Covid-19 Commission Modeled on 9/11 Inquiry Draws Bipartisan Backing

But Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Mr. Biden’s top medical adviser for the pandemic, said it was important to investigate the origins of the pandemic. He said it took years after the coronavirus that caused SARS emerged in 2002 to determine that it had almost certainly jumped from bats or civets to humans at a wet market in China. That led to greater regulation of wet markets, he said.

The 9/11 Commission, signed into law at the end of 2002 by an initially reluctant President George W. Bush, was an independent, bipartisan panel that spent a year and a half investigating the attacks and the country’s preparedness for them, holding public hearings in what amounted to a national reckoning.

It produced an extensive report in book form — both a detailed analysis and a gripping narrative that was a surprise best seller and changed Americans’ understanding of the attacks, which killed nearly 3,000, and the terrorist threat. The report led to structural changes in government and in the way intelligence is evaluated and shared, as well as new cooperation among federal, state and local agencies.

“We have prevented dozens of terrorist attacks in our city, because they work together,” Ms. Gillibrand said, referring to New York. “And so the same approach of a joint effort across government is necessary to stop the next pandemic.”

Mr. Zelikow, who led the Sept. 11 panel, has laid the foundation for a commission to investigate the pandemic, with financial backing from four foundations and a paid staff that has already interviewed hundreds of public health experts, business leaders, elected officials, victims and their families.

Mr. Zelikow, who has been consulting with Senators Burr and Murray, said he would be willing to turn his work over to a commission created by Congress. The pandemic has fundamentally challenged Americans’ trust in government, he said, and a thorough inquiry would be an important “bridge to trying to rebuild that confidence and that trust.”

Covid-19 victims and their families, many of whom support the idea of a commission, are also eager for the kind of airing of grievances that the Sept. 11 panel provided the victims of the terrorist attacks two decades ago. And, they say, a nonpartisan, serious inquiry might be something the country could rally around.