It’s The Pandemic, Stupid

In the spring of 2016, Ronald Klain—chief of staff to two vice presidents and White House Ebola response coordinator in 2014-2015 wrote an article titled “Confronting the Pandemic Threat” (Democracy Journal).

Klain’s observations were based on experience. In 2014, during a world outbreak of ebola, the United States experienced 11 cases, only two of which were documented as locally transmitted, and they were nurses who treated Patient Zero.

The Obama administration had also dealt with the H1N1 pandemic, which, between April 12, 2009, and April 10, 2010, caused 60.8 million illnesses, 273,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths in the United States, according to CDC estimates. (But please understand that infection and fatality rates are much worse for SARS-CoV-2 than the swine flu ever presented.)

Among other points, Klain, recommended that the new administration escalate the pandemic danger to the same level as one would consider global terrorist threats. He argued that there is a natural overlap between these dangers, and that a global pandemic should also be viewed as a national security issue.

Klain recommended appointing a cabinet-level position proactively, from day one. He recommended a new, specialized federal agency to more nimbly be able to handle the logistics of a breakout, as well as to build on institutional efforts that had gone before. He recommended continuing efforts of reform at the World Health Organization. He recommended a global infrastructure for the distribution of vaccines. And, in a recommendation he marked as “most important,” he recommended a continuation of President Obama’s Global Health Security Agenda.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology endorsed at least one of Klain’s recommendations, that an assistant to the president for pandemic prevention and response should be part of the National Security Council staff. This advisory group and other agencies, including the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Security Council also created a “Playbook for early response to high-consequence emerging infectious disease threats and biological incidents.”

Politico made this document public in its March 25 article, Trump team failed to follow NSC’s pandemic playbook. You can go read it. Isn’t the Internet wonderful?

In fact, among the questions raised in the Playbook is this, which might seem rather helpful and relevant these days: “What are the key services and critical infrastructure that need to come back on line for society to return to normal?”

So. You’ve heard that the Trump administration ripped down a lot of these efforts. What, exactly, did they do?

Well:

  • Trump immediately scuttled the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, I mean he ripped them off of the White House website he day after he was inaugurated.
  • He left the Office of Science and Technology Policy sit without a director for two years, and since, he’s demoted that agency from cabinet-level access and has cut its staff dramatically.
  • He reconstituted PCAST, mainly with cronies, and its February 2020 minutes show no discussion of COVID.

And that was just to start. For instance, the first case of COVID was diagnosed in the United States on Jan. 20. Jan. 22, Trump says, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.” Feb. 2, Trump tells news reporters, “We pretty much shut it down, coming in from China.”

Also in February: “The 15 [cases in the US] within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” “We’re going very substantially down, not up.” “This is a flu. This is like a flu.” “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

Do I have to continue this litany? Do we have to get up to the day he bizarrely suggested using disinfectant or light to treat a case of COVID?

This guy had a guide book. He was briefed. He was warned. Yet, he failed and has continued to fail on the coronavirus. He bizarrely keeps calling it the “China Virus,” hoping it will stick and Americans will blame anyone but him. Mister Impeached Preznit, stop trying to make “China Virus” happen! It’s not going to happen!

Do you like the sense of doom you feel when you need to make a grocery run? If you’re a parent, have you enjoyed the additional anxiety you’ve experienced about getting your children to school? Have you or have people you know lost jobs and livelihoods over this? Have you lost any loved ones to the COVID? How do you feel about any vaccines released while Trump is in office?

Combatting this pandemic in the United States requires national action and leadership. Trump has failed. He has not done his job. Based on this issue alone, you gotta vote Biden/Harris in 2020.

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