When the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 happened, we took a hard look at building codes and regulations and made the changes so that it would never happen again. This is the same approach we must adopt when dealing with pandemics.
COVID-19 changed our entire way of life. Since its start, more than 1 million Americans have died from the virus. It has claimed more than 6.3 million lives worldwide—with no end in sight.
Retired nurse Patricia Frieson, a 61-year-old resident of the 1st Congressional District, was the first person in Illinois to die of COVID-19. Her sister, Wanda Bailey, succumbed to the virus nine days later.
Illinois’ 1st Congressional District is predominantly Black and Latino, the communities hardest hit by COVID-19 due to pre-existing economic inequalities and health disparities. Many families in the South and Southwest side of Chicago and the suburbs, woke up on March 20, 2022—the first day of the state’s “stay-at-home order”—as “essential workers.” Working class families with vital jobs necessary to maintain the nation’s supply chain going—grocery employees, bank tellers, plumbers, electricians, health care workers, paramedics, cops and firefighters—were tasked with the difficult responsibility of showing up to work and putting their health, and that of their families, at risk for the sake of our country. Decades of disinvestment in marginalized communities led to COVID-19 ravaging the population reclassified as “frontline workers.”
COVID-19 showed us our country’s vulnerability. Addressing it, and preparing for the next pandemic, is vital to the survival and success of the American way of life. The cost of COVID-19 to the U.S. is upwards of $16 trillion dollars. Equity in pandemic relief is vital to the economic mobility and vibrancy of the 1st Congressional District. There’s no better way to say “America is back,” then by getting COVID-19 under control and using its lessons to prevent the next pandemic by implementing the following policy positions:
- Establishing independent oversight of labs conducting dual-use research of concern. We must create consequences that are strictly enforced when noncompliance with safety and security protocols occurs—or risk losing millions more lives. The review of this work should be controlled by an independent committee concerned with preventing the next pandemic, rather than by the same groups funding this critical research. Supervision should be moved away from the National Institutes of Health in order for unbiased oversight to occur.
- Being proactive about investing in scientific research allows for a better understanding of biosecurity. Creating a foundation for the fast development and distribution of life-saving vaccines is essential.
- Promoting media literacy to minimize the spread of misinformation, rumors and lies that can lead to misguided decisions that result in death, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 1st Congressional District needs more than an advocate for federal funds and pandemic preparedness. The district requires a responsible and transparent steward of the cashflow that will go where it is needed the most—to its residents.
Working to prevent the next pandemic is not only vital to our nation’s economy, but also necessary to ensure a high-quality of life for residents.