Sen. Alexander calls on Congress to prepare now for next pandemic, COVID-19 second wave

Politics

WASHINGTON — Congress should act now to prepare for the next pandemic according to Sen. Lamar Alexander.

The health committee chairman made the remarks Tuesday as lawmakers try to decide how the federal government, states, hospitals, and health care providers should prepare for another wave of COVID-19 and future pandemics.

“While the nation is in the midst of responding to COVID-19, the United States Congress should take stock now of what parts of the local, state and federal response worked, what could work better and how, and be prepared to pass legislation this year to better prepare for the next pandemic, which will surely come,” said Alexander, R-Tennessee.

Alexander has invited comments, responses and any additional recommendations to be submitted by Friday for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to consider.

“Memories fade and attention moves quickly to the next crisis,” Alexander said. “That makes it imperative that Congress act on needed changes this year in order to better prepare for the next pandemic.”

Alexander outlined five initial recommendations June 9. Those recommendations include:

  • Tests, treatments and vaccines – accelerate research and development
  • Disease surveillance – expand the ability to detect, identify, model and track emerging infectious diseases
  • Stockpiles, distribution and surges – rebuild and maintain federal and state stockpiles and improve medical supply surge capacity and distribution
  • Public health capabilities – improve state and local capacity to respond
  • Who is on the flagpole? – improve coordination of federal agencies during a public health emergency

“Looking at lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis thus far, many of the challenges Congress has worked to address during the last 20 years still remain,” Alexander said. “Additionally, COVID-19 has exposed some gaps that had not been previously identified. These include unanticipated shortages of testing supplies and sedative drugs, which are necessary to use ventilators for COVID-19 patients.”

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