December 05, 2021

As Omicron Cases Are Detected In New York, Gillibrand Pushes For Creation Of Covid-19 And Pandemic Response Centers Of Excellence To Prepare For Future Variants And Help Prevent Public Health Emergencies

Uncertainty Remains As Mutations Continue to Threaten Progress Combating COVID-19; The COVID-19 and Pandemic Response Centers of Excellence Act would improve ability to track variants, prepare for public health emergencies and improve readiness

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney held a press conference at NYU Langone Health to push for passage of the bipartisan COVID-19 and Pandemic Response Centers of Excellence Act, which would deliver funding to establish COVID-19 and Pandemic Response Centers of Excellence programs at academic medical centers across the country, potentially including at New York City locations like NYU Langone Health and Weill Cornell. 

The legislation would improve our ability to swiftly respond to new variants like Omicron. It would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to designate eligible academic medical centers as “Centers of Excellence” to address COVID–19, including testing and diagnostics, patient care, mental health of health care workers and caregivers, health and health disparities, research, education, and training, and would also improve our ability to prepare for and prevent future pandemics. The legislation would authorize $500,000,000 total for the program and would provide $10,000,000 to at least ten academic medical centers for real-time response efforts to COVID-19 and for future pandemic preparedness. 

Gillibrand and Maloney were joined by Mark J. Mulligan, MD, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology and director of the Vaccine Center at NYU Langone Health and Dr. Jay Varma, professor at Weill Cornell Medicine and director of Weill Cornell Medicine’s new Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response.

“The Omicron variant, and the recent news that cases of the variant have been confirmed in New York, are a reminder that COVID is not over and that tackling pandemics and public health challenges is – and will be – an ongoing effort. Viruses evolve and our ability to respond must evolve alongside them – whether that’s our ability to monitor and meet the needs of COVID long-haulers, track new variants like Omicron, or prepare for the next public health emergency,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “The bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 and Pandemic Response Centers of Excellence Act would provide critical startup funding to strengthen our nation’s emergency response preparedness as we battle the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, improve our response to new variants and build resiliency against any future pandemics or public health crises.”

 

“The COVID-19 crisis devastated New York City, but thanks to the cutting edge medical and academic research institutions in our City, we became the national leaders on therapies, vaccines, and other medical responses to the virus. The COVID-19 and Pandemic Response ‘Centers of Excellence’ Act ensures that in the event of another pandemic or public health crisis, our city and nation will be well equipped to combat anything that comes our way by designating academic medical centers as hubs that will improve our ability to quickly respond to these emerging threats and help us with the ongoing fight to conquer COVID-19,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

Throughout the pandemic, academic medical centers have been at the forefront of response and recovery efforts. Medical centers like SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, the University of Rochester, and Tisch Hospital in New York City have formed necessary public health guidance and advanced life-saving medical breakthroughs,” said Representative John Katko. “However, there are still many unanswered questions about COVID-19. That’s why I introduced the bipartisan and bicameral COVID-19 and Pandemic Response Centers of Excellence Act alongside Senator Gillibrand. This measure will support our local medical centers by funding additional research on COVID-19 variants, the impacts this virus has on our health, and how to better prepare for future public health emergencies. I join Senator Gillibrand in urging immediate passage of this vital bill.”

While COVID-19 is the first pandemic many of us have lived through, it most likely will not be the last,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), the House sponsor of the bill. “We are fortunate enough here in the United States to have world class medical and public health centers. This bill would provide funding to these academic medical centers so they can continue to be research and communication hubs in the ongoing fight against COVID-19 and down the road against future pandemics. I thank Senator Gillibrand for introducing the Senate version of this bill and urge both chambers of Congress to swiftly take up the legislation. There is no time to waste.”

"With the Omicron variant now confirmed in the United States, we must do everything we can to prepare for the potential of yet another wave of this pandemic which has devastated far too many lives,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13).The COVID–19 and Pandemic Response ‘Centers of Excellence’ Act will enable us to provide adequate care for individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, while combating health inequities here in New York City and across the nation. I commend Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Velázquez on their effort which can boost our ability to conduct the necessary research to finally bring an end to this global public health emergency once and for all."

 

"Throughout this pandemic, we have so thoroughly and completely relied on our healthcare systems to see us to tomorrow. These institutions are not only responsible for providing the care which has and continues to save countless lives, but for the medical breakthroughs which have been invaluable towards preventing further losses of life. The COVID-19 and Pandemic Response Centers of Excellence Act is essential if we are to ensure our academic medical centers have the resources they need to both continue their revelatory research when the next public health crisis emerges and effectively communicate that research with the public. With these necessary investments, we will strengthen our preparedness for future public health crises and proactively protect our communities,” said Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.

The sharing of scientific knowledge and best practices, together with increased coordination and cooperation, will increase our ability to prevent and prepare for future public health emergencies. The COVID-19 and Pandemic Response Centers of Excellence Act will mobilize a national coalition of academic medical centers to strengthen COVID-19 patient care, research, education and community outreach, and will accelerate our ability to respond to variants like Omicron. We strongly support this crucial legislation and thank Senator Gillibrand, Congress Member Velazquez and the other bill sponsors for their leadership on this important effort,” said Mark J. Mulligan, MD, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology and director of the Vaccine Center at NYU Langone Health.

COVID-19 has taught us that we are in a constant fight both against this virus and new infectious disease threats emerging every day, and that the only way to fight effectively is to strengthen every part of our health system. Academic medical centers are the critical link between patients, researchers, local health departments, and the biotech industry. Creating Centers of Excellence at academic medical centers will insure that we are better prepared to deliver to New Yorkers the data, tests, treatments, and vaccines that keep us safe,” said Jay K. Varma, MD, Professor of Population Health Sciences, Weill Cornell Medical College and Director of Weill Cornell Medicine’s Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response.

Academic medical centers have been at the forefront of our nation’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and have historically been used to establish infrastructure for advancing life-saving medical discoveries. This forward-thinking federal investment would provide direct support and fortify our nation’s emergency response preparedness by supporting cutting-edge research, education, patient care, and community outreach related to COVID-19 and future pandemics.

The bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 and Pandemic Response Centers of Excellence Act would create a Centers of Excellence administration program at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to improve and expedite our nation’s fight against COVID-19 and future pandemics. The Centers of Excellence model provides a holistic approach to care and has the flexibility to leverage public-private partnerships that will allow the United States to improve dissemination of clinician training, infection prevention, public health surveillance and outcomes tracking, public outreach and education, clinical research, and development for testing, treatment, and vaccines. This bill would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements to academic medical centers and would seek to expedite their proactive work on:

  • COVID-19 patient care and survivor recovery
  • Mental health resources for frontline health care workers
  • Combating health care disparities and promoting health equity
  • Robust public health endangerment research and education
  • Future readiness to conduct diverse clinical trial research and vaccine research 

The COVID-19 and Pandemic Response Centers of Excellence Act is endorsed by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), Associated Medical Schools of New York, Solve M.E/CFS Initiative, Baylor Scott & White Health, Cornell University, Houston Methodist, Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, Louisiana State University, Mass General Brigham, NYU Langone Health, Rutgers - The State University of New Jersey, Stony Brook University, The Ohio State University, The University of Utah, University of Iowa Health Care, Washington University, Atrium Health, UNC Health & UNC School of Medicine, The State University of New York and New York-Presbyterian, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), University of Rochester Medical Center, and Columbia University Irving Medical Center.