Top Public Health Officials Address Going Back to School

May 15, 2020

In a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, senators and public health officials all emphasized the importance of access to testing as a key benchmark for students to go back to school in the fall.

During the bipartisan hearing with the Trump Administration’s top public health officials, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) highlighted that “all roads back to work and school run through testing,” while Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) requested “free, fast testing for everyone.”  Sen. Murray also implored the administration to provide guidance on how schools and campuses are to function under the circumstances.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made clear throughout his appearance that expecting a vaccine or treatment to be ready for the re-entry of students to schools in the fall is “a bridge too far,” and that for students to return to school and feel safe requires testing.  Throughout the hearing, the public health witnesses reinforced that for people to go back to work, students to go back to school, and society in general to “normalize,” four things are needed: widespread testing; contact tracing and systematic surveillance; strengthening public health infrastructure; and continued research and testing for a treatment and vaccine.

NAICU President Barbara Mistick submitted a letter to Sens. Alexander and Murray asking that higher education and the students and communities served by colleges and universities be a top priority for federal officials as they consider financial and testing support for various segments of the economy.

Sens. Alexander and Murray facilitated the hearing from their homes, while senators participated from either the hearing room in Washington, DC, others their offices, and all witnesses spoke via remote video feeds.


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