Home House passes bill to prepare U.S. aviation for future public health emergencies

House passes bill to prepare U.S. aviation for future public health emergencies

Rebecca Barnabi
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The U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Aviation Preparedness Plan Act on September 14 with a 293 to 133 vote.

Introduced by Washington Rep. Rick Larsen and Virginia Rep. Don Beyer, the legislation requires the development of a national aviation preparedness plan for future public health emergencies.

The bipartisan bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“Seven years ago, a Government Accountability Office study I requested during the emergence of Ebola found the U.S. lacks a comprehensive plan aimed at preventing and containing diseases through air travel and the U.S. should develop such a plan as soon as possible,” Larsen, chair of the Aviation Subcommittee, said in a press release. “Lessons learned from the Ebola and COVID-19 pandemics show the urgent need for a plan to ensure the safety of aviation crews, employees and passengers during future public health emergencies. I look forward to continue working with Rep. Beyer and my colleagues to get this bill over the finish line to keep the traveling public healthy and safe.”

Beyer said that at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic a national aviation preparedness plan could have saved lives.

“It is imperative that we learn from those mistakes to do better in the future, because it is extremely unlikely that COVID will be the last pandemic,” Beyer said in the press release. “House passage of this bill today is a big step toward answering the need for a coordinated national strategy to prevent spread of disease by air travel, a crucial element for pandemic response identified by government watchdogs and the U.N., among others. I thank Rep. Larsen for his leadership on this legislation, and urge the Senate to send it to the President for signature.”

In 2015, according to the press release, Larsen requested a Government Accountability Office study on the preparedness of U.S. aviation to handle the spread of a communicable disease during the emergence of the Ebola virus. The 2022 legislation is timely following an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reported by the World Health Organization in late August.

The bill is cosponsored by 12 other legislators, including D.C.’s Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.