By MARK McCARTHY Star-Herald
Feb 27, 2020 Updated Feb 28, 2020

Third District Congressman Adrian Smith praised the handling of coronavirus by the University of Nebraska Medical Center staff and the key role Nebraska is playing in containing the outbreak.

“The coronavirus outbreak has dominated the news and global events, and Nebraska has played a very key role in both housing some of the quarantined evacuees from China and treating American citizens who have been infected with the virus,” Smith said during a conference call Thursday.

“We all want to ensure the effectiveness of our quarantine efforts at preventing the spread of the virus here in the U.S. I’m confident that organizations such as our own UNMC are up to the task,” he said. “UNMC did a great job during the Ebola issue, and I know they are already working on clinical trials for a drug to treat coronavirus.”

He said Health Department Secretary Alex Azar is taking the virus seriously, and that Smith looks forward to helping the administration in their containment efforts.

He has heard from Nebraskans regarding the coronavirus, and he believes the level of concern in the state is minimal after UNMC’s success with handling the Ebola outbreak of 2014 and on a more limited scale in 2018.

“We are still in the early stages of understanding what is actually happening,” Smith said. “I think it’s important to note that the symptoms and so forth of coronavirus will impact people in different ways. As more and more people understand this, I think it will calm fears, and also knowing that we have a vast health care infrastructure, plus the typical health of Americans has us in a strong position.

“I think when we talk about health care issues on the local level all the way up to the federal level, these are agencies and groups who are preparing for situations such as this. Although it’s hard to predict, I am very mindful of how prepared many of these agencies are, and it’s actually quite impressive.”

Potential impact on business and the economy has been on the Trump Administration radar, and Smith said it gives him confidence that Nebraska is leading the way.

“I’m glad that UNMC is taking such a high profile role in this,” he said. “I’m anxious to learn more as each day presents itself. I think that having the technology of detection and testing and ultimately, should it need treatment, I think that we want to stand at the ready with resources. I know we’re passing a supplemental bill containing $2.5 billion to address that, and more resources would be available should the need arise.”

Smith indicated that goods being imported from China do not appear to be carrying the virus, but it will be monitored.

“The actual products, I don’t think there’s as much concern there, but it is something we can look into,” Smith said. “I do believe that there will be more care taken across the board, because I think everyone knows that it’s important to turn this virus the other direction.”

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