House Energy and Commerce Committee: “Pollution and Pandemics: COVID-19’s Disproportionate Impact on Environmental Justice Communities”
Tuesday, June 9: The Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a remote hearing on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the environmental justice communities. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone’s (D-NJ) open remarks note the high rates of infection and death for communities of color, low-income communities, Native American communities and fence-line communities (for example, communities that are adjacent to chemical plants or superfund sites).  

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP): “COVID-19: Going Back to School Safely”
Wednesday, June 10: The Senate HELP committee held a second hearing on preparing Americans to go back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently hesitated to make any broad statements about the safety of schools’ reopening, but said that conversation needs to happen with a particular focus on the infection level in each community.

House Committee on Appropriations: “Indian Health Service Covid-19 Response”
Thursday, June 11: The Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies of the House Committee on Appropriations held a hearing on how the Indian Health Service (IHS) has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: Statistics shown at the hearing claim that the Indian Health Service (HIS) needs at least $9.1 billion to meet the needs of their covered communities. IHS’s current budget currently falls far short of that amount. Tribal communities are suffering during the pandemic, with data in Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota and Wyoming showing that American Indians and Alaska Natives are being infected at higher rates than the general population.

Senate Special Committee on Aging: “Combating Social Isolation and Loneliness During the COVID-19 Pandemic”
Thursday, June 11: The Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing to discuss the mental health implications of social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: Even in pre-pandemic times, seniors faced risk factors such as social isolation, financial challenges, illness, grief and loss, all associated with greater rates of anxiety and depression. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, geriatric mental health issues are at high risk of an increase.


Sen. Alexander Releases White Paper on Pandemic Preparedness, Requests Feedback by June 26
On June 9, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released “Preparing for the Next Pandemic,” a white paper with five recommendations to address future pandemics based on lessons learned from COVID-19 and the past 20 years of pandemic planning.

The white paper recommends Congress should work with federal departments and agencies, states and the private sector to address these specific issues and newly identified gaps:

  1. Tests, Treatments and Vaccines – Accelerate Research and Development
  2. Disease Surveillance – Expand Ability to Detect, Identify, Model and Track Emerging Infectious Diseases
  3. Stockpiles, Distribution and Surges – Rebuild and Maintain Federal and State Stockpiles and Improve Medical Supply Surge Capacity and Distribution
  4. Public Health Capabilities – Improve State and Local Capacity to Respond
  5. Who Is on the Flagpole? – Improve Coordination of Federal Agencies During a Public Health Emergency

Comments, responses and any additional recommendations for the Senate HELP Committee to consider are due on June 26, 2020.

Find the white paper here.

Senators Seek Details on HHS’s Plan for Handling Next COVID-19 Wave

On June 9, a bipartisan group of senators asked Trump administration officials how many diagnostic tests and how much protective gear the administration has stockpiled for the next wave of the coronavirus. Members of the Senate Committee Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing last week said that they still do not know the country’s testing capacity and that it is impossible to estimate how widespread the virus is without more testing. Chair Ron Johnson (R-WI) said that it is evident that the country’s preparedness enterprise, resources and supply chains were stressed past the capacity required to meet a nationwide pandemic. Find more details here.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.