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FILE PHOTO: United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar takes questions from reporters about Trump administration efforts in regards to the corona virus outbreak in China, during a news briefing at the White House in Washington, January 31, 2020. Photo by Leah Millis/Reuters

White House is drafting a virus response budget request

The White House is readying an urgent budget request to address the deadly coronavirus outbreak whose rapid spread is spooking financial markets and restricting international travel.

The request is still being developed but is likely to come this week, a senior administration official confirmed Monday.

The official required anonymity because the request is not public. The PBS NewsHour later confirmed the Associated Press’ reporting.

The Department of Health and Human Services has already tapped into an emergency infectious disease rapid response fund and is seeking to transfer more than $130 million from other HHS accounts to combat the virus but is pressing for more.

Democrats controlling the House wrote HHS Secretary Alex Azar earlier this month to request funds to help speed development of a coronavirus vaccine, expand laboratory capacity, and beef up screening efforts at U.S. entry points.

The White House budget office, led by Russell Vought, a stout conservative, is working with HHS to shape the request, with the agency seeking more than the White House is likely to approve.

The quickly spreading virus has slammed the economy of China, where the virus originated, and caseloads are rapidly increasing in countries such as South Korea, Iran, and Italy.

The Associated Press and the PBS NewsHour contributed to this report.

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