“Given the porous nature of our border, and the continued lack of operational control due to the influence of dangerous cartels, it is foreseeable, indeed predictable, that any outbreak in Central America or Mexico could cause a rush to our border,” the letter signed by Texas Reps. Chip Roy, Michael Cloud (R-TX-27), Brian Babin (R-TX-36), Louie Gohmert (R-TX-1), Randy Weber (R-TX-14), and Pete Olson (R-TX-22) says.
Addressed to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, the letter states that the spreading of the coronavirus “could impose a new burden at our southern border that will threaten the safety and health of individuals in the United States and could cause a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions along our border and at detention facilities.”
Though outbreaks have not occurred in Northern Triangle countries to date, Mexico and Brazil now both have confirmed cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The letter cites last month’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics which indicate more than 36,000 apprehensions were made at the southern border.
From this perspective, the congressmen say they are “seeking understanding” about what precautions are being taken to contain the virus “while also maintaining law and order, especially if an outbreak happens in areas from or through which migrants historically have come to the United States.”
Earlier in February, Judge Nelson Wolff wrote a letter to Congressman Roy asking the Texas representative to beseech the Department of Defense to no longer send evacuees quarantined at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio to local medical facilities for treatment.
On February 18, Rep. Roy sent a separate letter to Defense Secretary Esper and HHS Secretary Azar asking additional information be provided about the evacuees quarantined at Lackland and their presence in the city of San Antonio and the greater Bexar County areas.
The letter sent Friday with additional support from members of the Texas delegation is a follow-up to the letter sent on February 18.
Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio was previously designated by HHS and the Department of Defense (DOD) as one of a select number of bases to serve as a quarantine site for individuals exposed to the coronavirus.
Most recently, more than 300 Americans aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship were repatriated to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and Travis Air Force Base in California after the quarantined cruise ship off the coast of Japan suffered an outbreak of the coronavirus.
On Sunday, the city of San Antonio announced that an individual previously released from quarantine for the coronavirus was returned to isolation after testing positive for the virus.
The patient was released after two tests came back negative. However, a pending lab test later came back positive.
Health officials say they are making an effort to contact all individuals the patient may have come in contact with, but it remains unclear exactly who that may be.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, supported by Judge Nelson Wolff, described the incident as “unacceptable.”
Last week, Gov. Abbott met with state and federal health officials in Austin to develop contingency plans for the coronavirus across the state.
At a press conference following his meeting, Abbott emphasized that the virus has not spread, but “we’re preparing.”
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) currently serves as the lead agency responsible for coordinating with other state agencies and local health authorities to contain the virus.
On Friday, Texas Senators Ted Cruz (R) and John Cornyn (R) sent a separate letter to Acting Commissioner of CBP Mark Morgan asking how the U.S. planned to secure U.S. borders given the spread of the virus in Europe as a result of the “border shortcomings of the European Union.”
Additional information about state resources and plans for mitigating the virus in Texas can be found here.
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- Alex Azar
- Bexar County
- Brian Babin
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Chad Wolf
- Chip Roy
- Customs and Border Protection
- Diamond Princess
- Greg Abbott
- John Cornyn
- Louie Gohmert
- Mark Esper
- Mark Morgan
- Michael Cloud
- Northern Triangle countries
- Pete Olson
- Randy Weber
- Ron Nirenberg
- San Antonio
- Ted Cruz
- Texas Department of State Health Services
- Travis Air Force Base
Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.