Oklahoma Republican U.S. Representative Tom Cole says the country would be well served by a 9/11-style commission to study the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and chart a way forward.
In an online conversation with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Cole said to him, it’s more likely Congress moves ahead on such a commission after the election, noting the 9/11 commission probably would have stalled if the attack had been in 2003 instead of 2001.
"But a lot of it will depend on who’s on that commission and what’s the spirit in which they approach this. You know, if it’s full of partisans of one side or the other, one trying to defend, the other trying to attack – and we’ve seen a lot of that on the pandemic. I mean, it’s inevitably a political issue in a political year, but we don’t need a commission looking at it that way," Cole said.
Cole, the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, said a COVID commission could help plan a national increase in testing to a recommended 4 million per day.
The commission could also help in determining who should be first in line for a vaccine when it becomes available. Cole said health care workers should absolutely be the top priority.
"To me, the next population, particularly institutionalized populations like nursing homes, honestly, like prisons. You know, we have a lot of outbreaks in penal systems. That’s an ideal breeding ground," Cole said. "A lot of people might not want to put them up near the top, but I think you have to because they’re a governmental responsibility."
As of Friday, Oklahoma had nearly 3,800 total cases of COVID-19 among prison inmates and workers, and 13 deaths are potentially because of the illness.