Bennet, Gardner, Romney, Sinema Introduce Legislation to Modernize Disease Detection to Help Stimulate Economy

The TEST Act Will Enhance Collaboration and Improve Federal Support for State and Local Public Health Departments

Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R) and U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) introduced the Timely and Effective Systematic Testing (TEST) Act, sweeping legislation to strengthen the nation’s health preparedness efforts for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) recovery and future pandemics by requiring a plan for diagnostic testing and public health system integration to better detect infectious diseases, prevent outbreaks, and avoid future economic shutdowns related to pandemics. Bennet, Gardner, Romney, and Sinema worked with Dr. Scott Gottlieb, 23rd Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and leading expert in the field, to develop this legislation.

“In order to combat COVID-19 and safely reopen our economy at the same time, we need a nationwide, coordinated system to track cases,” said Bennet. “The TEST Act would help integrate local and federal reporting systems by breaking down current silos to better monitor COVID-19 cases and virus outbreaks. This bill builds on my proposal to create a Health Force to bolster public health infrastructure and train Americans to fight this virus, and would ensure all levels of government have the best systems to report data. The TEST Act will help instill confidence in the economy as we start to reopen.”

“In order to fully beat the COVID-19 pandemic, we must be able to rapidly and accurately see where the illness is and is not,” said Gardner. “The TEST Act provides the key components of detecting and preventing outbreaks. I’m proud to partner with my colleagues Senators Bennet, Romney, and Sinema to enhance our capability to contain COVID-19 and improve our capacity to respond to future outbreaks.”

“From the start, federal health officials have been behind the curve in assessing the public health threat of COVID-19, in part due to a severe deficiency in real-time health data. We have got to have more reliable data so that the American people know where the greatest risks lie. To accomplish this end, our bill will establish the infrastructure to help identify gaps in reporting and update disease monitoring systems. With this data, we will be better equipped to fight a potential second wave of COVID-19 and any future pandemic our country faces down the road,” said Romney. 

“Requiring comprehensive reporting and data sharing on the coronavirus will help stop the spread now and protect Arizonans from future waves of the pandemic by strengthening our contact tracing and testing efforts," said Sinema.

“The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) applauds the introduction of the TEST Act, which will improve our capacity to respond to COVID-19 and future pandemics,” said Dr. Stefano Bertuzzi, ASM Chief Executive Officer. “If enacted, this legislation would ensure that we are able to collect data in a seamless manner from all laboratory settings, including demographic data that is critical to addressing health disparities.”

“The restaurant industry is a vital part of the food supply chain for virtually every American, but it is critical that our customers have the confidence to help us reopen our doors. The TEST Act will go a long way in accomplishing this -- improving coordination of COVID-19 reporting between local and federal officials, and providing greater real-time data to be accessible to the public. We appreciate the leadership of Senators Cory Gardner, Michael Bennet, Mitt Romney, and Kyrsten Sinema in bringing this bill to the forefront of the Senate,” said Sean Kennedy, Executive Vice President for Public Affairs, National Restaurant Association.

“The TEST Act is needed now, when containment of the COVID-19 outbreak depends critically on our ability to detect and trace new cases, quickly and effectively,” said Mark McClellan, a former FDA Commissioner and CMS Administrator who is now the Director for the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy. “The legislation would ensure that the many diverse testing labs contributing to our response have the resources and ability to support state and local containment efforts across the country, and to better inform our further containment efforts. This 21st century data infrastructure will help us to get through the crisis at hand, and it will also prepare us to better address future infectious disease outbreaks.”

“Fast, accurate and efficient testing plays a critical role in containing the virus, and also in restoring Americans’ confidence in the ability to travel,” said U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Barnes. “Comprehensive testing, combined with other healthy travel practices such as wearing masks and frequent hand washing, is necessary to restarting the travel industry and spurring America’s economic recovery. This has been a top legislative priority for U.S. Travel since the outbreak of the pandemic, and we commend Senators Gardner, Bennet, Romney, and Sinema for their leadership on this important issue.”

“Accurate and accessible testing will be critical to our nation’s economic recovery. This bill will help Americans return to normal life confidently and safely. IFA commends Senators Gardner, Bennet, Romney, and Sinema for their bipartisan example of targeted and thoughtful legislation,” said Matt Haller, Senior Vice President, International Franchise Association.

“Enhancing the federal testing approach to the COVID-19 pandemic will help states, communities and businesses across the country make sound decisions about the pace of the reopening. NRF supports the TEST Act because steady progress toward reopening is vitally important for retailers, their associates, customers and our economy, and improvements in testing will provide critical data to support reopening safely,” said David French, SVP of Government Relations, National Retail Federation. 

“The hotel industry is a major economic driver, supporting millions of jobs and generating billions in tax revenue. Safe and reliable COVID testing is a critical element in building consumer confidence as Americans begin safely staying in hotels, which in turn will help to reignite the economy,” said Brian Crawford, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “We applaud Senators Gardner (R-CO), Bennet (D-CO), Romney (R-UT), and Sinema (D-AZ) on the introduction of the TEST Act, which is designed to create a modernized, focused approach to testing, making it easier and safer for Americans to begin traveling again.”

"America's hotels felt the economic impact of COVID-19 at its onset. Occupancy rates and revenue cratered as a result of lockdowns, quarantines, and travel restrictions. In order for the hospitality industry to recover, Americans need to be confident that they can resume activities, such as travel. Until a vaccine is developed, more testing is key to giving us a clearer picture of where we stand regarding this virus. Confidence is achieved by the ability to make more informed decisions. That's why the TEST Act, introduced by Senators Gardner, Bennet, Romney, and Sinema, is so important to creating a focused, federal approach to COVID-19 testing," said Cecil P. Staton, President & CEO, Asian American Hotel Owners Association. 

The TEST Act is endorsed by the Colorado Hospital Association, the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (COHRIO), the National Restaurant Association, the American Society for Microbiology, the National Retail Federation, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the International Franchise Association, the U.S. Travel Association, the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers, and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association.

To achieve containment and build capacity to solve the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent future pandemics, the TEST Act:

  • Integrates existing disease detection systems and expands our capability to conduct and report rapid and accurate diagnostic tests in order to better prevent the spread of a disease. This includes federal coordination with state, local, tribal, and territorial health officials. 
  • Strengthens the nation’s commitment to public health preparedness by making conducting and reporting on rapid and accurate laboratory tests for diseases a top priority within the National Health Security Strategy—the nation’s strategic plan to identify, prevent, and address public health threats and other emergencies.
  • Provides grants to state and local public health departments to support testing and reporting capacity. 
  • Maintains all health information privacy laws and patient protections.
  • Establishes strict congressional oversight to ensure success.