03.18.21

Senator Murray Highlights Biden Administration’s Steps to Finally Put COVID Response On Track, Outlines Work Ahead

HELP Committee holds first hearing with Biden Administration COVID task force members: NIH’s Dr. Fauci, CDC’s Dr. Walensky, HHS’ Dr. Kessler, and FDA’s Dr. Marks

 

Senator Murray highlights how the American Rescue Plan and the work of the Biden Administration has finally put the federal COVID response on track in regards to public health guidance, testing, and vaccine distribution

 

Senator Murray stresses importance of continuing to address vaccine hesitancy, accessibility and inequity to end the pandemic

 

Senator Murray calls for investing in a stronger and fairer public health infrastructure by passing her Public Health Infrastructure Saves Lives Act

 

Senator Murray: “While we aren’t through this pandemic yet—we are finally on the right track, and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But we are going to have to keep pushing to make sure we get there.”

 

***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S OPENING REMARKS HERE***

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, during a hearing, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, highlighted how the investments in the American Rescue Plan and the work of the Biden Administration has finally put our federal COVID response on the right track and urged key members of the Administration’s COVID-19 task force to continue building on this progress and addressing inequities to end the pandemic as quickly as possible.

 

The hearing included testimony from Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health (NIH), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. David Kessler, Chief Science Officer for COVID Response at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

 

“We’ve seen a lot change—and recently, change for the better—since this Committee had its first COVID-19 hearing with federal officials over a year ago. The difference between how President Biden has been handling this crisis, and how former President Trump refused to, is staggering,” said Senator Murray in her opening remarks. While we aren’t through this pandemic yet—we are finally on the right track, and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But we are going to have to keep pushing to make sure we get there.”

 

During the hearing, Senator Murray noted ways the Biden Administration has improved the federal COVID response, a stark contrast to the Trump Administration’s disastrous approach of spreading misinformation, interfering in a science-based response, and leaving states and Tribes on their own when it came to vaccines and testing. The Biden Administration’s efforts to empower experts and ramp up testing and vaccine distribution—and the passage of the American Rescue Plan—have brought us closer to ending the pandemic, but Senator Murray emphasized there is more work ahead, especially to address challenges with vaccine hesitancy, accessibility, and equity that are impacting communities of color, the disability community, and others. In her questioning, Senator Murray also urged Biden Administration officials to continue debunking myths about vaccine safety.

 

“Now we must work to make sure these investments have the impact we need them to, in order to bring an end to this pandemic. And for this to happen, we need to fight vaccine hesitancy. And as we promote vaccines, we also have to ensure equity, and get vaccines and information to communities of color, rural communities, people with disabilities, people who don’t speak English, and people who don’t have access to the internet,” said Senator Murray. “We have to keep our focus on this—because this pandemic will not truly be over for anyone, until we vaccinate everyone we can.”

 

Senator Murray also stressed the importance of not simply recovering from the COVID crisis, but also rebuilding a strong, fairer country, strengthening our public health infrastructure, and addressing long-standing inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.   

 

“Even when we are all safe from COVID-19, our work to recover will not be over. We have to rebuild our country stronger and fairer. That work needs to start with building a stronger and fairer public health infrastructure—which is why I introduced the Public Health Infrastructure Saves Lives Act last week. But it can’t end there,” continued Senator Murray.

 

“I’m hopeful we will be able to find common ground when it comes to what we can do to address the need for a strong public health system, the painful health inequities that hurt communities of color, the way this pandemic was exacerbated by a lack of paid leave for every worker, and affordable child care for working families, the importance of protecting schools and workers, and more. We all want to make sure we learn from this moment in our history—because we owe it to every American who has suffered, or who is grieving, after this year—to make sure we never find ourselves here again.”

 

Senator Murray’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

 

“We’ve seen a lot change—and recently, change for the better—since this Committee had its first COVID-19 hearing with federal officials over a year ago.

 

“The difference between how President Biden has been handling this crisis, and how former President Trump refused to, is staggering.

 

“When it comes to public health guidance, Former President Trump spread misinformation about masks and refused to wear them, while one of President Biden’s first acts as President was to call on all Americans to wear masks and keep each other safe.

 

“When it comes to listening to the experts, Former President Trump consistently interfered with their work, while President Biden has empowered them to lead a science-based response to this pandemic.

 

“When it comes to testing, Former President Trump was concerned that testing too many people would make him look bad, while President Biden is concerned that not testing enough will leave people at risk and let new variants of this virus spread undetected.

 

“When it comes to getting vaccines in arms, the Trump Administration’s approach on distribution was essentially to give vaccines to states and call it mission accomplished.

 

“The Biden Administration is also directing vaccines directly to pharmacies through a partnership reaching over 40,000 locations, directly to community health centers through a program they have expanded to 950 total locations, and directly to patients by standing up federal vaccination sites—which it announced last week it will double.

 

“And the result? Recently, my home state of Washington administered its 2 millionth vaccine, our country administered its 100 millionth vaccine, we saw the first day without a thousand COVID-19 deaths in our country since November, and President Biden announced he will direct all states, Tribes, and territories to make all people 18 and over eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1st.


“While we aren’t through this pandemic yet—we are finally on the right track, and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

 

“But we are going to have to keep pushing to make sure we get there.

 

“That’s why the American Rescue Plan makes investments in testing, contact tracing, and sequencing so we can identify new variants of COVID and slow the spread.

 

“Investments in vaccines so we can distribute and administer them quickly, widely, and equitably, fight misinformation, promote vaccine confidence, and engage trusted partners in communities.

 

“Investments to recruit and train 100,000 new public health workers for these efforts.

 

“And investments to address inequities that have made this pandemic more deadly for communities of color, to address mental health, behavioral health, and substance use challenges this pandemic has worsened, to support home- and community-based services that help people with disabilities and older Americans, and to support community health centers which continue to be a lifeline to so many hard hit and hard to reach communities.

 

“Now we must work to make sure these investments have the impact we need them to, in order to bring an end to this pandemic.

“And for this to happen, we need to fight vaccine hesitancy.


“While over half of people now say they will get vaccinated—compared to around a third at the end of December—that is still far too low.

 

“And as we promote vaccines, we also have to ensure equity, and get vaccines and information to communities of color, rural communities, people with disabilities, people who don’t speak English, and people who don’t have access to the internet.

 

“The Biden Administration’s plans to develop a federally run website showing vaccine locations and a 1-800 number to help those without internet are a promising start.

 

“As are efforts being spearheaded by community groups like the Pacific Islander Community Association in Washington state which I discussed at our last hearing.

 

“But we have to keep our focus on this—because this pandemic will not truly be over for anyone, until we vaccinate everyone we can.

 

“And even when we are all safe from COVID-19, our work to recover will not be over. We have to rebuild our country stronger and fairer.

 

“That work needs to start with building a stronger and fairer public health infrastructure—which is why I introduced the Public Health Infrastructure Saves Lives Act last week.

 

“But it can’t end there—that’s why Ranking Member Burr and I, along with members of this Committee, are focused around the need to learn the lessons of this pandemic, and take action so nothing like this ever happens again.

 

“Together, I hope to work with Ranking Member Burr and members of this Committee to hold a set of hearings, talk with experts and stakeholders, and work across the aisle with our colleagues over the next few months to consider the many lessons of this pandemic, and draft bipartisan legislation to act on those lessons.

 

“I know we will have different views on this Committee about what that means, but I also know we share a common goal—to keep our families and communities safe from future pandemics and public health threats.

 

“And I’m hopeful we will be able to find common ground when it comes to what we can do to address the need for a strong public health system, the painful health inequities that hurt communities of color, the way this pandemic was exacerbated by a lack of paid leave for every worker, and affordable child care for working families, the importance of protecting schools and workers, and more.

 

“We all want to make sure we learn from this moment in our history—because we owe it to every American who has suffered, or who is grieving, after this year—to make sure we never find ourselves here again.


“With that in mind, I’d like to thank our witnesses for joining us today—I look forward to hearing from each of you about the issues we face as we work to end this pandemic.

 

“And now I’ll turn it over to the Ranking Member, Senator Burr, for his opening remarks.”

 

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