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Congresswoman Escobar Introduces Legislation to Develop Binational Strategic Plan to Protect Border Communities Against COVID-19

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) introduced the Binational Health Strategies Act of 2020. The legislation is designed to protect border communities against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by amending the United States-Mexico Border Health Commission Act to direct the U.S.-Mexico Border Heath Commission to assemble a report on COVID-19 response along the border and create binational plans addressing  COVID-19 and future infectious diseases.

This legislation builds on Congresswoman Veronica Escobar’s efforts to push for a binational strategy that includes identical testing and tracing policies, and resources to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect border communities.

“With over 219,000 American and 86,000 Mexican lives lost to coronavirus, Congress must urgently act to empower the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission to develop a robust border mitigation, testing, and contact tracing plan that protects border communities,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “The Binational Health Strategies Act would protect the lives, livelihoods, and economies of our border communities and prepare our region to confront future public health threats.” 

This legislation:

  • Requires the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission to submit a report on the border region’s response to COVID-19 within 120 days of enactment of the legislation and annual reports on the border region’s response to COVID-19. This report must contain information regarding, but not limited to, testing, contact tracing, and other infection prevention and control measures carried out in the border region on both sides of the border.
  • Requires the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission to develop and publish a binational strategic plan to address COVID-19 within 60 days of the legislation’s enactment. This plan must address, but is not limited to:
    • How the border region can bolster its response to COVID-19 in regards to testing, contact tracing, and other infection prevention and control measures.
    • How the effect of COVID-19 on economic conditions in the border region may be mitigated.
    • How health agencies on both sides of the border can effectively share relevant COVID-19 health data, including testing and positivity rates.
    • How a vaccine should be disbursed within the border region when taking into account the vulnerable populations in the area.
  • Requires the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission to develop actions that should be taken by federal agencies in the U.S. and Mexico to facilitate implementation of the COVID-19 binational plan. One year after the publication of this information the Commission will submit a report to Congress on what actions both governments have taken to implement this plan.
  • Requires the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission to develop a binational plan, within 180 days of this legislation’s enactment, to prepare and respond to other infectious diseases within the border region. The Commission will update this plan once every 3 years for as long as the Commission determines it is necessary.

The Binational Health Strategies Act of 2020 is co-sponsored by Representatives Lou Correa (CA-46), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07), and Filemon Vela (TX-34). 

To view the bill text, click here and to view a section-by-section of the bill, click here.

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