Lawmakers: "Even as Congress works to put an end to the current COVID-19 pandemic, it must also take steps, now, to prevent future pandemics from occurring.”
Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined 140 Senate and House lawmakers in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urging them to prioritize the development of comprehensive policy plans to prevent and mitigate the impact of future pandemics. In the letter, Bennet and the lawmakers outline the steps necessary to prevent future pandemics while also noting that Congress must act to provide relief to Americans suffering from the current economic downturn and public health emergency.
“As the United States continues to weather the disastrous COVID-19 pandemic, we write to ask that Congress take action to learn from the mistakes of our nation’s preparation and response and lay the groundwork to prevent and mitigate future pandemics. The current Administration’s response has exposed serious flaws in the country’s ability to combat large scale public health challenges,” wrote Bennet and the lawmakers. “In addition to passing a robust package to address the current crisis, we must take bold and comprehensive steps now to ensure the nation is better prepared for the next pandemic.”
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has wreaked havoc on communities across the country and has devastated the nation’s economy. Currently, the United States leads the world with more than eight million confirmed cases and 220,000 dead, out of over one million worldwide. Millions are out of work and struggling to make ends meet. It is clear that pandemics are already rapidly accelerating: animal-to-human outbreak prevalence grew six-fold from 1980 to 2010, and experts predict they will become even more common in the future. It is imperative Congress take bold and comprehensive steps now to prevent and mitigate future pandemics. Specifically:
- Congress must invest in domestic programs, systems, and supply chains that will help improve Americans’ health outcomes, combat the spread of new disease, and ramp up public health capacity during global health emergencies. This includes robust investments in state, local, and tribal public health departments; improvements to the Strategic National Stockpile; and the development of support systems, such as affordable housing, that reduce chronic health conditions and boost health outcomes.
- Congress must support global public health efforts to identify and mitigate the spread of new diseases before they become global pandemics. This includes ensuring the administration protects the public by fulfilling its international commitments to organizations such as the World Health Organization; investing in global surveillance programs, like USAID, to identify emerging disease threats; and combating antimicrobial resistance.
- Congress must create 250,000 permanent, high-paying public health jobs to rebuild our depleted public health workforce and ensure the rapid deployment of contact tracers and other support workers during future pandemics. These workers should be trained in key public health initiatives, such as contact tracing and disease surveillance, and should be prepared to deploy to their communities in public health emergencies. Congress must ensure these workers have access to health and safety protections, can unionize, receive universal paid sick leave and family leave, and have access to health insurance and childcare services.
- Congress must address the systemic racism embedded in our health care system and pass legislation ensuring that health care treatments, pandemic countermeasures, vaccines, and primary disease prevention measures are accessible for all. This includes ensuring that everyone in America has access to high-quality health care, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, and primary disease prevention measures; eliminating race and socioeconomic disparities in health care access; addressing the social determinants of health; and requiring companies that receive federal funding to produce pandemic countermeasures offer their products at reasonable prices.
- Congress must halt the environmental degradation increasing the likelihood of global pandemics. This includes combating climate change, protecting and restoring land and inland water areas to their natural state, and preventing dangerous practices contributing to the spread of zoonotic diseases with pandemic potential.
Before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bennet has pushed for investments in America’s health care infrastructure. In May, Bennet introduced legislation with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that would establish a Health Force, which would recruit, train, and employ hundreds of thousands of Americans to expand the public health workforce for the COVID-19 response as well as strengthen capacity to meet America’s longer-term public health needs. In September, Bennet introduced the Pioneering Antimicrobial Subscriptions to End Upsurging Resistance (PASTEUR) Act with U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) to encourage innovative drug development targeting the most threatening infections, improve the appropriate use of antibiotics, and ensure domestic availability when needed to prepare the United States for the future.
The text of the letter is available HERE.
In addition to Bennet, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Angus King (I-Maine), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio.), and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii)
The letter was also signed by U.S. Representatives Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Max Rose (D-N.Y.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Andy Levin (D-Mich.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas.), David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), Adriano Espailla (D-N.Y.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Daniel T. Kildee (D-Mich.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D. Pa.), Mark Pocan (D- Wis.), Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Susan Wild (D-Pa.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Joseph D. Morelle (D-N.Y.), Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson (D-Ga.), Jr., Brendan F. Boyle (D-Pa.), William R. Keating (D-Mass.), Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.), Brenda L. Lawrence (D-Mich.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), John Larson (D-Conn.), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Mass.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Denny Heck (D-Wash.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Andy Kim (D-N.J.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Al Green (D-Texas), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Donald M. Payne (D-N.Y.), Jr., Jesús G. "Chuy" García (D-Ill.), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), David E. Price (D-N.C.), Peter A. Defazio (D-Ore.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Val B. Demings (D-Fla.), Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Robin L. Kelly (D-Ill.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Alma S. Adams. Ph.D (D-N.C.), José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Bradley S. Schneider (D-Ill.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Cedric Richmond (D-La.), J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.), Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-Va.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Ami Bera, M.D. (D-Calif.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas.), Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands), Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas.), Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), and TJ Cox (D-Calif.).