McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — An $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus response bill lawmakers passed Wednesday includes federal assistance for border communities affected by the deadly virus.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee and is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, broke down in a statement the bipartisan spending package passed after days of intense negotiations. The spending includes:

  • More than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
  • $2.2 billion in public health funding for prevention, preparedness, and response — including $950 million for state and local health agencies.
  • Nearly $1 billion for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for healthcare preparedness and community health centers. That money will also improve medical surge capacity.
  • $435 million to support overseas health systems to prevent, prepare and respond to the novel virus.
  • $300 million for humanitarian needs.
  • $61 million to develop medical countermeasures, devices, therapies and vaccines, and to help mitigate supply chain interruptions.
  • Up to $7 billion for low-interest loans to affected small businesses.

Cuellar, who narrowly survived a closer-than-expected Democratic primary on Tuesday night, called the measure “substantial federal assistance to combat further spreading of the virus.”

Read the full text of the 28-page supplemental bill here.

He added that “the supplemental supports the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) repatriation and quarantine efforts, laboratory testing, emergency operations, epidemiological investigations, public information, and surveillance and data analysis.”

Cuellar, whose district includes parts of San Antonio, provided a letter that the CDC director wrote announcing changes to its protocols for handling patients “to ensure that no infected person is a risk to the public health.” This came after San Antonio officials on Monday declared a state of emergency after the CDC released from quarantine into the city a woman who was infected with the coronavirus.

The woman was among the 91 Americans who had been evacuated from Wuhan, China and placed in a 14-day quarantine overseen by federal authorities at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. The woman tested negative twice for COVID-19, the name given to the new virus. But a third test that came back after she had been released showed she was infected.

The woman was released from quarantine on Saturday and then went to the Holiday Inn Express Airport and a local mall, according to a news release from San Antonio Metro Health.

In a letter on Monday, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield responded that from now on, quarantined patients will only be released after 14 days if they have two sequential negative tests with 24 hours, and no patient will be released who has a pending test result.

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