Opinion | There Will Be Another Pandemic — Are We Prepared For It?

By Bob Menendez and Susan Collins

Senator Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, and Senator Collins, Republican of Maine, have introduced legislation proposing a commission to study the United States’ Covid-19 response.

The devastating events of Sept. 11, 2001, shook the United States to its core and sparked immediate and consequential actions to protect American lives. Congress formed the independent 9/11 Commission to investigate the security missteps that contributed to the attack and to issue prescriptions for what we as a country could do better to prevent future acts of foreign terrorism on American soil. The commission released a series of recommendations, many of which were adopted quickly, to tighten security and improve interdepartmental information sharing and coordination.

The death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic is more than 200 times that of the 9/11 attacks — but Congress has yet to establish a similar blue ribbon commission to investigate the vulnerabilities of our public health system and issue guidance for how we as a nation can better protect the American people from future pandemics.

We are just now beginning to emerge from a pandemic that has already claimed more than 600,000 mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, spouses, friends, neighbors and co-workers in the United States alone. Tragically, it will claim even more lives before it’s over. The economic costs of the pandemic have yet to be fully realized, even though we have finally begun to reopen, owing to the swift pace of vaccinations and the flow of billions of dollars in stimulus money into the economy. But it isn’t too soon to call for an independent, 9/11-style commission.

Abroad, Covid-19 continues to kill thousands of people a day and infect hundreds of thousands more. Here at home, we are racing to stop the spread of new coronavirus variants. Health care workers are grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder and the strain on our families, our children and our economy has been enormous.

We should do everything in our power to prevent our country and our communities, small businesses and families from enduring a similar ordeal again, because it’s not a matter of if but when another pandemic or public health emergency will strike. That is why we introduced the National Coronavirus Commission Act. Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey, and Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida, introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives, making the act the only bipartisan, bicameral legislation of its kind.

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