Joint Statement by Chairs Bill Driscoll Jr. and Jo Comerford
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management
BOSTON (03/24/2021) - Yesterday’s productive hearing exposed two completely different sets of beliefs about our public health system.
In one telling, characterized by the Baker-Polito Administration, our local health system and emergency management personnel were either not willing or not able to rise to the COVID crisis. The other telling, one characterized by local public health officials, is of a workforce and volunteer force that was trained, skilled, with nimble plans and structures wrought over two decades, scalable with investment, and ready to rise to the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The stark differences between the testimony received demands that we dig deeper and understand better why decades of public investment in emergency preparedness have been shelved in favor of another approach, hastily constructed during a global pandemic.
If private companies, that have only recently entered into the world of emergency preparedness and vaccine coordination, can be trusted to find a pathway to scale COVID-19 vaccination efforts, then certainly the local public health teams that have spent decades training and developing plans specifically on pandemic response can be as well.
The complexities and barriers to entry to effectively administer doses of the vaccine are not insurmountable for local and regional public health teams and efforts to address any gaps identified during the hearing would serve only to build lasting capacity and capability within local and regional infrastructure.
The hearing also left many unanswered questions, including whether the Baker-Polito Administration’s pace of relaxing restrictions is supported by any public health experts given the vaccine supply constraints, why we have not expanded vaccine eligibility for people with disabilities, equity goals and metrics, and the appropriateness of spending millions of taxpayer dollars for private corporate consulting contracts.
Thank you to all of the legislators, local and regional health officials, and Administration officials who answered questions. The Committee will certainly follow up on these vital concerns.