After approximately 200 Infrastructure Weeks, policymakers now appear to be actually talking about passing legislation about infrastructure! Congress also seems like it might take action to lay the groundwork for combatting the next pandemic; bipartisan efforts are underway. Putting the two together: how should Congress think about creating innovation infrastructure, broadly defined, to help combat the next pandemic?
Even before COVID-19, experts were sounding alarms about insufficient infrastructure to address the foreseeable risk of a global pandemic. In 2019, an expert group convened by the World Bank and WHO concluded that “[t]he world is not prepared” for the “very real threat of a rapidly moving, highly lethal pandemic of a respiratory pathogen,” among other things because “[t]oo many places lack even the most rudimentary health-care infrastructure.” COVID-19 has magnified these global health inequalities. But inadequate infrastructure investment is not just a problem in low-income countries: COVID-19 has also drawn increased attention to long-apparent weaknesses in many U.S. infrastructure sectors. We suggest priorities for three types of infrastructure: physical infrastructure, knowledge infrastructure, and human infrastructure (recognizing that these categories may overlap).