Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress.
On Wednesday, May 6, the House Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing with Dr. Frieden, former director of CDC, and Dr. Rivers, Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security to discuss COVID-19. During the hearing, Dr. Frieden and Dr. Rivers both discussed the importance of contact tracing, diagnostic testing for everybody with COVID-19 symptoms, isolating those who are sick, and quarantining those who have come in contact with a COVID-19 case. Dr. Rivers stated that she felt that there is not currently enough public health capacity to conduct contact tracing on all new cases.
The House continues to move forward with the fourth COVID-19 stimulus package. Democratic leadership asked for all suggestions from Congressional offices to be submitted by end of the day on May 8. However, this upcoming bill, which is believed to be the final of the COVID-19 stimulus bills, will not come without a fight. Republicans want to see liability measures put in place to protect businesses from lawsuits when the economy reopens, and Democrats are pushing for funding to send monthly $2,000 checks to families until COVID ends. NCSD will keep you updated on what to expect in the next stimulus package.
On Tuesday, May 5, Senators Gillibrand and Bennett introduced the Health Force and Resilience Force Bill in the Senate, and on May 8 Representatives Underwood, Grow, and Panetta introduced the House version of the same bill. The bill would authorize $55 billion for fiscal years ’20 and ’21 to the CDC to establish a health force by recruiting, hiring, training, and supervising staff to respond to this outbreak and future public health needs. Funding from CDC will go out as grants to state and local health organizations and service providers. The bill also authorizes $6.5 billion at FEMA to deploy and train on-call response/recovery employees.
In this bill, disease intervention specialists (DIS) are specifically mentioned as being a potential avenue for supervision of new health force members.
On Monday, May 4, 14 Senators called on Congress to approve $8 billion for contact tracing. This request follows the joint NCSD, ASTHO, NACCHO, APHL, and CSTE letter released last week that calls for nearly $8 billion to support states in recruiting, hiring, training and supervising contact tracers.