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Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Senators introduce bill that would require plan for pandemic testing

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A bill that would require a plan for diagnostic testing and public health system integration for COVID-19 and future pandemics was introduced in the U.S. Senate this week.

The bill, the Timely and Effective Systematic Testing (TEST) Act, was introduced by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). The four senators developed the bill with Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The TEST Act would make testing a top priority within the National Health Security Strategy—the nation’s strategic plan to address public health threats and other emergencies. It would expand the country’s capability to conduct rapid and accurate diagnostic tests to better prevent the spread of a disease and integrate existing disease detection systems. Further, it would provide grants to state and local public health departments to support testing and reporting capacity and establish strict congressional oversight to ensure success.

“In order to fully beat the COVID-19 pandemic, we must be able to rapidly and accurately see where the illness is and is not,” Gardner said. “The TEST Act provides the key components of detecting and preventing outbreaks. I’m proud to partner with my colleagues Senators Bennet, Romney, and Sinema to enhance our capability to contain COVID-19 and improve our capacity to respond to future outbreaks.”

The TEST Act is endorsed by the Colorado Hospital Association, the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (COHRIO), the National Restaurant Association, the American Society for Microbiology, the National Retail Federation, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the International Franchise Association, the U.S. Travel Association, the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers, and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association.

“In order to combat COVID-19 and safely reopen our economy at the same time, we need a nationwide, coordinated system to track cases,” Bennet said. “The TEST Act would help integrate local and federal reporting systems by breaking down current silos to better monitor COVID-19 cases and virus outbreaks. This bill builds on my proposal to create a Health Force to bolster public health infrastructure and train Americans to fight this virus, and would ensure all levels of government have the best systems to report data. The TEST Act will help instill confidence in the economy as we start to reopen.”

Romney added that federal health officials have been behind the curve in assessing the public health threat of COVID-19 from the start due, in part, due to a lack of real-time health data.

“We have got to have more reliable data so that the American people know where the greatest risks lie. To accomplish this end, our bill will establish the infrastructure to help identify gaps in reporting and update disease monitoring systems. With this data, we will be better equipped to fight a potential second wave of COVID-19 and any future pandemic our country faces down the road,” Romney said.