Politics

Elizabeth Warren releases plan to prevent and contain infectious diseases amid coronavirus outbreak

Key Points
  • Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday outlined the steps she would take to prevent and contain infectious diseases.
  • Her plan came as authorities across the globe race to address the new coronavirus, a flu-like respiratory infection which was first diagnosed last month in China and has been found in the United States.
  • "We can invest at home to ensure our public health agencies, hospitals, and health care providers are ready to jump into action when outbreaks strike," Warren wrote. "And we can help build strong public health systems abroad."
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on January 26, 2020.
Stephen Maturen | AFP | Getty Images

Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday outlined the steps she would take to prevent and contain infectious diseases, as authorities across the globe race to address the new coronavirus.

Warren's plan, released less than a week before the Iowa caucuses, calls for increased public health funding for agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The coronavirus, a flu-like respiratory infection which was first diagnosed last month in China and has been found in the United States, has killed more than 100 people and sickened more than 4,500, Chinese health authorities said Tuesday. The State Department is advising U.S. travelers to reconsider travel to China. On Monday, major U.S. stock indexes the Dow and the S&P 500 suffered their worst days since October.

Warren's infectious diseases plan also draws on her previously released plans to address climate change and the opioid epidemic, issues which exacerbate the spread of diseases, as well as her health-care agenda.

The Massachusetts senator wrote that her health-care plan, "Medicare for All," will remove financial barriers for patients who may be contagious.

"We can invest at home to ensure our public health agencies, hospitals, and health care providers are ready to jump into action when outbreaks strike," Warren wrote. "And we can help build strong public health systems abroad."

The plan comes just days before the first delegates are awarded in the Democratic primary contest. Iowa hosts its caucus on Feb. 3, a contest that is traditionally seen as shaping the contours of the race.

Read more: Coronavirus vs. SARS: Health experts on the key differences between the two outbreaks

Warren has declined in Iowa and national polls in recent weeks as her progressive rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has gained momentum. She is in third place in national polls and in fourth place in Iowa, behind Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The top four candidates have struggled to gain an edge in the race's final weeks before voting begins. For senators like Warren and Sanders, the difficulty has been compounded by President Donald Trump's ongoing impeachment trial in the Senate, which has kept the lawmakers in Washington and away from voters in the early states.

Warren took on a number of Trump administration policies in her new plan, saying his approach so far has been a "mess." She said that Trump has tried to "nickel and dime" federal programs geared toward public health and eliminated the position that coordinates global health security, which former President Barack Obama created in response to the Ebola epidemic.

"As President, I will bring it back, with a formal senior lead in my White House who focuses solely on global health security and oversees this work across the entire federal government," Warren wrote.

The plan also calls for the U.S. to contribute to a number of international efforts, including a global vaccine alliance. Warren will also establish a "global health security corps," she wrote, to handle outbreaks in regions that are experiencing conflict, following the recommendation of a commission established by Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

"Diseases like coronavirus remind us why we need robust international institutions, strong investments in public health, and a government that is prepared to jump into action at a moment's notice," Warren wrote in the plan. "When we prepare and effectively collaborate to address common threats that don't stop at borders, the international community can stop these diseases in their tracks."

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