February 28, 2020

COVID-19 Letter to Administration


February 28, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500

The Honorable Dr. Mark Esper
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon 
Washington, DC 20301

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Secretary of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington D.C. 20201

Robert R. Redfield, MD
Director of Center for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30329


Dear Vice President Pence, Secretary Esper, Secretary Azar, and Director Redfield:

I write to express my grave concern over recent misinformation and testing setbacks regarding the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). As the President noted on February 25th, we are currently not experiencing epidemic conditions in the United States, and we are fortunate to have time to prepare for a possible global pandemic. I strongly urge you to center preparation around widespread and accurate testing as well as the broad dissemination of only evidence-based information to the public.

I am alarmed by recent reports of faulty government-created coronavirus test kits, which have limited the U.S.’s capacity to rapidly and reliably increase testing. This is especially troubling as experts acknowledge that the small number of U.S. cases may be attributable to limited testing. If and when sustained transmission occurs in the U.S, obtaining accurate data becomes critical to precisely implementing protective actions to slow the spread of the virus.

On Tuesday, February 25, CDC official Nancy Messonnier warned that “we expect we will see community spread in the United States.” On that same day, Larry Kudlow, National Economic Council Director, said, “We have contained this, I won’t say airtight but pretty close to airtight.” This type of public misinformation about the facts is not only unacceptable, but will lead to increased community unpreparedness and panic. Now that Vice President Pence has been named as the coordinator of the administration’s response, I hope the public will hear from him at regular intervals to ensure the most up to date and accurate information is conveyed. 

While I hope that COVID-19 is contained before being classified as a global pandemic, it is imperative that our communities are prepared to respond and mitigate public health risk. I write today to share our concerns regarding the ability of state and local governments to test for the virus and to be ready for its potential spread.

Please provide answers to the following question, no later than March 6, 2020:

  1. Given the issues with government-created test kits sent to local governments, which states currently have the ability to test for COVID-19?

  2. The urgency of this crisis requires the ability to quickly test for COVID-19 in order to impede its spread, yet only the CDC is currently authorized by the FDA to produce test kits. When will the CDC request that the FDA expand permission to outside groups, such as the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) or the private sector? Is Congressional action or support necessary?

  3. What steps is the Administration taking to clearly and regularly disseminate updated information about COVID-19 to communities, health care settings, laboratories, schools, and businesses?

  4. What steps is DoD taking to be prepared to implement DoD Instruction 6200.03, “Public Health Emergency Management Within the DoD,” dated March 28, 2019? Would CDC or others benefit from learning about or applying the risk-based framework for geographic areas with COVID-19 transmission put forward in this document?

I thank the many clinicians, epidemiologists, veterinarians, laboratorians, communicators, data scientists and modelers, and coordination staff members at CDC and throughout the government, along with state and local public health partners, for their many efforts to treat and prevent the spread of COVID-19 to date. I look forward to your prompt response.




Seth Moulton

Member of Congress