Former Utah Governor Advises U.S. Senate In Pandemic Response

Jun 24, 2020

Credit US Department of State

Ten years ago, Michael Leavitt managed pandemic preparedness when he was former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.  At the time, Leavitt played a big role in putting together a plan for handling the H1N1 Swine Flu. 

He noted then “Everything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist. Everything we do after will seem inadequate.”

Like other states, COVID-19 cases in Utah have been on the rise after re-opening. Federal health officials and state governments have been in conflict over how to proceed. Tuesday morning, Leavitt offered recommendations to the U.S. Senate committee on Health Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP), during a hearing on COVID-19 lessons learned to prepare for future pandemics. 

“We need to understand fully and exactly everything that has gone wrong in our response to COVID-19, why and how we can work to make sure we are never in this situation again,” said Washington senator and Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray.

Shortages of personal protective equipment, lack of quick and available testing and the need for a vaccine top the list of concerns for the committee. 

Governor Leavitt offered one important recommendation: “clarity on the division of labor between state and federal government in a pandemic. States need to be armed with a clear understanding of their role and the federal government in its role.” 

Leavitt said governments on all levels need to be modernized and supported by more funding, and not just when there’s a national emergency. 

“Public health generally has been malnourished over the course of the last almost 40 years,” said Leavitt. “And we need to build up that infrastructure.” 

Tennessee senator and Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander expressed his determination that the nation would not be caught this unprepared again. 

“Even the experts underestimated ease of transmission, and the ability of this coronavirus to spread without symptoms,” said Alexander. “These qualities made the virus, in the words of Dr. Fauci, ‘my worst nightmare.’”