Public health and safety must be paramount when taking action to reopen the nation during the coronavirus pandemic, Georges Benjamin, MD, APHA’s executive director, told Congress on May 13.

Benjamin was part of an expert virtual panel invited to the first briefing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. Chaired by Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the select subcommittee was created in April to oversee the federal response to the coronavirus crisis.

Georges Benjamin speaking“Our state and local health departments are working diligently every day to adequately build up testing and tracing capacity, but we need the federal government to assist with guidance,” Benjamin said in his remarks.

During the livestreamed event, Benjamin and other speakers shared insights on plans to guide federal and state work on testing, tracing and targeted containment before reopening the country

“We’re all in this together, and if we start today, we have the opportunity to do this right,” Benjamin said about reopening. “I just hope we put in the resources, organization and leadership to get it done.”

Benjamin also highlighted the front-line public health response to the pandemic, the disproportionate impact COVID-19 is having on minority communities and the need for building an adequate and sustainable public health system.

Other panelists testifying were Scott Gottlieb, MD, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; Tom Inglesby, MD, director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Affairs; Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute; and Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

See Georges Benjamin, MD's short video about his testimony and how we must invest in our public health system if we want our communities to return to normal.

And for a more in-depth exploration of the topic, watch the seventh webinar in APHA's COVID-19 Conversations series, "Toward the 'New Normal' — Protecting Public Health as America Reopens," moderated by Scott Gottlieb, MD.



Photo: Georges Benjamin speaking to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.