Pandemic Diary Day 29

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April 22, 2020

In 2005 George W. Bush, vacationing in Texas read a copy of John Barry’s The Great Influenza. Apparently he was just enthralled with the book.

I agree, I am reading it, and it is a page turner. It is the type that if I marked up books (I do not) it would be bleeding yellow marker. Barry’s book leans towards the science end of the epidemic, but in such a way that anyone can understand what he is discussing. Another epidemic book I highly recommend is The Story of the Great Influenza by Gina Kolata, which covers more of the social and cultural aspects of the epidemic.

But I digress.

So moved by the book GWB returned to Washington and established a comprehensive pandemic plan. The $7 billion plan included funding to develop vaccine technology, and to build a national stockpile of critical supplies, such as face masks and ventilators.

“To respond to a pandemic, we need medical personnel and adequate supplies of equipment,” Bush said. “In a pandemic, everything from syringes to hospital beds, respirators masks and protective equipment would be in short supply.”

The program lasted about three years and then fizzled when other priorities came to the President’s desk. The only remnants of that program is the website, that is still in use today.

Many Presidents have had to face a world health crisis of one form or another. And yet, America had no plans in place when this one hit.

Historians say that in the face of public health crises, presidents who are informed, focused, and organized are most likely to be successful. Leaders must inspire hope and remain optimistic throughout the crisis, but the most important quality, something we are learning is in very short supply during Covid-19, is transparency.

Woodrow Wilson was President during the 1918–20 Influenza pandemic, but was so focused on the war he actually never once acknowledged the existance of the pandemic.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was confronted with Asian Flu (H2N2) in 1957. In his certainty that the free market would take care of the problem, he did not declare a state of emergency until possibly twice as many people died as might have under a more strident call to arms. Which is interesting to me since one of my favorite DDE quotes is “plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated the number of deaths from H2N2 at 116,000 in the United States.

Interesting facts about the 1957 outbreak. The government spent a considerable amount of effort assuring the public that the virus was not a mutation caused by the Atom bomb testing in the Pacific. Eerily parallel to some ridiculousness coming out of today’s pandemic, they had to convince the public of the fact that the virus wasn’t created by the communists.

Gerald Ford was accused of over reacting when he began an immediate battle against the Swine Flu in 1976. Owing to advice from medical experts Ford ordered the country to be vaccinated almost immediately. Then 500 vaccinated people came down with Guillain-Barre syndrome and three died, forcing the government to halt the vaccination program. The Swine Flu of 1976 began much like the 1918 pandemic, on a military base with a private dying within 24 hours of catching it, over 500 soldiers on that base eventually were found to have Swine Flu. However, due to Ford’s “over reaction”, the soldier was the only American to die of the flu itself.

The AIDS epidemic is a stain on the record of Ronald Reagan. Primarily because it was gay men that were getting the disease it was roundly ignored. The first cases of AIDS began showing up in 1978, Reagan did not even publically utter the name of the scourge until late in 1985 and did not declare AIDS an issue until April of 1987.

George W. H. Bush was slow on the uptake to work on the AIDS epidemic as well, his son George W. Bush however, is lauded for his response to the AIDS epidemic not only in the US, but in Africa as well.

Barack Obama was forced to confront H1N1 almost as soon as he was sworn in. The first case of this strain of swine flu was on April 15, 2009 and Obama declared H1N1 a public health emergency on April 26. Six months later and the loss of 1,000 lives Obama declared it a national emergency. H1N1 took the lives of 12,469 people in the US and was declared over in 2010.

Obama was later to be confronted with an outbreak of Ebola and Zika on his watch.

After the Ebola epidemic of 2014, Susan Rice, the National Security Advisor under Obama, created the Global Health Security Biodefence Program as a unit serving under the National Security Council. The program was headed by
Beth Cameron.

Under the present administration the program was headed by Tom Bossert, the National Security Advisor. Bossert called for a comprehensive biodefense strategy against pandemics and biological attacks and then was summarily fired. Bossert was replaced by Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer who left abruptly in May 2018 amid a reorganization of the council by then-National Security Advisor John Bolton. Bolton immediately eliminated the entire program.

Also cut by this administration was the Complex Crises Fund, a $30 million emergency response pool, created by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a contingency fund at the secretary of state’s disposal to allow deployment of diplomats, disease experts, famine relief supplies, and disaster programs to de-escalate crisis situations that threaten to become wars or mass catastrophes.

Our present leadership has a lot to answer for regarding their egregious and gross mishandling of this outbreak, but laying blame is for petulant children and in the end history will be the final judge.

This pandemic has shown on many levels, that cutting government services to the bone is misguided. We have spent too much time in the last several years decimating public assets for the benefit of private interests, this needs a serious rethink. We need to come together and create a centralized system that purchases, monitors and maintains a bank of emergency PPEs and keeps a team of scientists and medical professionals at the ready.

We do not need to reinvent the wheel, maps have been laid out for us by various organizations such as the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, (an arm of the WHO) A World At Risk; Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Preparedness for a High Impact Respiratory Pathogen Pandemic; and the CSIS Commission on Strengthening America’s Health Security Ending the Cycle of Crisis and Complacency in U.S. Global Health Security.

This will not be our last pandemic, it is time to get our act together and keep it together for the long haul.

Trivial Things

My Horoscope for today: Watch it with the great expectations. They may lead to dire disappointment if you allow them to color what’s on offer. Take things with a grain of salt.

The NYT Crossword Puzzle: A tad difficult for a Wednesday but fun

San Francisco weather: 64 degrees and sunny

NYSE DOW opened at: 23437

Italian word of the day: esagerare (exaggerate)

Spanish word of the day: medioambiente (environment)

OED word of the day: stupor mundi — ‘(The) wonder of the world; a person who or thing which is an object of general or widespread astonishment, admiration, or bewilderment; a marvel, a prodigy

Days under Shelter In Place: 40

Reading: Reading: The Great Influenza by John Barry

Reading Canto XXXI XXII XXIII XXIV of Dante’s Inferno

My Black and White Picture of the Day

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Something Silly From the Internet: · I hope the weather is good tomorrow for my trip to Puerto Backyarda. I’m getting tired of Los Livingroom.

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