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Why is there no Covid-19 commission in America?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID and Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden. Credit: Getty

February 21, 2023 - 7:00am

Over the past year, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Denmark have begun or completed public investigations into their countries’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. These governments believed it was important to report on successes and failures of pandemic decisions because it was the public that was on the receiving end of policies such as closed schools, vaccine mandates, and shuttered businesses. 

The United States is notably absent from this list, despite a long history of setting up bipartisan commissions after national crises in order to avoid repeating mistakes. Since 1989, when the current iteration of bipartisan commissions essentially came into being, Congress has funded 170 commissions to investigate problems ranging from the substantial (9/11 in 2002, the financial crisis in 2009) to the less weighty (the motor fuel tax enforcement commission of 2005, state of the Olympics in 2020). 

How can it be, then, that US politicians lack the will to create this type of bipartisan commission to investigate a pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands of people (we still do not know the precise number, because the CDC does not track this data accurately)? Let’s also not forget the collateral damage caused by pandemic policies that closed schools for millions of children, deferred health care visits for tens of millions, and thrust the weaknesses of our public health systems, including our severely strapped health care capacity, into the limelight. 

A few universities and think tanks have issued post-mortem reports. But, without the teeth or balance of a bipartisan commission — which would be able to appoint independent scientists and physicians to sift through data, use subpoena power, and act independently of Congress — most of these reports will languish unread and unused, instead of shaping policy. As for congressional committees, they are likely to be either whitewashes, such as the February House Energy and Commerce hearings where agency heads inaccurately answered questions about pandemic policies with little pushback, or marred by hyper-partisanship. 

The House, now led by the Republicans, set up another subcommittee in January to investigate the federal government’s pandemic policies, and it includes four Democrats. However, the inclusion of Marjorie Taylor Greene, perhaps the single most polarising member of Congress, on the committee is not a hopeful sign for the neutrality of the investigation. Nevertheless, the ranking Democrat, Raul Ruiz, says he is hopeful the committee “can actually be productive on a bipartisan basis”.  

A better path, though, would be for Congress not to leave this to chance by passing legislation to create a bipartisan Covid commission, despite the fact that, as the New York Times reported in December, “the White House is privately resisting it
 [and] Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader […] has not brought the legislation up for a floor vote”. Jeffrey Zients, the former coronavirus response coordinator and now Joe Biden’s chief of staff, also remarked tepidly when asked about a Covid-19 commission: “Over time we […] look forward to engaging with Congress and reviewing lessons learned.”

So, when? To aid this process, we (the authors plus six other scientists: Jay Bhattacharya, Ram Duriseti, Tracy Beth Hþeg, Martin Kulldorff, Marty Makary, and Steve Templeton) released a report earlier this month listing questions to inform just such a Covid-19 commission. The report examines America’s responses to the pandemic over ten chapters and includes an executive summary. Each chapter includes a list of questions that could guide a comprehensive inquiry into US Covid policies. 

The questions provide a framework for investigations into failures to protect older high-risk Americans, school closures, collateral lockdown harms, lack of robust public health data collected and/or made available, misleading risk communication, downplaying infection-acquired immunity, masks, testing, vaccine efficacy and safety, therapeutics, and epidemiological modelling. 

There is a plethora of available information — multiple reports, including ours, thousands of published papers, and vast amounts of data in public health agency databases — waiting to be mined. The American people, and the rest of the world, are waiting for Congress to do the right thing by voting on, funding, and appointing a bipartisan commission to investigate the US response to the most consequential national or international event since World War II. If not now, when?


Dr Margery Smelkinson is an infectious-disease scientist whose research has focused on influenza and SARS-CoV-2. Dr Leslie Bienen works in health care policy.

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Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago

Too many powerful vested interests. Also the fear that, if the pandemic was revealed to be a consequence of US government funded gain of function research – which doesn’t seem unlikely- the legal ramifications could be apocalyptic.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago

Too many powerful vested interests. Also the fear that, if the pandemic was revealed to be a consequence of US government funded gain of function research – which doesn’t seem unlikely- the legal ramifications could be apocalyptic.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

Why would the American government want to investigate a pandemic it helped cause?

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

Why would the American government want to investigate a pandemic it helped cause?

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago

If a Commission was established, it would just blame Trump for everything. So it would be worse than useless.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago

If a Commission was established, it would just blame Trump for everything. So it would be worse than useless.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Oh, come on. The entire government and its media are in the pay of pharmaceutical companies. Be serious.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Oh, come on. The entire government and its media are in the pay of pharmaceutical companies. Be serious.

Fiona Hok
Fiona Hok
1 year ago

Too many skeletons waving bony arms from the closets. The FDA’s authorisation of the Pfizer vaccine, in spite of Pfizer’s test results, for starters.

Fiona Hok
Fiona Hok
1 year ago

Too many skeletons waving bony arms from the closets. The FDA’s authorisation of the Pfizer vaccine, in spite of Pfizer’s test results, for starters.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
1 year ago

A bilateral commission would need to be critical of Tony Fauci, Debbie Birx, Robert Redfield and Rochelle Walensky, among others. I don’t think that is going to happen. Too politically fraught.
Interestingly, after the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic the American Medical Association commissioned a 600-page study that was published in 1927. It was called Epidemic Influenza: A Survey, by Edwin O. Jordan, and a copy is available at Epidemic Influenza: A Survey (umich.edu).
In my mind that would be better than a government commission, which would be more of a bother than a benefit.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
1 year ago

A bilateral commission would need to be critical of Tony Fauci, Debbie Birx, Robert Redfield and Rochelle Walensky, among others. I don’t think that is going to happen. Too politically fraught.
Interestingly, after the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic the American Medical Association commissioned a 600-page study that was published in 1927. It was called Epidemic Influenza: A Survey, by Edwin O. Jordan, and a copy is available at Epidemic Influenza: A Survey (umich.edu).
In my mind that would be better than a government commission, which would be more of a bother than a benefit.

Sean Lebas
Sean Lebas
1 year ago

Dissident journalism and opinion, vibrant in America when free of mainstream restraint, has elucidated quite a lurid picture of what happened. The very dark malfeasance of institutions, industries, political and corporate leaders is now recognized by a wide and growing consensus. The last congressional Committee investigation of ostensibly great national interest was an inept fiasco that ruined the political careers of its most outlandish clowns. There’d be no hope for this one. They won’t dare : the contracts, the process, the countermeasures and the crimes are all too well known now.

Last edited 1 year ago by Sean Lebas
Sean Lebas
Sean Lebas
1 year ago

Dissident journalism and opinion, vibrant in America when free of mainstream restraint, has elucidated quite a lurid picture of what happened. The very dark malfeasance of institutions, industries, political and corporate leaders is now recognized by a wide and growing consensus. The last congressional Committee investigation of ostensibly great national interest was an inept fiasco that ruined the political careers of its most outlandish clowns. There’d be no hope for this one. They won’t dare : the contracts, the process, the countermeasures and the crimes are all too well known now.

Last edited 1 year ago by Sean Lebas
Jane H
Jane H
1 year ago

It’s because Biden and the WHO are drafting the Global Pandemic Treaty at this very moment which would give the notoriously corrupt World Health Organisation complete legally binding authority over the pandemic responses of sovereign nations, including Great Britain, eg., lockdowns, mandatory vaccination etc They also get to decide which viruses should be declared as a pandemic, recently officially declaring monkeypox a pandemic! This treaty will legally override sovereign nations making their own decisions over pandemic responses. They don’t want a commission looking into mistakes made by the WHO or former government covid pandemic dictates as this would cause too much public distrust and threaten the successful ratification of the Global Pandemic Treaty. Next on the horizon, Global Vaccination Passports, I kid you not.

Jane H
Jane H
1 year ago

It’s because Biden and the WHO are drafting the Global Pandemic Treaty at this very moment which would give the notoriously corrupt World Health Organisation complete legally binding authority over the pandemic responses of sovereign nations, including Great Britain, eg., lockdowns, mandatory vaccination etc They also get to decide which viruses should be declared as a pandemic, recently officially declaring monkeypox a pandemic! This treaty will legally override sovereign nations making their own decisions over pandemic responses. They don’t want a commission looking into mistakes made by the WHO or former government covid pandemic dictates as this would cause too much public distrust and threaten the successful ratification of the Global Pandemic Treaty. Next on the horizon, Global Vaccination Passports, I kid you not.

Robin Pennock
Robin Pennock
1 year ago

Look at the amount of money (in the millions) spent by Pfizer and Modesta for lobbying. THAT is a clue to the US inaction.

Robin Pennock
Robin Pennock
1 year ago

Look at the amount of money (in the millions) spent by Pfizer and Modesta for lobbying. THAT is a clue to the US inaction.

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago

When the CDC director was asked why they were not funding proper research to determine the clinical efficacy of masks, she claimed the reason was that there was no “equipoise”. I had to look that word up – it means there’s no uncertainty among the ‘expert medical community’ about the issue. Or as the Bill Maher spoof goes, “I don’t know it for a fact, I just know its true”. So why would these people ever agree to a commission? There’s no equipoise! The experts who matter (which can be determined by asking the experts who matter) all agree with each other: they were right about everything.

James Stangl
James Stangl
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Not only is there almost lockstep certainty (orthodoxy) among the “experts,” there’s been way too much money made or to be made and power to wield to upset the apple cart.
Think for a moment how much $$ has flowed into Pfizer’s, J&J’s, and Moderna’s coffers. Think about all those “experts” who look forward to very cushy jobs with Pharma and related industries after they leave government work for the inevitable private consultant jobs in crony capitalist corporate America. Think of the raw exercise of power that government at all levels got a taste of during the lockdown and mandates.
There will be absolutely no introspection or serious soulsearching by government, either here in the USA, Canada, or I’m sure AUS and NZ. There may be insincere expressions of regret, “mistakes were made,” but never any honest, objective inquiries or post-mortem.

James Stangl
James Stangl
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Not only is there almost lockstep certainty (orthodoxy) among the “experts,” there’s been way too much money made or to be made and power to wield to upset the apple cart.
Think for a moment how much $$ has flowed into Pfizer’s, J&J’s, and Moderna’s coffers. Think about all those “experts” who look forward to very cushy jobs with Pharma and related industries after they leave government work for the inevitable private consultant jobs in crony capitalist corporate America. Think of the raw exercise of power that government at all levels got a taste of during the lockdown and mandates.
There will be absolutely no introspection or serious soulsearching by government, either here in the USA, Canada, or I’m sure AUS and NZ. There may be insincere expressions of regret, “mistakes were made,” but never any honest, objective inquiries or post-mortem.

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago

When the CDC director was asked why they were not funding proper research to determine the clinical efficacy of masks, she claimed the reason was that there was no “equipoise”. I had to look that word up – it means there’s no uncertainty among the ‘expert medical community’ about the issue. Or as the Bill Maher spoof goes, “I don’t know it for a fact, I just know its true”. So why would these people ever agree to a commission? There’s no equipoise! The experts who matter (which can be determined by asking the experts who matter) all agree with each other: they were right about everything.

Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago

Simple, Biden is Prez and he is in the pocket of the CCP. He, and most Donkeys, will do nothing to embarrass the CCP. They don’t want to cut off their payola. And the Donkey governors want to keep their jobs and their necks.
Let’s also not forget the collateral damage caused by pandemic policies that closed schools for millions of children, deferred health care visits for tens of millions, and thrust the weaknesses of our public health systems, including our severely strapped health care capacity, into the limelight. 

Last edited 1 year ago by Terry M
Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago

Simple, Biden is Prez and he is in the pocket of the CCP. He, and most Donkeys, will do nothing to embarrass the CCP. They don’t want to cut off their payola. And the Donkey governors want to keep their jobs and their necks.
Let’s also not forget the collateral damage caused by pandemic policies that closed schools for millions of children, deferred health care visits for tens of millions, and thrust the weaknesses of our public health systems, including our severely strapped health care capacity, into the limelight. 

Last edited 1 year ago by Terry M
JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
1 year ago

This situation, the Covid 19 pandemic, is truly unprecedented in many ways. This is the first time we had an event of this type in a hyper-globalised state, where policy, rhetoric, behaviour etc all became memetic in real time.

This is also the first time we have seen such a powerful convergence of interests, spanning the globe. The number of players who converged into this pandemic and drove it for their own profit, is breathtaking. It wasn’t simply corporate misbehaviour for profit that drove this madness …it was also corrupt health agencies covering their own tracks, and the military players who stepped in to run the ‘operation’ and increase their own budgets and power, and then governments who actually started acting as the aggressive PR & marketing arms of private companies, and then big tech companies and banks who could use this to drive profits from new conditions, and then global institutions and think tanks who participated aggressively in order to increase their own power and drive totally separate agendas.

This convergence was effectively f@scism on steroids. Global, tech-amplified f@scism. The powers of State (which is a coercive power) merged completely with the power of private capital/big business interests. The result was totalitarian – literally, total. They converged in their interests and corralled us from all sides.

So now, who could or would investigate? They were all involved. Just as all these separate power bases worked in concert for their own ends, they will do so in the cover up too.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
1 year ago

This situation, the Covid 19 pandemic, is truly unprecedented in many ways. This is the first time we had an event of this type in a hyper-globalised state, where policy, rhetoric, behaviour etc all became memetic in real time.

This is also the first time we have seen such a powerful convergence of interests, spanning the globe. The number of players who converged into this pandemic and drove it for their own profit, is breathtaking. It wasn’t simply corporate misbehaviour for profit that drove this madness …it was also corrupt health agencies covering their own tracks, and the military players who stepped in to run the ‘operation’ and increase their own budgets and power, and then governments who actually started acting as the aggressive PR & marketing arms of private companies, and then big tech companies and banks who could use this to drive profits from new conditions, and then global institutions and think tanks who participated aggressively in order to increase their own power and drive totally separate agendas.

This convergence was effectively f@scism on steroids. Global, tech-amplified f@scism. The powers of State (which is a coercive power) merged completely with the power of private capital/big business interests. The result was totalitarian – literally, total. They converged in their interests and corralled us from all sides.

So now, who could or would investigate? They were all involved. Just as all these separate power bases worked in concert for their own ends, they will do so in the cover up too.

Kevan Hudson
Kevan Hudson
1 year ago

Canada most likely will not have a pandemic commission either at this time.
Everything pandemic related was too politicized for Prime Minister Trudeau to even attempt a critical look back.

Kevan Hudson
Kevan Hudson
1 year ago

Canada most likely will not have a pandemic commission either at this time.
Everything pandemic related was too politicized for Prime Minister Trudeau to even attempt a critical look back.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

Simple answer. The Democrat Party led by Joe Biden is dishonest and corrupt.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

Simple answer. The Democrat Party led by Joe Biden is dishonest and corrupt.

Marek Nowicki
Marek Nowicki
1 year ago

In US we don’t investigate, we sue….

Marek Nowicki
Marek Nowicki
1 year ago

In US we don’t investigate, we sue….

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 year ago

As a nation, we’re a mess. We’re simply no longer capable of investigating our own mistakes.
Serious people need to start a sincere discussion about breaking up. The nation is just too fractious, too philosophically diverse. The benefits of global hegemony are no longer paying off for most of us. Our constitution prevents us from making the changes needed to make our legislatures functional again. We are like a beached whale; eventually the stench will be unbearable. Even the gulls will avoid us.
There are many difficult decisions to thrash out. The process will take years. We’ll all be a bit poorer when it’s over. But we’re grown-up enough to have an amicable divorce. (Luckily, there’s not enough testosterone left to have a real civil war.) Tweaking the small print won’t be enough. We need to seperate.

James Stangl
James Stangl
1 year ago

Laurence, there will never be an “amicable” national divorce. Since the Civil War, the federal government has consolidated far more power, and has in many respects made the states dependent upon federal largesse. Add to that the fact that both coasts would very quickly realize just how dependent they are on the “flyover” states for food, energy, and other necessities of life, and they would fight tooth and claw to preserve the current dysfunctional arrangement.