WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama said Wednesday that the nation's parents should be prepared with other arrangements for caring for their children in the event some schools close to prevent the spread of the H1N1 flu virus, also known as the swine flu virus.
The outbreak is "a serious situation, serious enough to take the utmost precautions," Obama said Wednesday at the White House.
"It is also the recommendation of our public health officials that schools with confirmed or suspected cases of H1N1 should strongly consider temporarily closing so that we can be as safe as possible. If the situation becomes more serious, and we have to take more extensive steps, then parents should also think about contingencies if schools in the areas do temporarily shut down."
"If we ended up having a school closure, [because a] child was sick, just sending a child from the school to a daycare center is not a good solution. So we would have to think through – each parent, I think, would have to think through what options would be available to them in the event that this became more serious."
Obama comments came one day after his administration requested $1.5 billion from Congress in order to make sure the country has enough vaccines and equipment to fight the swine flu outbreak.
"We're closely and continuously monitoring the emerging cases of this virus throughout the United States," Obama said Wednesday. "Every American should know that the federal government is prepared to do whatever is necessary to control the impact of this virus."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama is asking Congress for $1.5 billion to fight the current swine flu outbreak.
In a letter to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the president made the request "at an abundance of caution," and said the funds should be "provided with maximum flexibility to allow us to address this emerging situation."
He also suggested the supplementing of anti-viral stockpiles, and assisting international efforts to stem the outbreak could be good uses of the funds. He added that his administration has "carefully been monitoring the situation, coordinating state and local responses, assessing the risk here in the United States and cooperating with international organizations and health officials around the globe."
Robert Gibbs, Obama's press secretary, read the letter to reporters at the beginning of Tuesday's White House press briefing.
(CNN) – Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, will convene an "emergency hearing" on swine flu Tuesday.
Harkin is chairman the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee.
Full statement from Harkin's office:
HARKIN CALLS FOR EMERGENCY HEARING ON “SWINE FLU”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, has called an emergency hearing on the so called “swine influenza” (H1N1) TOMORROW, Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 1 PM EDT in room 138 of the Dirksen Building. The program includes: Public Health Response to Swine Flu.
Witnesses for the proceedings include:
Rear Admiral Anne Schuchat, MD, Interim Deputy Director for Science and Public Health Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Anthony Fauci, MD, Director, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Paul Jarris, MD, Executive Director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Service Employees International Union launched an online movement Monday attacking Republican senators for blocking the confirmation of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for Health and Human Services Secretary in the wake of the recent swine flu pandemic.
The SEIU accuses GOP senators of holding up the vote "to curry favor with extremist roots," and invokes Hurricane Katrina to urge visitors of the Web site to sign the petition.
"This disease is spreading as we speak, but right now, a Bush-appointed accountant is running the department," the union says on its website. "We need an HHS Secretary NOW. Sign the petition telling the Senate to vote immediately to confirm Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. If we don't act, the swine flu might just turn into another Hurricane Katrina."
The Senate could vote as early as Tuesday to confirm Sebelius as the department's new leader.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A firm declaration from the White House: "I want to be very clear here. There is a team in place."
But while those comments Sunday from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs are accurate, it's also true that the Obama administration is dealing with its first medical outbreak with some key players missing from its health team.
The White House declared a public health emergency Sunday, and briefed reporters on efforts the federal government's taking to confront the swine flu. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano led the news conference.
Missing from the Sunday news conference: the adminstration's Health and Human Services Secretary. That's because Obama's nominee for HHS secretary, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Her confirmation could come as early as Tuesday. The President's first choice for the position, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, withdrew his nomination because of tax problems. Tax issues have slowed Sebelius's Senate confirmation.
But it's not just the top spot: There are no apointees in place in any of the department's 18 key positions.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday said the State Department is working with both domestic and international agencies to combat swine flu.
She said the State Department is "urging caution" for Americans considering travel.
"We have put up on our Web site information urging caution for those who are planning to travel," Clinton said at a photo-taking session at the State Department Monday morning.
So far the State Department has not issued a specific travel warning for Mexico or elsewhere.
She said the State Department was coordinating "very closely" with other federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Homeland Security.
"We are taking this very seriously and working also with the World Health Organization … to try to develop a strategy to prevent the spread of this form of swine flu. We do believe that our efforts are developed and prepared to confront this wherever it might occur inside our own country. And enhanced cooperation across boundaries will be very important," Clinton said.
And she said the U.S. had offered help and assistance to the government of Mexico to make sure they have the resources and the technical expertise they might need.
He added that the federal government is "closely monitoring" emerging cases and had declared a public health emergency as a "precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively."
The president said he is receiving regular briefings on the outbreak, and that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will provide regular updates
to the public.
Obama made his remarks during a speech to the National Academy of Sciences.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The federal government declared a public health emergency Sunday as the number of identified cases of swine flu in the United States rose to twenty.
The declaration is part of a “standard operating procedure” that will free up additional government resources to combat the virus, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said at the White House. Additional cases of swine flu are expected to be reported in the coming days, added Dr. Richard Besser, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The declaration came as the World Health Organization (WHO) advised all countries to be on the lookout for “unusual” outbreaks of flu, following an emergency meeting Saturday as the seriousness of the outbreak became clear.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett told CNN Sunday the president takes the swine influenza outbreak "very seriously," as the White House announced an afternoon briefing to provide an update on efforts to keep the disease from spreading to the United States.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and acting CDC director Dr. Richard Besser will speak at 12:30. The State Department is also involved in tracking efforts.
This week, isolated cases of the illness were reported in at least three states. The swine flu has stricken more than a thousand and been blamed for more than 80 deaths in Mexico over the past few weeks.