[Vision2020] Let’s set the record straight on pandemic responses
moscowcares at moscow.com
Thu May 21 05:01:38 PDT 2020
Courtesy of today’s (May 21, 2020) Moscow-Pullman Daily News with special thanks ro Nick Gier.
Let’s set the record straight on pandemic responses
In June 2016, a reporter from National Public Radio was allowed to visit the Strategic National Stockpile, and she found the huge warehouse full of inventory worth $7 billion. There was a shortage of N-95 masks, but the Trump Administration has done nothing to alleviate this deficiency.
Early in his tenure as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, worried about a possible pandemic, proposed that the supplies in the SNS be increased. The Trump White House, however, rejected the request.
On Feb. 7, when Dr. Rick Bright, now removed from his post at the Center for Disease Control, warned that the supply of N95 masks was “perilously low,” he was ignored. Recently a reporter asked Trump that, if the SNS was empty, why had he not ordered it restocked, Trump replied that he “had a lot going on.”
With regard to Trump’s ignorant claim that the coronavirus tests were “broken,” someone needs to inform him that this is a “novel” virus, which meant that scientists had to produce a new test to detect it.
The Trump administration could have purchased German coronavirus tests through the World Health Organization on Jan. 17, but it chose instead to create its own. Vials of these tests were found to be contaminated, and this set back our response to COVID-19 for weeks, which led to thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Sen. Mitch McConnell has now recanted his earlier charge that the Obama administration left no pandemic plans. It was a 69-page document from the National Security Council entitled “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats.”
The playbook contained a warning about new respiratory viruses and recommended “sufficient personal protective equipment for healthcare workers,” a unified federal response, and the use of the Defense Production Act, which Trump has only partially enacted.
Obama’s Ebola Czar Ron Klain explained: “We had a plan and a team. The Trump White House ignored the first and disassembled the second.”
With regard to the H1N1 pandemic, commonly known as the “swine flu,” the Obama administration acted expertly and expeditiously. The first case was reported April 15, 2009, and on April 24, the CDC, then under competent leadership, published the genetic sequencing of the virus. On April 26, Obama declared a national health emergency.
On May 1, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first test to detect H1N1, and those tests were sent to other affected nations around the world. On May 9, three weeks after the outbreak, the level of testing in the U.S. had reached 1 million. After nine months, 100 million doses of an N1H1 vaccine were available.
The H1N1 pandemic lasted a year and the total U.S. deaths were 12,469. At no point in time was the pandemic politicized, and Obama refused to blame Mexico, to which the virus was traced to a hog farm.
One month after the WHO reported the first Ebola infections in West Africa, Obama sent troops and medical personnel in an attempt to contain the virus. The military set up two testing labs, capable of testing 100 people per day, and they also set up 17 treatment units with 100 beds. More than 200 tons of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies were airlifted to West Africa.
Over a period of 10 months this team succeeded in reducing the number of cases by 80 percent. Because of this herculean effort, the number of Ebola cases in the U.S. was limited to 11 with two deaths.
There were of course criticisms of Obama’s Ebola efforts, and one of them was that he was slow to respond. However, four weeks to assemble a response team of 10,000 specialists appear miraculous rather than dilatory.
Obama’s faults on Ebola pale in comparison to Trump’s on COVID-19. His downplaying of the virus, the delay in testing, and now not enough tests and tracing mean that thousands of Americans continue to die unnecessarily.
Nick Gier is emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Idaho. Read his other columns on COVID-19 at www.tomandrodna.com/nick_gier/coronavirus.pdf. Read all his columns at http://nfgier.com.
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