US short on coronavirus facemasks, ventilators: HHS secretary

'This is an unprecedented, potential severe health challenge globally,' Azar says

The U.S. does not have enough facemasks or ventilators stockpiled to deal with threats of coronavirus spreading, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.

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Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., asked Azar if the U.S. had enough facemasks stockpiled after he said the administration was seeking additional coronavirus funding "to support the acquisition of personal protective equipment, especially masks, into the strategic national stockpile."

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"Well, of course not, or we wouldn't be asking for a supplemental to seek more money," Azar said.

"This is an unprecedented, potential severe health challenge globally and will require these additional measures," he said.

Azar testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Trump administration asked Congress for $2.5 billion in supplemental spending to fend off the spreading coronavirus on Monday.

"We just asked for $2.5 billion on getting everything ready just in case something should happen and also helping other nations that really aren't equipped to do it," President Trump said at a business forum in New Delhi on Tuesday.

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The funding request was released Monday evening and came as key government accounts were running low. The Department of Health and Human Services had already tapped into an emergency infectious disease rapid response fund and was seeking to transfer more than $130 million from other HHS accounts to combat the virus but is pressing for more.

The Trump administration is requesting $1.25 billion in new funding and wants to transfer $535 million more from an Ebola preparedness account that's been a top priority of Democrats. It anticipates shifting money from other HHS accounts and other agencies to complete the $2.5 billion response plan.

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Democrats said that Trump's attempt to go after existing Ebola prevention funding was dead on arrival.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.