Salt Lake City, June 22, 2020—Tomorrow, Governor Michael O. Leavitt, former U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services (HHS), will testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). The hearing is titled “COVID-19: Lessons Learned to Prepare for the Next Pandemic.”
Governor Leavitt will share insights from his time as HHS Secretary, where he worked with President George W. Bush to secure nearly $7 billion in appropriations to enhance U.S. readiness for a pandemic. During his tenure, the emergence of the H5N1 virus concerned leaders across the world and highlighted the need to improve U.S. infrastructure to respond to and mitigate the effects of a possible pandemic. As part of the Bush administration’s efforts, Governor Leavitt held pandemic summits in 54 states and territories to educate localities about the dangers of pandemics and the needs for effective preparation.
Governor Leavitt says, “The experience reminded me that pandemic planning is made even more difficult because anything you do to prepare in advance of a pandemic seems like an overreaction, and anything you say sounds alarmist. But after a pandemic starts, anything you have done to prepare seems inadequate.”
Due to this dynamic, Governor Leavitt wants to underscore the need to use this time to both mitigate the effects of COVID-19 while also distilling lessons that will better prepare the nation for subsequent pandemics. “We are, as a nation, understandably focused right now on mitigating the health and economic harm caused by COVID-19. However, while we focus on the pandemic in front of us, we can’t miss this opportunity to reflect on the lessons of COVID-19 and apply those lessons, so we are more prepared for the next pandemic or public health emergency. Unfortunately, time is of the essence since the next pandemic event might be the second wave of COVID-19 this fall,” says Governor Leavitt.
As part of his testimony, Governor Leavitt will provide several recommendations on effective pandemic planning and response. Cooperation by federal and state governments and clear definition of the division of duties between states and the federal government in advance of a pandemic are key to this response.
Governor Leavitt will testify alongside William Frist, MD, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader; Joneigh S. Khaldun, MD, MHP, FACEP, Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for Health at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, Executive Vice President and Chief Patient Officer at Merck & Co., Inc., and Co-Chair of the CSIS Commission on Strengthening America’s Health Security.
The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. (EST) on Tuesday, June 23, with all witnesses participating remotely. The hearing will be broadcast live on the HELP Committee’s Website, available here.
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