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Four Pandemic Preparedness Experts Call for 9/11-like Commission

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Four co-authors of the recently published "Preparing for the Next Pandemic," in a virtual roundtable with consulting firm CollaborateUp and the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs, issued a call for a 9/11-style commission to investigate and unearth lessons learned from the U.S. government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Co-author Christine Crudo Blackburn, Ph.D., Deputy Director of the Pandemic & Biosecurity Policy Program at the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at Texas A&M University, emphasized the importance of understanding exactly what happened during the response to COVID-19, saying that, "We can't forget after this pandemic is over. We always talk about 1918 and how we are afraid of it recurring, but I think a lot of people don't know that everyone forgot about 1918 after it happened. It was not in history books; it's called 'the forgotten pandemic' by historians...."

"I think we need to make sure that we don't forget about COVID-19 and that we move forward remembering how difficult it was, remembering the challenges and learning from those challenges."

Co-author and Associate Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University Gerald Parker, Ph.D., said that, "Emerging infectious diseases with pandemic potential constitute and ought to be treated like other national security threats."

Dr. Parker elaborated on the role of citizens and leaders at every level in this paradigm shift through grassroots movements and campaigning, stating that, "It's going to be up to us, you and I, as individual citizens to play more of a public advocacy role going forward so our politicians will have to make more political and resource commitments [to pandemic preparedness]. I'm hopeful that we will get beyond this boom-and-bust cycle that we've had over the last 15 years and have pandemic preparedness recognized as a national security issue."

In addition, co-author and CollaborateUp CEO Richard Crespin said, "We need to call a spade a spade. 'America' isn't failing at addressing the pandemic. 13 states are failing, in part due to a lack of national leadership. 37 are doing a pretty good job. That means we now need distinctly different approaches. Leaders in the 37 states that have managed to bring their caseloads under control can take a short breath and then get back to work preparing for the fall and winter. The 13 failing states need to take immediate action to bring their cases under control."

The co-authors explored steps that local leaders can take to manage the recent uptick in infection.

Dr. Blackburn mentioned the need to diversify supply chains and increase their agility beyond our current just-in-time system; "if we don't understand where the gaps are in our supply chains and what could go wrong in the case of a pandemic then we're going to be unprepared. We also need to have more ability to supply our own PPE or supply our own vital pharmaceuticals so that a supply chain disruption isn't going to lead to the death of Americans because we aren't able to get those supplies."

"That's not a protectionist thing, I think that is about asking 'if we have a pandemic and everything fails what do we need to make sure we are able to produce for ourselves?' It's not calling for the elimination of global supply chains, it's saying understand those but also know what things we need to be able to produce ourselves."

Leslie E. Ruyle, Ph.D., Assistant Director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs, noted the value of viewing zoonotic disease like COVID-19 through the lens of the global One Health approach by seeing that, "The health of the community really depends on the health of the environment, and that depends on the health of animals, both wild and those that are domesticated for food ... this is something that all of the human population needs to think about and move forward with."

Dr. Parker also touched on the inherently local nature of many tough questions surrounding re-opening the economy and schools in the coming months, as well as the need to consider unintended consequences caused by lockdowns. He said that, "Community mitigations, interventions, and closures have had many unintended consequences, just in the health and medical lane that go far beyond the consequences of COVID-19. Whether that be mental health, whether that be people not seeking care for other conditions and other deaths that have occurred because they were afraid to go to the hospital for whatever reason."

"We still are in the very early stages of this, I and many other scientists believe. We do have to figure out how we can live with the virus as safely as possible, and I think we can. We're going to have to mitigate the risk. We understand how to live with many other risks in our life, and this is a new risk that we're going to have to figure it out."

A more detailed summary of the virtual roundtable and its 8 key recommendations for leaders and policy makers can be found in CollaborateUp's recap blog, found here: https://collaborateup.com/preparing-for-pandemics-in-the-modern-world-8-lessons-on-managing-covid-19s-coming-waves-future-outbreaks/

About the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs

The Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs is a research institute housed in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. The Institute is named in honor of Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, USAF (Ret.), whose long and distinguished career in public service included serving as National Security Advisor for Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. The Institute's core mission is to foster and disseminate policy-oriented research on international affairs by supporting faculty and student research, hosting international speakers and major scholarly conferences, and providing grants to outside researchers to use the holdings of the Bush Library.

More information can be found at: https://bush.tamu.edu/scowcroft/

About CollaborateUp

CollaborateUp is an elite consulting firm serving clients across the United States and the world. The firm works to bring companies, nonprofits, and governments together to tackle society's biggest challenges, from combating fake news to combating wildlife crime and from building a more inclusive workforce to building a more inclusive society. CollaborateUp brings decades of experience tackling problems within communities, across regions, and among countries, deploying a lean startup toolkit of adaptable tools that community leaders can adapt and use themselves, providing training services to accelerate the impact leaders can have using the tools, and providing hands-on consulting services that cover the full lifecycle of social impact programs from conception to management to scale. Clients have included private companies like 3M and IBM, large international NGOs like PSI and WWF, and government agencies like the US Departments of Defense and State.

More information can be found at https://www.collaborateup.com/.

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