First observed in the city of Wuhan in late 2019, the disease has since spread to pandemic proportions, infecting nearly 36 million people worldwide and 7.5 million in the U.S., where it has killed more people than in any other nation and prompted the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
“China knew about this virus. They failed to warn us. They lied to us and they covered up and then denied doing that,” Loeffler, a Republican, told FOX Business. “And it cost lives around the world. It cost livelihoods and it's really impacting everyone across our country. And we have to hold China accountable and make sure that this never happens again.”
Loeffler's remarks echo President Trump's characterization of COVID-19 as the "China plague," blaming it for wounding a once-bright economy that was among his reelection campaign's top selling points. The economic swoon in the months preceding Election Day has afforded Democrats an opening to criticize Trump's response to the pandemic and blame him for widespread job losses, business closings and more deaths than in any other nation.
Lockdowns aimed at slowing the spread of the disease resulted in more than 60 million Americans at least temporarily losing their jobs and inflicted trillions of dollars' worth of damage on the economy.
Loeffler, a career businesswoman who is vying to keep the seat to which she was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp, wants to make sure China answers for its actions. She says Beijing made the World Health Organization complicit in covering up the virus and its origins and attempted to steal information about a vaccine and intellectual property.
To do that, she sponsored the BEAT China Act, which rewards American businesses that bring important manufacturing, including pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, back to the U.S. with incentives such as lower taxes, accelerated depreciation and other sweeteners for job creation.
The result could be a “virtuous cycle” that creates millions of jobs, Loeffler said, noting that the expansion of automotive manufacturing jobs in Georgia created thousands of jobs that led to thousands of more jobs in other sectors.
The senator is also a co-sponsor of the EMPIL-DOC Act, which establishes a new grant program that would allow the U.S. more opportunities to partner with Israel on the discovery of pharmaceuticals, thereby reducing American reliance on China. The U.S. currently receives about 80% of key drug ingredients from overseas, mostly China, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Putting America first in manufacturing, a longtime mantra of Trump, isn’t the only way Loeffler proposes holding China accountable for its actions. She voted in favor of enforcing tighter restrictions on Chinese companies listed on U.S. capital markets and introduced a resolution to punish Beijing for its human rights abuses.
Loeffler is running in a special election against a number of candidates, including Republican Georgia Rep. Doug Collins and Democrats Raphael Warnock and Matt Lieberman. A runoff will be held on Jan. 5 if no candidate secures more than 50% of the vote.
In the meantime, Loeffler said she will continue to work with the Trump administration on initiatives that “help move our country forward to put America first, to support American-made and to make sure that we put the hard-working men and women of our country first in manufacturing”