US Washington Capitol

Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing on Pandemic Response

Jan 13, 2022 | Ian Goldstein

This week the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing titled, “Addressing New Variants: A Federal Perspective on the COVID-19 Response.” The hearing featured officials from agencies leading the COVID-19 response:

  • Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Dr. Janet Woodcock, Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Dawn O’Connell, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)

The nearly four-hour long hearing provided senators from both sides of the aisle the opportunity to ask questions about the administration’s efforts in addressing the Omicron variant, and many raised concerns about access to COVID-19 tests and recent CDC guidance on isolation and quarantine. Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) urged the administration to clarify its isolation and quarantine guidance, explaining that individuals, businesses, and schools have found it confusing. She also emphasized the need for access to tests and high-quality masks. Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) criticized the administration’s communication strategies related to testing, quarantine, masking, and vaccinations.

The four administration officials acknowledged that testing has been inadequate since the emergence of the Omicron variant and pledged that federal agencies will work to bolster manufacturing and distribution of rapid at-home testing. Specifically, Dr. Woodcock outlined FDA’s efforts to expand testing and approve newly manufactured tests.

CDC Director Dr. Walensky attempted to clarify the agency’s COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidance, but continued to receive questions from senators throughout the hearing.

Several administration witnesses highlighted the importance of vaccinations, including booster shots, in confronting the virus. CDC Director Dr. Walensky outlined the steps the agency has taken to update recommendations related to booster doses, and Dr. Fauci echoed guidance that everyone should receive a booster as it has been proven to lessen symptoms from the Omicron variant.


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About Ian Goldstein

Ian Goldsmith is the Government Affairs Specialist at NACCHO.

More posts by Ian Goldstein

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