In recent months, COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, has shaken our country and global community. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that this disease has now been detected in more than 100 locations internationally, including Maryland.
The good news is: Maryland has a tool to fight COVID-19 and other infectious diseases that may threaten our public health in the future: Fort Detrick.
Frederick’s Fort Detrick is an internationally recognized Army Medical Command installation, and it has earned its place on the map. Fort Detrick houses the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the Department of Defense’s (DOD) lead laboratory for medical biological defense research. Since 1969, USAMRIID has been at the forefront of research on therapeutics, vaccines, diagnostics and information that benefit military personnel and civilians. Fort Detrick has strengthened our state by bringing in quality jobs and has strengthened national security by helping Americans combat global crises like the coronavirus.
To beat the coronavirus, we need the best of the best doing research and working on cures. The researchers at USAMRIID are invaluable and uniquely prepared to handle this threat to public health. But they cannot do their part without proper funding and sustained support from the federal government.
Over the last six months, the DOD has blocked millions in payments to USAMRIID at Fort Detrick and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Command (CCDC) Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, jeopardizing USAMRIID’s work as health professionals across the globe struggle to contain COVID-19.
This disruption is especially concerning considering the caliber of USAMRIID’s researchers. These folks are highly trained scientists, many with decades of experience under their belts. If the federal government lets these researchers go, it won’t be easy to rehire them. Moreover, training new people to replace them would be costly and time-intensive.
I recently spoke with the hospital and public health leaders of the five counties in Maryland’s 6th District about the best way to combat COVID-19 and future threats.
The message was loud and clear: It is easy to make cuts when you don’t see a threat on the horizon, but sustained investment in public health is the only way to ensure we are prepared. It doesn’t make sense for the long-term success of fighting infectious diseases, including the coronavirus, to let these researchers go.
We can’t stand by as this virus continues to progress and the American people search for direction. We must all work together, to ensure that institutions like Fort Detrick have the resources and personnel necessary to keep our community, country and world safe.
I will continue to push the DOD and the entire federal government to do what is right and make sure that all hands are on deck to combat this virus. We must have a bias for action. The time to act is now.