Washington (May 13, 2022) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) today urged public health officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to better prioritize the needs of populations at highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19 – including seniors, people with disabilities, and the immunocompromised – in their ongoing response to the public health emergency. As federal public messaging shifts towards encouraging Americans to return to everyday routines, the Senators fault the CDC for failing to consider the realities of America’s highest-risk populations. Specifically, in their letter, the Senators request the Biden administration consult communities at higher risk as they reevaluate their messaging, publicly report data on hospital-acquired COVID-19 infections and deaths, make clear that masks are still required in health care facilities, and explore options for making high-quality masks available to high-risk groups.


“Although vaccines and treatments have helped reduce the severity of COVID-19 for many, the disease still poses a significant threat to the health and safety of large portions of the American public,” write the Senators in their letter. “The federal government’s health agencies cannot leave behind the millions of American seniors, people with disabilities, and people with compromised immune systems who face significant risks from COVID-19 infection.” 


A copy of the letter can be found HERE.


The Senators are requesting a response from HHS and CDC to questions that include:

  • How will future CDC COVID-19 messaging, guidance, and recommendations prioritize the wellbeing of disabled and immunocompromised people, seniors, and other high-risk groups? 
  • Will CDC meet with members of affected communities during the CDC’s evaluation and review process?
  • Will HHS publicly report hospital-level data for hospital-acquired COVID-19 infections?
  • Will the CDC clarify its masking guidance in order to protect high-risk populations?
  • Will HHS commit to increasing access to N95 and KN95 masks for high-risk populations, including by mailing masks to them?