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Alexander: Senate Health Committee Passes Bill to Help Tennesseans Better Prepare for Flu, Wildfires, Bioterrorism

Urges Senate to pass legislation before programs expire at the end of September

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2018 — The Senate health committee today approved legislation that its Chairman, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said would “help ensure Tennesseans are better prepared to handle threats such as pandemic flu, wildfires, and deliberate attacks with dangerous agents like anthrax.”

“Tennesseans want to know we are better prepared to face public health threats—whether that’s outbreaks of infectious diseases like Ebola, Zika, or the flu; natural disasters, such as hurricanes and the wildfires that swept across East Tennessee in 2016; or deliberate attacks with dangerous agents, like anthrax or nuclear weapons. This bipartisan legislation takes the next step toward ensuring we are able to better protect Tennesseans and all Americans from 21st century threats by strengthening our preparedness and response capabilities,” Alexander said. “I’m grateful to Senator Burr and Senator Casey for their leadership on this bill and I’m hopeful that the full Senate will pass it before many of the programs expire at the end of September.”

Alexander added: “The bill includes provisions from Senator Cassidy’s Good Samaritan bill, championed by Representative Blackburn, to clarify liability protections for volunteers during public health emergencies. I am continuing to work with Sen. Cassidy and Rep. Blackburn on improving the provision—including expanding the protections to more disasters and making it easier for individuals to register.”

The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) was enacted in 2006 and reauthorized in 2013 to establish and build upon a framework for responses to public health threats that may result in a public health emergency. The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act includes policies to build on the existing PAHPA framework, and update these programs to better address 21st century threats. The Senate health committee held two hearings on the 2018 reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act on January 17 and January 23, 2018.

Dr. John Dreyzehner, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, testified at the Senate health committee hearing on January 23. Dr. Dreyzehner has served as Commissioner since 2011 and has significant experience responding to state and local public health emergencies including infectious diseases like Zika, and natural disasters, like the wildfires in East Tennessee in 2016.