The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) convened a hearing to discuss the lessons learned from the current COVID-19 pandemic response to begin preparing for the next pandemic. While Republicans were primarily interested in focusing attention on preparations for subsequent public health crises, Democrats were concerned that not enough attention was being placed on supporting the ongoing pandemic response.
At the end of the hearing, Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) asked the witnesses to summarize the top actions they would recommend the federal government take in learning from the COVID-19 pandemic. The responses were as follows:
- Dr. William Frist: 1) invest and establish long-term partnerships with the private sector to develop supplies, vaccines, and treatments; 2) have budget mechanisms in place to ensure long-term funding for public health infrastructure; and 3) make the pandemic-driven telehealth flexibilities permanent.
- Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun: 1) focus on health disparities; 2) invest in surveillance, testing, and tracing; and 3) increase funding for state and local health departments.
- Dr. Julie L. Gerberding: 1) develop a national vaccine plan that addresses development, distribution, and monitoring; 2) prepare for a potential health care surge when the flu season arrives; and 3) implement budgetary authority to allow for sustained investment in public health at the federal, state, and local level.
- Michael O. Leavitt: 1) advance clarity on the division of labor between state and federal governments during a pandemic; 2) rejuvenate the public health infrastructure; 3) modernize HHS/CDC data systems; 3) begin annual appropriations on emergency management.