVID-19.
On February 28, 2020, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced that there are more than 20 COVID-19 vaccines in development globally and that several therapeutics are in clinical trials.
On March 1, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus. As of today, in Florida, there have been 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 4 confirmed cases in Broward County, and 2 deaths, in Santa Rosa County and Lee County, respectively.
For confirmed COVID-19 cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe symptoms, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, the CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. •Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick. •Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. •Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. •Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. •Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and care takers. •Wash your hands often and vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. •If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
It is currently flu season, so please get your flu vaccine if you haven’t already. The everyday habits listed above can help prevent the spread of several viruses. The CDC has specific guidance for travelers here.
America needs a fully-funded, coordinated government-wide response to confront the coronavirus epidemic. That is why, last week, the House passed an $8.3 billion emergency response package, which was signed into law on Friday. This bipartisan, bicameral response package addresses the scale and seriousness of this public health crisis, protecting the American people without pulling funds from existing programs. Once a vaccine is made available, I will work with my colleagues to do everything in my power to ensure that it remains affordable and accessible.
The CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the People’s Republic of China (this does not include Hong Kong, Macau, or the island of Taiwan), South Korea, Iran, and Italy. The State Department has also issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory warning people to avoid traveling to China. Travelers should be prepared for the possibility of travel restrictions with little or no advance notice. Most commercial air carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China.
If you are still planning travel to China, the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a recommended resource in order to receive important messages, alerts, updates, and travel advisories while traveling.
On arrival to the United States, travelers from China will undergo a health screening. Travelers with signs and symptoms of illness (fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) will have an additional health assessment. Travelers who have been in China during the previous 14 days, including U.S. citizens or residents and others who are allowed to enter the United States, will be required to enter through specific airports and participate in monitoring by health officials until 14 days after they left China. Some people may have their movement restricted or be asked to limit their contact with others until the 14-day period has ended.
Reject the Stigma
Prejudice will not prevent the spread of COVID-19. My colleagues in the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released a statement responding to how misinformation, stigma, and conspiracy theories have led to a rise in reports of discrimination and violence against Chinese-Americans and those of Asian descent across our nation. The statement partially reads, “Often the attackers have been inspired by debunked conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus and how it spreads. Others repeat mistaken information, such as claiming that all people from China need to be quarantined for two weeks, when that guidance is actually intended specifically for those returning from a prolonged trip to China, regardless of their ethnic background.”
According to the CDC, stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate an infectious disease, such as COVID-19, with a specific population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region has the disease and members of particular groups are at no greater risk for contracting it. Please remember that being Chinese or Asian American does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19.
People—including those of Asian descent—who have not recently traveled to China or been in contact with a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, are not at greater risk of acquiring and spreading COVID-19 than other Americans. The fact is that people who have returned from affected areas without exhibiting symptoms within 14 days post-travel are not infected, so contact with them will not give you the virus.
Experts have been working hard to understand COVID-19. Because new information surfaces every day, please visit the sites below to stay up-to-date.
The CDC and WHO provide updates on the virus and safety information for the public and healthcare professionals. You can sign up for the CDC’s email updates here. You can sign up for the WHO’s email updates here.
The State Department provides a list of travel advisories for those who are planning to travel outside of the United States.
The Florida Department of Health has a dedicated COVID-19 information page here, a 24/7 Call Center at 1 (866) 779-6121, and can be reached via email at COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org. Answers to FAQs are here and tips on prevention are here.
Up-to-date information and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control can be found here.
I maintain a dedicated Coronavirus Information page on my official website here.
The safety of my constituents is of the utmost importance to me and my staff. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call my district offices in Tamarac at (954) 733-2800 or West Palm Beach at (561) 461-6767, as well as my Washington, D.C. office at 202-225-1313.
Follow this link to receive updates on my continued fight to protect your rights in Congress. For more information on the various issues that I am working on, visit my official website at www.alceehastings.house.gov. With warm personal regards, I remain,
Alcee L. Hastings
Member of Congress
20th District of Florida
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