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Mitt Romney sponsors bill to prepare country for future pandemics

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Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, talks to reporters as he arrives for the weekly Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, June 9, 2020.

Susan Walsh, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Saying federal health officials were slow to gauge the COVID-19 threat, Sen. Mitt Romney introduced bipartisan legislation to prepare the country for future disease outbreaks.

The bill would require a plan for diagnostic testing and public health system integration to better detect infectious diseases, prevent outbreaks and avoid future economic shutdowns related to pandemics.

“From the start, federal health officials have been behind the curve in assessing the public health threat of COVID-19, in part due to a severe deficiency in real-time health data,” Romney, R-Utah, said. “We have got to have more reliable data so that the American people know where the greatest risks lie.”

The legislation would also make conducting and reporting on rapid and accurate laboratory tests for diseases a priority of the nation’s strategic plan to identify, prevent and address public health threats and other emergencies. It also provides grants to state and local public health departments to support testing and reporting capacity. 

In addition to Romney, sponsors are Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.