Strengthening Pandemic Preparedness in North Carolina: Task Force Updates

Blog | May 23, 2022


In July 2021, the North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) and the South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health (IMPH) launched the Carolinas Pandemic Preparedness Task Force with funding and support from the Duke Endowment, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation (an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association), and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Guided by a focus on equity and an understanding of the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on historically marginalized and vulnerable groups, the task force has brought together representatives from both states to examine lessons learned during the current pandemic and develop actionable recommendations to strengthen future pandemic preparedness and response efforts.

The task force is co-chaired by North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Machelle Baker Sanders and Dr. Harris Pastides, interim president of the University of South Carolina. The full task force includes more than 80 representatives from a wide variety of sectors with knowledge and expertise related to the COVID-19 response in both states, including education, business, emergency management and public safety, advocacy groups and community representatives, research, and health.

The NCIOM and IMPH convened the North and South Carolina task forces jointly six times between July 2021 and April 2022, while each team also conducted additional state-by-state activities during the surge in COVID-19 cases attributed to the Delta variant in September and October 2021. Several areas of improvement were identified by both task forces as key to building resilience in the event of a pandemic:

  • The importance of equity and centering the needs of historically marginalized and vulnerable populations
  • A robust, supported workforce that is healthy, safe, and sustainable to promote the health, safety, and well-being of workers, and ensure access to sources of food, housing, health care, transportation, and education
  • Timely, reliable, and trusted information for data-driven decision-making, as well as clear, effective, and tailored communication of public health guidance to communities in each state
  • A resilient supply chain that ensures adequate supplies without delay or interruption to effectively control the spread of disease and reduce disease risk, address basic needs, and support a productive workforce
  • Innovative, accessible health care and delivery to improve, promote, and protect health and well-being, including behavioral health
  • An adaptive educational system to support students, their families, school systems, and the workforce

Each state will publish a final task force report in mid-August that includes these common foundational areas, as well as state-specific strategies to achieve these goals. For additional information on the Carolinas Pandemic Preparedness Task Force, click here.

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