AUSTIN (KXAN) — KXAN spoke to Congressman Michael McCaul, representing Texas’ 10th district, on Sunday. He shared his insight on the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, including steps Congress it taking to combat the illness.
Representative McCaul said he didn’t want to incite fear, but instead, reiterate the seriousness of the outbreak across the globe.
“I think we are moving from the containment phase in specific cases now to community spreading of the virus. I think the next two months will be critical, I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Rep. McCaul said.
In central Texas, Austin Public Health officials confirmed a sixth presumptive positive case in Austin-Travis County on Sunday. They said all of these cases are travel-related. The response from the city and county health officials remains at phase 3: Confirmed cases but no person-to-person spread.
McCaul said treatments are in the works, but a long-term solution is still about a year away.
“We have two antiviral treatments being tested right now in China with 1,000 patients that have performed really well in the laboratories. So we are hopeful by April, we will have a good assessment on that and then of course the vaccine, we are looking at about one year away,” Rep. McCaul said.
McCaul said he doesn’t think the United States will implement a nation-wide quarantine, similar to what is currently underway in Italy and other international jurisdictions. A shutdown of this size would mandate all U.S. citizens remain indoors and would limit access to stores, businesses and public spaces.
“That would be a last resort,” Rep. McCaul said. “I think Congress and the federal government shutting down would be a very serious step. We have to think very hard before we do something like that. I think that would panic the markets as well. We want to send assurances that the government is working, we are addressing the needs of the country right now in a crisis at a time of emergency.”
Even still, Rep. McCaul said it is best for the American public to be as prepared as possible for long-term self-isolation.
“I do think that we’ve hit the point now, the tipping point, where we know it’s going to spread. It’s gone from containment to community-spreading and I think that when we talk to the directors at the NIH and CDC, they’d rather have the American people better prepared than less,” Rep. McCaul said. “I don’t think panic is necessary here, I think cooler heads will prevail, but I do think that people need to take the precautions that they deem necessary.”
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Earlier this week, McCaul voted in favor of bipartisan legislation called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
If enacted, the legislation would:
- Ensure that coronavirus tests are free for all Americans.
- Provide two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave for those affected by Coronavirus.
- Enhances Unemployment Insurance, a step that will extend protections to gig and hospitality workers who lose their capacity to work and earn wages.
- Increase federal matching to state and local health programs so that our frontline health systems can properly manage the expected influx of patients.