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‘Don’t You Think You Ought to Check?’: Sen. Kennedy Demands DHS Chief Provide ‘Straight Answers’ on Coronavirus Spread

Senator John Kennedy (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Senator John Kennedy on Tuesday demanded answers from acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf regarding the likely extent of the domestic coronavirus outbreak, saying the American people deserve “straight answers” about the deadly virus.

During a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, Kennedy asked Wolf how many cases of people infected with the coronavirus the U.S. anticipates having.

“You’re head of Homeland Security, and your job is to keep us safe. Do you know today how many the experts are predicting?” the Louisiana Democrat-turned-Republican said.

“We only know that, again, we anticipate those numbers to grow in the U.S.,” Wolf responded, saying that he cannot provide an “exact number.”

“Don’t you think you ought to check on that?” Kennedy asked. “You’re the secretary. I think you ought to know that answer.”

Kennedy also asked Wolf for answers on the mortality rate of the coronavirus, whether the U.S. has enough respirators, and when a vaccine is expected.

“You’re the secretary of Homeland Security and you can’t tell me if we have enough respirators?” Kennedy said, adding that lawmakers previously heard separate testimony that the U.S. does not have enough respirators.

Kennedy also pointed out that the DHS chief’s testimony does not match up with information put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Your numbers aren’t the same as CDC’s. Don’t you think you ought to contact them and find our whether you’re right or they’re right?” Kennedy said. “The American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus and I’m not getting them from you.”

Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen afterwards urged Wolf to hold “open briefings” about the situation surrounding the coronavirus, adding, “I didn’t hear anything this morning that I haven’t read in the newspaper.”

A slew of new countries on Monday confirmed their first cases of the virus, a respiratory illness that originated in China and has infected close to 80,000 people in 37 countries, killing at least 2,600.

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