As we approach the frightening and terrifying milestone of nearly one million deaths from COVID-19, there is no doubt that preventing this loss of life again should be a top priority of our United States Congress. , regardless of party affiliation.

The recent release of a draft discussion of the bipartisan Preparedness and Response to Existing Viruses, New Emerging Threats and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act) is an important step forward in improving the security of our country. We applaud the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Senator Patty MurrayFDA pick of Patricia (Patty) Lynn Murray Biden clears key hurdle in Senate Leading lawmakers seek information on HBCU bomb threats Collins: Biden pledges to appoint black woman to politicized court process MORE (D-Wash.) and ranking member Richard BurerFDA pick of Richard Mauze BurrBiden clears key hurdle in Senate This week: Fight to confirm Biden’s FDA nominee comes to a head On The Money: Border blockade hits US economy MORE (RN.C.) for making criticisms Strategies it would strengthen federal and state preparedness, improve our ability to respond through modernized data systems, accelerate research and discovery of countermeasures, modernize the supply chain for vital medical products, and improve development and combat shortages of medical products.

While the PREVENT Pandemics Act proposes a short-term task force to examine the initial emergence of the pandemic and the nation’s response, we also believe that the legislation should include an ongoing oversight mechanism so that the United States are equipped to meet future threats. There is currently no body approved by Congress to assess the state of the US pandemic preparedness system, leaving the nation vulnerable to a suboptimal response to public health emergencies and future pandemics. For this reason, we and our colleagues on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Future of Health Task Force call on Congress to create a national pandemic preparedness council. The independent board would establish a set of metrics and benchmarks for assessing federal and state pandemic preparedness and capacity; assess how the nation is doing against these parameters; and develop an annual report to Congress on pandemic preparedness with specific recommendations.

The Board should consider certain broad thematic areas when developing measures, including non-pharmaceutical and pharmaceutical mitigation measures; public health, emergency management and health care system coordination; equity in emergency response planning; exercise of intervention plans; standardized data collection and reporting as well as privacy and data security standards; real-time monitoring and systems; immunization infrastructure, distribution and use; and building inventory and supply chain resilience. Throughout the process of developing the metrics, Congress should require the council to consult with stakeholders, including relevant federal agencies, private sector organizations, and subject matter experts.

Because an effective national response depends in part on state-level preparedness, we also propose that Congress require the council to develop basic state-level measures and requirements for Assessment of State Pandemic Plans. The states would submit their respective plans to the board each year, and the board would use its established measures and baseline requirements to determine states’ pandemic preparedness levels.

Similar to high level boards such as the Administrators of Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds, we believe that the national pandemic preparedness council should be made up of leaders from the federal government and the private sector. With respect to the former, this should include Cabinet-level officials who oversee federal agencies and programs that are essential during pandemic emergencies. The council could be made up of career officials in a new Office of Pandemic Preparedness located in the US Government Accountability Office and tasked with the explicit purpose of supporting the council in carrying out its duties, in particular producing the annual report to Congress. .

We believe that sustained investments to support a national council, the policies outlined in the PREVENT Pandemics Act, and national and local public health infrastructure are essential to achieving optimal preparedness and response. Leaders of both parties should find common ground to ensure that these investments are included in future legislation.

We cannot let the memory of the outbreak of COVID-19 begin to fade from our collective experience. Given the unique health, economic and societal implications of a pandemic, it is essential to elevate pandemic preparedness to the highest levels of policy-making. The better prepared we are today, the better our response will be in the future.

The authors are co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Futures of Health Task Force. BPC co-founder Daschle served in the Senate from 1987 to 2005 and as Senate Majority Leader from 2001 to 2003. BPC senior researcher Frist is a physician and served in the Senate from 1995 to 2007 and as as Majority Leader in the Senate. from 2003 to 2007.