Hawaii’s senior senator on Monday said he would work with a group of his colleagues to bring together “independent experts” to determine when it is safe for the nation to reopen.

Legislation would call for the establishment of an America Forward Commission that would draw on the fields of public health, economics, national security, transportation and state and local government leaders to advise policymakers.

Senator Brian Schatz takes questions during his town hall meeting held at Washington Middle School.

Senator Brian Schatz at a town hall in Hawaii in 2019.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“Reopening communities, schools, and businesses following a pandemic is a serious public health matter, and we should treat it that way,” Schatz said in a press release. “Independent experts should be the ones helping us determine how we can reopen the country when it is safe to do so.”

The legislation will require the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine to appoint 10-15 members, with at least one expert in the following fields: public health, economics, transportation, medicine, national security, and state and local government.

The commission’s duties would include:

  • examining and developing standards, tools and techniques necessary to ensure that federal, state, and local officials can diagnose, isolate, and mitigate the coronavirus, including seasonal reoccurrences, and address other public health and economic impacts;
  • evaluating information sharing policies and practices for essential information between federal, state, and local stakeholders, as well as business and non-profit entities;
  • determining necessary medical supplies, personal protective equipment, and other materials; and evaluating proposals to strengthen the resilience of economic sectors and protect American workers most vulnerable to disruption from viral pandemics.

The press release from Schatz, a Democrat, did not identify which senators he would work with on the panel.

But it did say the panel would make “real-time recommendations to policymakers. The White House Coronavirus Task Force will be required to respond in writing to the Commission’s recommendations within one week of receipt, and to publicly post its responses.”

Schatz’s plan comes as governors on the East Coast and West Coast, most of them Democrats, are in discussions on when to reopen their states.

President Trump, a Republican, says only he has the authority to reopen state governments.

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