A bipartisan group of senators Tuesday called for a "9/11-style Commission" to investigate how the COVID-19 pandemic began, the U.S. government’s response, and ways to prevent a similar tragedy.
In a statement, Sen. Roger Marshall, the Kansas Republican leading the group, said a panel is "long overdue."
"As a physician, I think we always need to know the what, where, how, and why when giving a diagnosis," he stated. "For this reason, it couldn’t be more important that we determine the origins of this infectious disease outbreak in order to ensure nothing like this ever happens again."
Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Democrat Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York co-sponsored legislation to create the commission.
"As the threat of major pandemics increases due to globalization and climate change, we must learn from what happened during this pandemic to ensure we’re prepared for any future outbreaks," Feinstein said in a statement.
"This bipartisan commission will ensure we learn all we can from the past 18 months so the immense human suffering and economic devastation we’ve endured never happens again."
The bill is modeled on the so-called "9/11 Commission" formed in 2002 to examine the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the nation and how to prevent them in the future.
According to the bipartisan group, the COVID commission would look at the government’s overall response to the pandemic, including its ability to procure supplies and develop tests, treatments, and vaccines. It will look at whether public-health messages were effective and resonated with all communities, including the risk of stigma to Asian communities targeted for harassment.
It will also look at U.S. cooperation with countries abroad and if the U.S. health-care system was ready for the crisis.
Republican sponsors emphasized the importance of examining if the virus occurred naturally or was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a lab that researched bat coronaviruses in the same central Chinese city where the pandemic began.
"The COVID-19 outbreak that emerged in Wuhan, China, nearly two years ago put the world into an unprecedented global lockdown, and to this day, the origins of the pandemic remain a mystery as China refuses to fully cooperate with international fact-finding efforts," Ernst said. "The American people and the world deserve answers, which is why I’m proud to join my colleagues across the aisle to create a bipartisan commission to get to the bottom of the pandemic once and for all — and ensure it never happens again."
U.S. intelligence officials have said a natural origin and a lab leak were both plausible hypotheses to explain how SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, first infected humans, but that the truth may never be known.
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