Senate Report on Federal Response to COVID-19 and its Pandemic (Un)Preparedness

The culmination of a two-year investigation by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Historically Unprepared: Examination of the Federal Government’s Pandemic Preparedness and Initial COVID-19 Response, has found that the federal government was ill-prepared for a public health crisis like COVID-19 and its initial response did not reflect the severity of the virus nor effectively stop the spread of COVID-19. Despite repeated warnings from private and public sector experts to address shortcomings learned from prior public health and natural disaster crises, some key failures of the U.S. COVID-19 response included failure to adequately fund public health preparedness programs, overreliance on foreign sources for critical medical products, and failure to fully engage the public with clear, consistent communication and public health guidance.

Key recommendations to improve pandemic preparedness and response include investing in sustainable multi-year funding for public health emergency and response efforts, investing in sustainable domestic manufacturing for critical medical products, and building infrastructure capable of surge capacity along with establishing advance contracts with industry to ensure said infrastructure is operational during a crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented public health crisis. However, the loss of life, suffering, and economic devastation were not inevitable. My investigation found that long term systemic failures left our nation unprepared to grapple with public health threats, and when the virus began to spread throughout the country – the federal government failed to act quickly and formulate a comprehensive response.  Implementing the recommendations in this report will help ensure our nation can prevent the next crisis, whatever it may be, from reaching this magnitude.

– U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI)

For more information on topics related to this piece, please visit the HSDL COVID-19 Resource Archive and In Focus collections on Long COVID, Pandemics and Epidemics, and COVID-19 Journal Resources.

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