Amid coronavirus outbreak, Trump proposes slashing CDC budget .

Infectious disease

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A man speaks from a podium while being dwarfed by a painting of Abraham Lincoln.
Enlarge / US President Donald Trump speaks during a Governor's White House Business Session in Washington, DC, on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. Trump's budget anticipates the gross federal debt would top $30 trillion over the next decade despite deep proposed cuts to social programs.

Amid an explosive outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China that has killed over 1,000 and sickened over 43,000 worldwide, US President Donald Trump proposed a nearly 19 percent budget cut to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—the agency primarily tasked with preparing for and responding to such outbreaks and other serious health threats.

In the president’s proposed 2021 federal budget released Monday, the administration says that the changes to the CDC’s funding are intended to “re-focus CDC’s core mission on preventing and controlling infectious diseases and other emerging public health issues, such as opioids.”

The proposal reduces and consolidates CDC funding for programs under the “chronic disease prevention and health promotion” category. That includes programs addressing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, tobacco use, stroke, nutrition, physical activity, and arthritis.

Heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Trump proposes cutting roughly $427 million in funding for the chronic disease category—a roughly 34.5 percent drop from enacted 2020 spending.

The budget also cuts funding for infectious-disease responses, including a 13 percent cut to programs under the category of “emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases.” (Zoonotic infectious diseases are those that spread from animals to people, of which the novel coronavirus is one.) This category includes cuts to programs addressing antibiotic-resistant infections, food safety, and healthcare-associated infections.

Additionally, Trump proposes a 10 percent cut to “public health scientific services,” which includes funding for health statistics, surveillance, epidemiology, and informatics activities. There’s also a 3 percent cut to “public health preparedness and response” programs and a nearly 7 percent cut to global health programs.

Areas of the CDC’s budget that Trump proposed increasing included programs for influenza planning and response, tick-borne diseases, HIV/AIDS, and the opioid epidemic.

But overall, the CDC’s 2021 discretionary budget authority under Trump’s proposal would be roughly $5.56 billion, down $1.27 billion (or 18.6 percent) from enacted 2020 funding.

The proposal lands as public health experts scramble to get ahead of the rapidly escalating outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). While the risk to the US is still considered low for now, the CDC and other health officials in the US are working to prepare state and local hospitals and health care facilities for the event of an outbreak. A common refrain among health responders at all levels is the need for dedicated and sustained funding for such prevention and preparedness activities.

Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement that “the Trump Budget does not see a problem in this country it cannot somehow make worse.”