On Tuesday, March 9, 2021, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions held a hearing entitled “Examining Our COVID-19 Response: An Update from the Frontlines.”
Chairwoman Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) highlighted over half a million lives lost and 29 million infected across the country. She also discussed the impact the pandemic is causing on mental health and substance abuse, among other issues. Chairwoman Murray stressed the need to make sure communities that are often underserved and overlooked are getting their vaccines and increasing accessibility to people with disabilities, people who do not speak English, and people who do not have internet or smartphones. Further, Senator Murray emphasized the need for equitable access to the vaccine. Lastly, Murray stated that she plans to reintroduce The Public Health Infrastructure Saves Lives Act.
Ranking member Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) touched on the great loss the nation has experienced in the last year as well. Senator Burr celebrated the doctors and nurses who have found new ways to treat the sickest COVID patients better and improving outcomes in the last year. He called attention to the state and local officials who have “led the charge in tailoring our response to the community needs.” Noting, at the beginning of the academic year, only 17 percent of the nation’s schools fully retired to in-person learning, Senator Burr stated this loss would jeopardize Americans’ entire future. Burr commented on the Biden administration setting attainable goals instead of aspirational goals, contrasting President Biden’s 100 million shots in arms in 100 days to President Trump’s vaccine promise.
Jerry P. Abraham (MD, MPH, CMQ), a Medical Quality Specialist, pointed out that “racial and ethnic, economic, lack of equitable access to healthcare and public health, and a whole raft of issues related to disparities have conspired to result in health outcomes that are different.” Ashish K. Jha (MD, MPH), Dean of the School of Public Health, recalled, “a grim anniversary this month, one year into a global pandemic that has caused unimaginable suffering and loss.” Still, Dr. Jha highlighted the following statistics:
- Infections are down nearly 70% since the peak of early January.
- As a nation, our 7-day case average has plateaued and now rests in the same realm as our midsummer peak, at just under 60,000 new cases per day. Accordingly, 7-day average COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths have decreased by 66% and 77%, respectively, from the winter peak.
- More than 2.1 million shots are now administered every day.
According to the CDC, 19.3 percent of the total population has had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 10.2 percent have been fully vaccinated as of March 11, 2021.