Tester, Colleagues Urge Comprehensive Response to Protect Veterans & VA Staff Against Coronavirus

Following surge in coronavirus cases, Senators lead effort to ensure preparedness and response from Veterans Health Administration

In response to the rapid spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, Ranking Member Jon Tester is leading six colleagues on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking a comprehensive approach to protect the nation’s veterans and staff who provide their care.

In a letter to VA today, the Senators wrote: “Given the emergent nature of the virus, we want to ensure that veterans and staff can count on VA health care facilities to be fully prepared for prevention, diagnosis, and response efforts. We encourage VA to proactively reach out to us and our Senate colleagues if any additional resources or authorities are needed to help keep VA facilities safe during this outbreak.”

As the nation’s largest health care system-with 172 medical facilities and 1,241 outpatient sites, 9 million enrolled veterans, and employing more than 322,000 staff across the country-it is critically important for VA to be fully equipped to handle, monitor, and contain the spread of coronavirus.

The Senators requested information from the Department on its efforts to increase preparedness and response to the virus, and encouraged collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other Federal partners, writing, “Given that VA is the largest health care system in the U.S., we want to be sure that the Department is working together with CDC and other partners to monitor the outbreak and keep patients and staff safe. We ask what steps VA is taking to protect health care workers and whether VA facilities have the equipment/supplies needed for treating potential or confirmed cases.”

In addition to Tester (D-Mont.), the letter was signed by Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

The coronavirus outbreak began in China in January 2020, and has infected more than 28,000 people and spread to two dozen countries. The World Health Organization declared the virus a global health emergency on January 30, 2020. U.S. Health and Human Services announced a public health emergency the following day on January 31, 2020. Currently no veterans receiving care at VA have been diagnosed with Novel Coronavirus.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.