Covid Commission Planning Group

Covid Commission Planning Group

The Miller Center played a key role in establishing the Covid Commission Planning Group


Two years ago, as deaths from COVID-19 first spiked and it became increasingly clear that the worldwide pandemic would rank as one of humanity's singular mass traumas, Philip Zelikow began contemplating the enormity of the crisis.

As the director of the 9/11 Commission tasked with leading the inquiry into America’s worst terror attack, a decorated American diplomat, a gifted historian, the former director of the Miller Center, and the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at UVA, Zelikow was uniquely positioned to imagine how a new national commission might begin to grapple with the enormity of COVID-19.

Enlisting the help of some of the nation's most accomplished virologists, public health experts, clinicians, and government officials, Zelikow sketched a compelling blueprint for a nonpartisan commission that could discover and preserve the hard-won lessons of the pandemic.

Zelikow selected the Miller Center as the administrative base for his new "Covid Commission Planning Group" (CCPG), versed as he was in the Center’s distinguished track record of nonpartisan presidential scholarship and the organization of more than a dozen major national commissions. With the support of four major philanthropies—Schmidt Futures, the Skoll Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, and Stand Together—he brought the project to the Miller Center to manage the startup process.

Planning Group Accomplishments

  • More than 160 in-depth background interviews involving more than 250 outside experts in areas ranging from public health, medicine, government policy, infectious diseases, health equity, and intelligence.
  • The definition of seven broad areas of inquiry and the creation of 42 detailed investigative work plans to guide the work of a Covid Commission, including "Origins and Prevention," "National Readiness and Initial Response," "Communities at Risk," "State and Local Readiness, Containment, and Mitigation," and "The Bio Revolution."
  • Direct outreach to leading members of Congress and senior White House officials regarding the potential form and authority of a national commission.
  • Liaison with related public policy and patient groups focused on the Covid pandemic, including Marked by Covid and the Covid Collaborative.

Phase One

The first phase of the Covid Commission Planning Group's effort was completed in Fall, 2021. The CCPG has laid the groundwork for the launch of a proposed national Covid Commission, which will have a running start thanks to the planning group's preliminary efforts.

This groundwork included crucial contributions from Miller Center staff and scholars, such as the launch of an informational CCPG website; media relations assistance that led to a dozen major stories and editorials endorsing the CCPG's work; guidance provided by Miller Center scholars and senior fellows; and fiduciary responsibilities in managing the working group's finances and philanthropic grants.

The Miller Center’s Role

The Miller Center is proud to have played an integral role in realizing Philip Zelikow's vision to create the COVID Commission Planning Group and to have helped lay the foundation for the formation of a national COVID Commission.

Our efforts in this area are far from concluded: Leveraging the health policy expertise of Miller Center faculty and senior fellows, including Associate Professor Guian McKee; James R. Schlesinger Distinguished Professor J. Stephen Morrison; Dorothy Danforth Compton Professor Margaret Riley; and Research Professor Shirley Lin, we are planning focused work on the implications of COVID-19 for health policy in the United States and around the world.