Noting that communities will be on the front lines of any effort to stop or contain a pandemic, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt on Dec. 5, 2005 convened senior state and local officials to establish an integrated federal-state influenza-pandemic planning process. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff helped open the meeting. Officials from every U.S. state, territory, Puerto Rico and tribal governments participated. The officials were advised to plan broadly.
In announcing a National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza on Nov. 1, President Bush charged Leavitt with convening state and local public health officials from across the nation to discuss their plans for a pandemic, and to help them improve pandemic planning at the community level.
By their nature, pandemics happen across the globe -- but their effects are excruciatingly local, Leavitt said. Pandemic planning needs to go beyond public health. Discussion at the state and local level needs to address how schools, businesses, public agencies and others participate in pandemic preparedness. With this meeting, we begin the critical coordination with state and local leaders to assure their readiness and the integration of our collective efforts if a pandemic outbreak strikes. Every step we take together now will save lives later, he added.
The avian flu bears the potential for societal disruption of unprecedented proportion, said Chertoff. Strong partnerships and smart planning will be our best protection against this threat. At the Presidents direction, we are tapping every capability and expertise within the federal government and among first responders and public health officials to maximize our nations preparedness.
Leavitt asked participants to begin preparing for a series of in-state pandemic-planning summits to be held in every state over the next several months. These in-state summits will help the public health and emergency response community in each state inform and involve their political, economic and community leadership in this process. The first local meeting will be held jointly with Gov. Tim Pawlenty in Minneapolis, Minn. on Dec. 14.
HHS advised states to establish a Pandemic Influenza Coordinating Committee to draft and adopt a plan that will:
-- Delineate the roles and responsibilities of state and local agencies and offices
-- Build on existing preparedness and response plans for bioterrorism events, SARS and other infectious disease emergencies
-- Address legal issues including those that affect hospital staffing, patient care and quarantine
-- Be periodically reviewed and updated
Pandemic readiness is a fundamental obligation of state and local governments, as well as the national government, Leavitt added. In starting this national conversation and providing useful tools, the Bush Administration is supporting work on the local level that will enhance preparedness both within and beyond our borders.