WASHINGTON — House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) opened today’s roundtable titled “Preparing For the Future By Learning From the Past: Examining COVID Policy Decisions” by noting the importance of the work before the subcommittee in the new congress and laying out the areas of investigation, including the origins of COVID-19, the impacts of government lockdowns, school closures, and vaccine mandates. Select Subcommittee Chairman Wenstrup continued by thanking the public health officials for appearing at the roundtable who will assist in understanding what pandemic-era policies went wrong and how we can improve moving forward. He concluded by emphasizing the American people deserve to know the reasoning, motives, and science behind decisions made during the pandemic.
Below are Select Subcommittee Chairman Wenstrup’s remarks as prepared:
This is the first time the new Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic has officially gathered for the 118th Congress.
It is an honor and privilege to be Chair and I look forward to the next two years of challenging but impactful work.
We are the only Committee in Congress explicitly charged with investigating a large swath of what happened over the course of the past three years associated with the pandemic.
- the origins of COVID-19;
- policies surrounding, and the use of, gain-of-function, or chimera research;
- fraud in taxpayer funded pandemic programs;
- the impacts of lockdowns and other government policies;
- the impacts of school closures, including learning loss; social, mental, and physical health ramifications; and economic opportunity loss;
- vaccine and therapeutic development and the subsequent mandates; and more.
We are here to deliver an after-action review of the past three years.
To learn from the past, not just what went wrong, but what was done right, and to prepare for the future.
This is work that must be done.
Must be done thoroughly.
And must be done with reverence with an eye toward the truth and based on facts.
This is work that was put on the back burner or entirely ignored by the previous majority.
But now is now and, frankly, our work and final report should be largely bipartisan.
I look forward to working with everyone in this room, on both sides of the aisle, to achieve these goals and produce a product that can stand the test of time.
And I strongly believe we have the team to achieve it.
On each side of the aisle, we have a wide range of knowledge and experiences.
Voices representing medicine and science, moms and dads, parents, business owners, local government leaders, and obviously, every member here has lived through the impacts of COVID-19.
Today, we get started and are joined by esteemed public health officials to help us chart a path forward; to help us understand what policies went wrong and how we, as a country, can improve.
Americans feel that time and time again the government failed to adequately protect the American people and often failed to follow the science:
- Did we truly support America’s children by not reopening schools? The government failed to rapidly reopen schools for in-person instruction. According to a study by Brown University economist Dr. Emily Oster, students who attended school mostly online for the 2020 to 2021 school year performed thirteen percent lower in math and eight percent lower in reading than their in-person counterparts.
- Further, according to the U.S. Surgeon General children and teenagers are going through a once in a lifetime mental health crisis, with twenty-five percent reporting experiencing depression and twenty percent experiencing anxiety symptoms. Suicide is also now the second leading cause of death, nationally, for children aged ten to fourteen.
- Across the federal government, taxpayer funded employees failed to report to work even after vaccines were widely available. According to data from the Office of Personnel Management, in 2018, approximately 483,000 government workers were remote. During the pandemic, that number rose to more than one million. This left Americans, across the country, who were being laid off because of lockdowns, struggling to get government services while government employees continued to receive all their benefits.
- Even more surprising, about ninety percent of the CDC were working remotely while responding to a once in a century pandemic. Dr. Deborah Birx testified that the “country would have been better served” if the CDC operated in person.
- How were elderly Americans harmed when governors, like former New York Governor Cuomo, forced nursing homes to accept more than 9,000 recovering and potentially contagious coronavirus patients against CDC and CMS guidelines?
- Did Governor Cuomo’s decision to move over 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients from hospitals into nursing homes seed the virus amongst those most at risk for serious illness and death? It’s a directive he later revoked under heavy criticism – but has yet to be held accountable for.
- The science was clear that infections from coronaviruses, including SARS and MERS, confer robust natural immunity. As a matter of fact, many scientists, feeling left out, recognize the existing science regarding infection acquired immunity as well as recognizing the pluses and minuses mRNA vaccines.
- Now, more than three years into this pandemic, The Lancet published an analysis confirming the health benefit associated with infection acquired immunity. They state that individuals previously infected with COVID, are eighty-eight percent less likely to succumb to serious disease for at least 10 months. A strength and duration seemingly on par with vaccine induced immunity.
- On December 5, 2020, then President-elect Biden promised vaccines would not be federally mandated. Less than one year into his presidency, President Biden abruptly announced a national vaccine-and-testing mandate—a mandate never before imposed on employers or the American workforce. Personal physician consultations were not part of this process. Did this benefit or harm public health?
Each one of these, and many other decisions, must and will be investigated thoroughly.
The American people deserve to know and understand how and why these impactful decisions were made.
Through this pandemic, there have been many mysteries, many unknowns.
We’ve had to deal with hypotheticals, and assumptions. Understandably, especially early on in the pandemic.
When hypotheticals and assumptions prove to be incorrect, did we correct?
Were we poised, or did we become poised, to gather telling data, and share that data with providers, and with the public?
Did we create unnecessary fear in some, and dangerous ambivalence in others?
I could go on, and this committee will go on.
“Monday morning quarterbacking” can be a healthy process – if we allow it.
Ask questions. Question decisions.
Discover the reasoning, motives, and science behind decisions made.
At the end of this process, our goal is to produce a product, hopefully bipartisan, based on knowledge and lessons learned.
A product that can benefit and serve future generations and benefit the health and well being of all Americans, and others around the world.
A pandemic will likely occur again, and when that happens, may we have the ability to Predict, Prepare, Protect, and Prevent.
Today, we will hear from experts and begin to advance our path forward.