PRESIDENT ’ S / CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER ’ S MESSAGE
What are some of the near-term objectives in this response , now that we ’ re 10 months in ?
Whitmar : What we really need to do is to resolve the supply chain issues with testing supplies . If we don ’ t have supplies , we can ’ t test — not just for COVID-19 , but all of the other testing our public health laboratories do every day . But another priority should be addressing staffing challenges . People are working hard six and seven days a week . How do we accommodate that schedule and keep our folks healthy , engaged and moving forward in their professional development ? I remember when we came up with a pandemic plan 10 years ago or more , we were thinking about how we ’ re going to test a couple of shifts per day for three or four months . This is going to go on much longer than what we ever anticipated in our original pandemic plan . So we have to accommodate how we ’ re going to keep our staff productive and happy going into maybe a year or a year and a half , or more .
Becker : That ’ s a lot of stress on the system , and it ’ s a lot of stress on people . But I think some good news is that help may be coming in the way of congressional funding . For the first time ever , a congressional appropriations report specifies $ 1 billion to improve public health laboratories in a FY21 appropriations bill , though it ’ s still working its way through the legislative process . For those also keeping score on public health data modernization , a number of years ago , APHL and our partners at CSTE , HIMSS and NAPHSIS originally asked for $ 1 billion for data modernization over 10 years . This was pre-pandemic . We received $ 50 million in last year ’ s appropriations bill prior to the pandemic , and the CARES Act pandemic response bill included $ 500 million . The House appropriations bill also gives $ 450 million in FY21 and the House HEROES Act , which is also winding its way through Congress , gives an additional $ 200 million more . If the funding levels in both the House appropriations bill and the HEROES Act become law , that ’ s $ 1.2 billion over two years ( not 10 ) for data modernization , and $ 1 billion for laboratory construction and improvement as well —$ 2.2 billion in additional federal funding for critical public health needs .
Whitmar : And as we all know , money does not grow on trees . It takes a lot of hard work on the part of APHL staff to not only go out and get those funds , but also utilize those funds in the most efficient manner .
When you look back at the public health laboratory response , what gives you the most hope ?
Whitmar : What gives me hope is that we do have the means to combat this pandemic , and that we ’ ve always had them at our disposal . It ’ s going to take brave leadership , from the White House on down , to be able to tell people “ This is what we need to do .” That leadership also exists within APHL , and we should not hesitate to use our collective voice . I ’ ve seen that voice used very recently to say this measure or that technology is not being employed correctly or efficiently . We need to stand up and the truth will win out . It always does .
Becker : We do know that we are going to continue to advocate for our member laboratories and public health laboratory science and practice . We ’ re going to continue to tell the public health laboratory story and share accurate , truthful details of the critical needs of our member labs . We ’ re going to continue to nurture existing champions on Capitol Hill , and try to develop new champions among those newly elected members of Congress . This emergency response has strengthened existing relationships and introduced us to new partners who are committed to defeating the virus and saving lives . And , as always , science must lead the way . n
This emergency response has strengthened existing relationships and introduced us to new partners who are committed to defeating the virus and saving lives . And , as always , science must lead the way .”
Scott Becker , MS