Schatz, Senators Set To Introduce New Bill To Create National Coronavirus Commission Of Independent Experts To Determine How And When The Country Can Safely Reopen

Panel Of Independent Experts In Public Health, Economics, National Security, Transportation To Advise Policymakers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) today led a group of senators in announcing new legislation they plan to introduce to create the America Forward Commission, a panel of independent experts tasked with developing a broad strategy of how and when to safely reopen the country. Schatz was joined by U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

“Reopening communities, schools, and businesses following a pandemic is a serious public health matter, and we should treat it that way. Independent experts should be the ones helping us determine how we can reopen the country when it is safe to do so,” said Senator Schatz.

“Protecting public health is a core function of government, and it’s a responsibility all elected officials must take seriously. The eventual decision to ease social distancing orders and return to the pre-coronavirus ‘normal’ must be driven by science, not politics,” said Senator Harris. “I’m proud to help introduce this bill to form the America Forward Commission because people in California and across the country deserve the peace of mind that their leaders are listening to the experts and following the facts.”

“This is one of the most unsettling times in our nation’s history, and we are all anxious to put these days behind us and move forward. To begin reopening our economy, we must ensure we are protecting American lives and not further jeopardizing our economic future,” said Senator Bennet. “Like generations before us who faced incredible challenges of their own, we have a chance to assert our best traditions as Americans. And if we do that – which I know we can – I’m confident we can get our country back on its feet.”

“We’re in the middle of a public health crisis that’s caused an economic crisis—not the other way around. And although Trump would rather open the economy even if it will cost more American lives, we must first deal with the public health crisis by deploying widespread testing and mitigating community spread. At the same time, we need to develop plans for the safest, and most effective, way to restore our economy once we’ve successfully flattened the COVID-19 curve,” said Senator Murphy. “We should mirror what governors—including Governor Lamont in Connecticut and others in the northeast—are doing at the regional level, by establishing an official national advisory body made up of nonpartisan experts to provide guidance to help us navigate these daunting times. We can’t recover from this crisis if we rely on the same politically-minded advisors around Trump that got us here in the first place, and that’s what this legislation seeks to fix.”

The legislation will require the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine to appoint 10-15 members, with at least one expert in the following fields: public health, economics, transportation, medicine, national security, and state and local government.

The American Forward Commission’s duties include:

  • Examining and developing standards, tools and techniques necessary to ensure that federal, state, and local officials can diagnose, isolate, and mitigate the coronavirus, including seasonal reoccurrences, and address other public health and economic impacts;
  • Evaluating information sharing policies and practices for essential information between federal, state, and local stakeholders, as well as business and non-profit entities; 
  • Determining necessary medical supplies, personal protective equipment, and other materials; and
  • Evaluating proposals to strengthen the resilience of economic sectors and protect American workers most vulnerable to disruption from viral pandemics.

The Commission will make real-time recommendations to policymakers. The White House Coronavirus Task Force will be required to respond in writing to the Commission’s recommendations within one week of receipt, and to publicly post its responses.

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