Senate Dems urge White House to reinstate pandemic unit

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats urged the Trump administration on Thursday to reinstate the White House pandemic unit as a separate office, saying that dissolving it in 2018 slowed the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 110,000 in the United States.

Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Ed Markey of Massachusetts and four colleagues sent Trump a letter saying the coronavirus had highlighted the importance of having a central White House office to set policy and coordinate the government's response to global health crises.

The senators cited comments by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, who told Congress in the spring: “It would be nice if the office was still there.”

Public health and national security experts criticized the administration’s decision in 2018 to eliminate the office, part of the National Security Council at the White House, that was charged with preparing for when a pandemic would hit the nation. The White House said the global health security office was not dismantled, but absorbed into another division where similar responsibilities still exist.