10.26.20

Baldwin, Democratic Lawmakers to Senate and House Leadership: We Must Take Bold and Comprehensive Action to Prevent the Next Pandemic

"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. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), joined 137 Senate and House lawmakers in sending a letter to House and Senate leadership urging them to prioritize the development of comprehensive policy plans to prevent and mitigate the impact of future pandemics. In the letter, the lawmakers led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) 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 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 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 225,000 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 that 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 address the social determinants of health and wellbeing. 
  • 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 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 professional responders 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, vaccines, and prevention measures are accessible for all. This includes ensuring that everyone in America has access to high-quality health care, including mental health and substance use disorder treatment; 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.

The letter was also signed by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Angus King (I-ME), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI).

The full letter is available here.