The Chairman of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Raúl M. Grijalva and 12 other bipartisan members of Congress have sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar yesterday urging him to consider the vulnerable economic and public health infrastructure in the U.S. Territories when determining criteria for prioritizing the distribution of coronavirus resources.
Among the 12 co-signers are Guam Congressman Micheal San Nicolas and CNMI Congressman Kilili Sablan
The other members of congress are Stacey E. Plaskett (D- USVI), Jenniffer González-Colón (R-P.R.), Aumua Amata C. Radewagen (R-American Samoa), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-Ill.) and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.).
The lawmakers asked the Trump administration to take into account the unique “challenges and vulnerabilities” that the U.S. Territories face, especially Puerto Rico, which has faced “an economic crisis, a series of recent natural disasters, and unequal access and treatment under federal programs.”
U.S. Territories have less developed public health infrastructure than most comparable mainland communities, and several have aging population and higher rates of hypertension, coronary heart disease, asthma, and incidences of other infectious diseases such as dengue, compared to U.S. averages.
The lawmakers write:
We urge HHS to consider the vulnerable economic and public health infrastructure in the Territories when determining the criteria for prioritizing the distribution of COVID-19 resources to ensure these jurisdictions receive sufficient test kits, protective equipment and other lifesaving supplies to respond to this pandemic.
Chair Grijalva, Vice Chair Sablan, and Rep. San Nicolas hosted a Virtual Roundtable on Federal Coronavirus Response in U.S. Territories in April, where they heard from witnesses about the lack of response from the Trump administration to combat coronavirus in Puerto Rico, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa.