Senator Murray Marks Progress In Fight Against COVID, Pushes To Build On Momentum
COVID infections, hospitalizations and deaths have all gone down since President Biden announced his plan to fight the Delta surge
Vaccination rates have risen, with nearly 80 percent of those 12 and older having received their first dose
Earlier today the Biden Administration announced an Emergency Temporary Standard to protect workers through vaccination and other public health measures to prevent COVID-19 spread at work
Senator Murray: “The President’s decisive actions, and the hard work of experts and public health officials across the country, have put us in a stronger position to end this pandemic.”
***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S OPENING REMARKS HERE***
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, led a hearing on the significant progress made in combatting COVID-19, and stressed the need for continued action to end the pandemic, and keep families safe from the next public health crisis. At the hearing with federal COVID-19 experts, Senator Murray and the witnesses discussed the success of ongoing efforts to increase vaccination rates, what needs to be done to prepare for the months ahead, and how to be better prepared for future public health emergencies.
“A few months ago, President Biden announced his plan to respond to the Delta variant, which was surging and jeopardizing our hard won progress against COVID-19,” said Senator Murray. “The President’s decisive actions, and the hard work of experts and public health officials across the country have put us in a stronger position to end this pandemic.”
In her opening remarks, Senator Murray outlined the progress the nation has made recently—with cases, hospitalizations and deaths all down since President Biden outlined his plan to fight the Delta variant, and people over 12 with their first vaccine dose approaching 80 percent. Senator Murray also highlighted the authorization of booster shots, shots for children younger than 12, and recent reports showing the positive impact of vaccine requirements so far. Senator Murray noted that while we have made significant progress, it is not time to slow down, and emphasized the need for continued progress to increase testing capacity, get shots into arms, and finally put an end to the pandemic.
“Even with all the progress we’ve made so far—we must not take our foot off the gas. Last winter, we saw this virus push our hospitals to the brink. We saw it infect and kill hundreds of thousands of people—including essential workers and health care workers—and we know it led to burnout among so many more,” continued Senator Murray. “Vaccines are one of our best tools for making sure that doesn’t happen again, and making sure we can build back from this pandemic stronger and fairer.”
She also highlighted how the investment she fought to include in the Build Back Better framework would build the nation’s public health and preparedness infrastructure, and strengthen response efforts to this pandemic and the nation’s ability to keep families safe from future public health threats.
The hearing included testimony from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); Dr. Janet Woodcock, Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and Dawn O’Connell, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Senator Murray’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:
“A few months ago, President Biden announced his plan to respond to the Delta variant, which was surging and jeopardizing our hard won progress against COVID-19. And while our work continues, the President’s decisive actions, and the hard work of experts and public health officials across the country have put us in a stronger position to end this pandemic.
“Right now, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are once again trending down, and the vaccination rate is continuing to go up. Nearly 80 percent of people age 12 and older have gotten their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly 70 percent have been fully vaccinated. And inequities in vaccination numbers have been narrowing.
“We are also already seeing how requirements for vaccines or testing, like President Biden has called for —and which a clear majority of Americans support— can bring vaccination rates even higher. As of last month, vaccine requirements had increased vaccination rates by over 20 percent.
“United Airlines has seen their vaccination rate for employees go from 59 to 99 percent since they announced their vaccine requirement. Tyson Foods went from less than half of its workers vaccinated, to over ninety-six percent. In my home state of Washington, 15 in 16 of our state’s workers have already complied with Governor Inslee’s vaccine requirement. And across the country, health care facilities, universities, and other employers are seeing similar results.
“And I expect that progress to continue now that the Department of Labor has put forward an Emergency Temporary Standard on this issue.
“We’re also seeing progress on booster shots—with three different booster shots authorized, and over 13 million already administered, and on shots for children younger than 12—with the FDA authorizing vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 last week, and the CDC issuing its decision on this recently.
“But even with all the progress we’ve made so far—we must not take our foot off the gas. Last winter, we saw this virus push our hospitals to the brink. We saw it infect and kill hundreds of thousands of people—including essential workers and health care workers. And we know it led to burnout among so many more.
“Vaccines are one of our best tools for making sure that doesn’t happen again, and making sure we can build back from this pandemic stronger and fairer.
“In fact, as the White House noted in its report on vaccination requirements, an outside economic analysis found that increasing vaccination and reaching near full vaccination in workplaces could encourage millions of people to return to the workforce.
“Tests also continue to serve a critical role in stopping the spread by informing our ongoing response—which is why we need to plan to scale up testing even more. And in a larger sense, we must learn the lessons of this pandemic not only so we can prepare for the winter ahead, but so we can finally bring an end to this pandemic and be better prepared for the next public health crisis whatever it may be.
“I’ve been pressing to get that done at every possible opportunity. It’s why Senator Burr and I continue to work on bipartisan public health and preparedness legislation. And it’s why I am also pushing for critical steps in Build Back Better to strengthen our public health infrastructure.
“Among other things, Build Back Better will help public health departments across the country increase their testing and tracing capacity, train and retain public health workers, upgrade to more modern, inclusive, interoperable data systems, communicate with the public and address misinformation about issues like vaccines, and address health inequities and build partnerships in hard to reach communities.
“It would also help our federal public health agencies like the FDA, the CDC, and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response take action to increase lab capacity so we can sequence viruses and identify variants quickly, facilitate the development of new treatments, tests, and vaccines, and improve the supply chain of medical supplies like syringes, ventilators, and personal protective equipment.
“This pandemic has been long, and it has been deadly. It has hurt our economy, our communities, and our families beyond measure. But if we continue to take bold action, if we continue to follow the science and experts, if we continue to get people vaccinated, and take steps to keep ourselves and those around us safe, we can get through this.
“And if we learn from this pandemic—if we finally end the cycle of crisis and complacency for public health funding, and ensure we have an economy that works for everyone—not just those at the top, we can rebuild our country stronger and fairer, and we can make sure we are never in a situation like this again.
“Now I’ll turn it over to Ranking Member Burr for his opening remarks.”
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