In 2016, there was an office of the National Security Council — the Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense.
The purpose of that office was to plan response to pandemic threats — organization, leadership and logistics.
The office was disbanded by Trump in 2018 as “unnecessary.” Trump of course denies any knowledge that his administration did that, instead saying that the coronavirus “came out of nowhere” and “blindsided the world.”(1)
That’s not true.
The SARS pandemic in 2003 was a coronavirus.
The MERS epidemic in 2012 was a coronavirus.
There are upwards of 150 other known coronaviruses that have not yet mutated so as to attack humans, but statistically, it’s virtually inevitable that some of them will. And we’ve know that there were other viruses out there for awhile.
There are Trump defenders who say that the Directorate wasn’t disbanded. That’s not true, and the elimination of the office pushed responsibility for pandemic planning down in the bureaucracy, where it became less important and less visible to top leaders. There was a planning simulation of a pandemic in 2019 — very similar to this one — that forecast a death toll of up to 65 million in the US due to lack of preparedness. The simulation was called “Crimson Contagion 2019” and demonstrated how completely unprepared the US was at the time — and largely still is.(2)
That forecast means that if you stand (6 feet away from) 4 people (friends, family, coworkers, whatever), one of you will be dead by year end.
And that explains why we don’t have sufficient equipment for the victims of Covid-19 and why the death toll will be higher than it could have been.
In fairness, nobody in Congress pressured Trump to keep the office open. With what was then a GOP majority in both houses, people like Mitch McConnell own the responsibility for that failure.
Regardless of how high the death toll gets, it’s likely that you know someone who will die this year from the disease. The disease affects the lungs, but recent research points to damage to the heart as well. We don’t know why that damage is occurring, but it is, and it can be permanent and has proven to be a killer. Since we don’t do universal testing of school children for heart defects, the risk from this disease applies to all age groups, just to some more than others. To illustrate that point, a newborn in Chicago died this week, having contracted the virus from his mother before birth.