Senior Biden Administration Officials Testify Before Select Subcommittee on New Pandemic Phase
Washington, D.C. (March 30, 2022) – Today, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by Rep. James E. Clyburn, held a hearing with senior Biden Administration officials to discuss the current phase of the pandemic, the Administration’s National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, and how Americans would be impacted if Congress fails to provide the funding necessary to sustain and build on the progress made to date.
Chairman Clyburn said in his opening statement, “Across the country, schools are open, businesses are thriving, and the American people are safely going about their pre-pandemic lives. Make no mistake: We did not move beyond the crisis by chance. Our success is the result of deliberate policy decisions and the decisive leadership of the Biden Administration. And if Congress fails to provide the Administration the resources they need to continue to combat the virus, we increase the risk that the crisis will return.”
Today’s witnesses were: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky; Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell; and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
Building on a roundtable discussion with public health experts held on March 16, 2022, the witnesses testified to the following:
The United States Has Emerged from the Crisis Phase of the Pandemic
Surgeon General Murthy said in his opening statement: “[T]oday, as a country, we are in a better position to address COVID than at any other point in the pandemic. America has never been closer to the day when COVID-19 no longer defines our lives.”
Director Walensky testified: “It’s been over two years since we were first alerted to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2. Since that time, with support from Congress and collaboration with our partner agencies, we have made incredible strides in providing the American public with the knowledge and tools necessary to combat the virus.”
Assistant Secretary O’Connell highlighted the “tremendous progress” made over the last 15 months, explaining that “today we have the tools we need—vaccines, tests, treatments, and masks—to keep people safe and to keep schools and businesses open.” She noted that the federal government “has delivered more than 700 million doses of safe, effective, and free vaccine to 90,000 vaccination sites around the country contributing to 217 million people being fully vaccinated.”
The Biden Administration’s Deft Management of the Coronavirus Response Has Accelerated the Nation’s Pathway Out of the Crisis Phase of the Pandemic
Surgeon General Murthy highlighted the Biden Administration’s “incredible progress” in combating the pandemic, detailing how the Administration has “identified and developed the tools necessary to keep people safe and out of hospitals.” He underscored that the Administration has “led and funded production of these tools on a massive scale and we’ve made them, along with high quality masks, available for free to millions of people in America.”
In response to a question from Rep. Carolyn Maloney about the Biden Administration’s vaccination campaign, Surgeon General Murthy explained that the Biden Administration has “been able to develop, produce, and distribute vaccines at a scale that is truly historic for our country.” He said that the Administration has “saved, during the vaccination campaign over the last year plus, over one million lives and prevented over 10 million hospitalizations” and called the campaign “literally lifesaving.”
Assistant Secretary O’Connell highlighted the Biden Administration’s “significant progress in increasing testing supply, availability, and affordability over the past year,” including by delivering “hundreds of millions of free at-home tests to more than 70 million American households” and increasing the number of over-the-counter tests available per month to approximately 300 million.
Congress Must Provide the Biden Administration the Necessary Funding to Execute the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan Without Delay
In response to a question from Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi about the risks of Congress failing to act, Assistant Secretary O’Connell advised that without continued funding, the federal government would not have sufficient resources to purchase future booster shots, explaining: “We do have significant concerns about whether we would have enough vaccine if we were to do a general population boost campaign in the fall.” She also highlighted that one agency has already been forced to stop accepting claims for tests and treatments for the uninsured and will have to stop accepting vaccination claims for the uninsured next week.
In order to stay ahead of the virus over the long term, Director Walensky stated that CDC needs “continued support from Congress through bipartisan efforts to modernize CDC’s data authorities, to support standardized data collection, and rapid sharing of data in a way that Americans expect – during and after the pandemic.”
“[I]f we want to sustain and build on this progress, Congress must provide the necessary funding to execute President Biden’s National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan,” Chairman Clyburn said in closing the hearing. “If Congress fails to act, we increase the risk that the coronavirus will become a crisis once again.”
Click here to view the Chairman’s opening statement in full.
Click here to watch the full hearing and view the witnesses’ written testimonies.