NOW TIME TO LEARN AND BE READY FOR NEXT PANDEMIC
By: Ben B. Boothe, Publisher, BootheGlobalPerspectives
When the Spanish Influenza killed over 600,000 Americans in 1918-1920, (without the latest technology and medical research we have in 2020-2021), the prevailing tools of prevention were:
- Cover your face, nose, and mouth, or use a handkerchief if you sneeze
- Do not spit in public
- Do not cough or sneeze in public
- Stay away from others
- Pressure from then President Wilson to ignore the virus, such as “Do not speak of it publicly” , and “Hope it goes away”. He had the “Sedition Act” law passed and specifically said to mention the Spanish Flu was to encourage the Germans, and also, it would hurt war bond sales.
See one newsprint article from 1918:
People died in huge numbers in some areas of the USA, so many died, that they dug trenches and buried them atop one another. President Wilson spent the last year of his Presidential term ill, historians now believe, with the Spanish Flu, which he tried to keep secret. He died, still trying to ignore the virus. He felt that “talking about or publicizing” the virus, was bad politics. Therefore he was slow to make meaningful responses…and hundreds of thousands of Americans died. It is a fact that more American soldiers died of the Spanish Flu during WWI, than died in battle wounds.
Now it is time for us to consider “What happened?" in 1918 and later in 2020? “What did we do wrong?”, What could we do better to prevent another pandemic?” WHAT SHOULD WE LEARN!
Consider the things that science told us:
Year 2005: 15 years ago, FORIEGN AFFAIRS Magazine, a favorite of diplomats, scholars, international specialists, and American political leaders, published the article: “Preparing for the Next Pandemic”. Written by Michael Osterholm. It predicted what was coming clearly. The warning was largely ignored by political leaders.
Year 2007: The same magazine published “Unprepared for a pandemic”, showing needs in the USA. Again political leaders ignored the warnings.
Year 2017: The USA had experienced MERS, Ebola, and Zika and the article: “Ready for a Global Pandemic? The Trump Administration May Be woefully Underprepared”. A voice of prophecy it seemed so timely. This was absolutely ignored by the White House.
Looking back, we can see that efforts of the Obama Administration to create an agency especially to study and prepare our nation for a Pandemic, was functioning, only to be closed by the Trump Administration.
It seems that the USA response was slowed by poor leadership, but by a ‘lack of common social purpose’ (Danielle Allen)
Trump first ignored the problem, then said, "We will have no problem with it in the USA", then later resorted to ideas such as treating it with Lysol or Clorox Bleach. When his scientific advisers corrected him, he criticized them or tried to discredit and isolate them from the media. Even after losing the national election, he refused to make the Corona Pandemic a priority, instead advising to "Open up", during his last 70 days, the USA showed huge increases in cases and deaths.
In the July August 2020 edition of Foreign Affairs Michael Osterholm and Mark Olshaker said:
“IF THE WORLD DOESN’T LEARN THE RIGHT LESSONS FROM ITS FAILURE TO PREPARE, THE TOLL NEXT TIME COULD BE CONSIDERABLY STEEPER.”
In the July August 2020 edition of Foreign Affairs, a bold statement says:
This pandemic is probably not “the Big One”.
Most scientists in the field believe that our nation should have heeded the 2003 outbreak of SARS which was carried by palm civets and ferret badgers of China. Then again in 2012, MERS infected the Arabian Peninsula, originating from Camels.
Must reading if you are interested: The book Pale Rider, with excellent research, examines the Spanish Flu of 1918 and any reader would be alarmed at the potential for future viral epidemics. Then the 2017 book: Deadliest Enemy points out the danger of viral epidemics in graphic detail.
For years, epidemiologist and public health experts have been calling for plans to deal with a viral pandemic. A publication called: “Preparing for the Next Pandemic” in 2005, spoke of organizing private sector food producers, medical suppliers, and health care providers, public sector health, law enforcement and emergency management officials to anticipate and plan for a new Pandemic.
IF WE IGNORE HISTORY, WE MAY REPEAT THE SAME MISTAKES:
In the 22 greatest pandemics or viral epidemics of history, (one of many articles in BootheGlobalPerspectives on this subject) there are several things that have happened:
- Epidemics, or Pandemics, tend to destroy and disrupt economies.
- Epidemics often cause disputes, wars and conflicts because of social deaths and upheaval.
- Politicians, Kings, Rulers who are in power when the epidemics hit, often are thrown out of power and office. There is almost always political upheavals. Thus most politicians, rulers and kings initially try to downplay Pandemics.
- Epidemics typically cause massive deaths, often resulting in higher wages for labor…because ether are fewer living people to do the work, harvest the crops, build the buildings, bury the dead, care for the living.
- Epidemics and Pandemics bring changes to cultures, for example see below;
- How they live
- How they cook
- What foods they grow
- How they travel
- Where they live
- Changes of leadership or political roles.
- Epidemics and Pandemics often change the social structure, and often powerful new interest groups gain power and influence during and because of “vacuums” of power.
- Pandemics often bring about new treatments, medicines, and ways to treat people, but with few exceptions, no pandemic viral cure, seems to have resulted, nor has their been a total destruction of the 'guilty" virus.
- The causes of Pandemics, or Epidemics, can be blamed on rats, camels, bats, snakes, or a host of other reasons, including punishment of the Gods, or evil leaders. But the real cause, the virus, continues to confound mankind and adapt and change. We fear that the virus may be more powerful than the most powerful weapons of mass destruction.
But if we can learn some things from history, perhaps we can improve, study, research, and preparation, before the next one emerges.
Sadly, our ‘leaders’ have been unprepared, in the USA for decades. The most recent example, in 2020, an outrageous example of malfeasance.
But in reality, as preparedness has gotten worse. We see in the USA:
- A deteriorating public health infrastructure
- Changes in global trade and international cooperation and production.
- Massive disruptions of markets
- Politicians manipulating poorly educated masses, and politicizing the viral issues.
For example, in 2003, discussions of better supply chains were made. But little was done. This resulted in break downs of the health system, the global trade system (which was already strained due to Trade Wars), food supply chains, industrial products, parts and items became scarce because they were made in China or other nations subject to political trade wars initiated by the US Government. Even supplies of protection gear & medical supplies as well as equipment was sadly lacking. In our company we needed new “printer toner”. The local office supply stores said: “No toner available, because it is made in China.” We had to buy a new printer, and a new brand, so we could get toner for it. As far as supply chains go, our firm had a client with 20 farms, and he said he had a large herd of hogs, he had raised to sell to meat packing plants. “I had to execute them and bury them, because the meat packing plants said their supply chains were broken, and their employees had Corona Virus, thus limiting how much pork and beef they could handle or process." The sad part is that prices for Pork, Poultry and Beef went down for farmers, but in grocery stores prices skyrocketed for consumers. Someone profited in this scenario, but it wasn’t farmers or American consumers. It was big business, that forced employees to work, even though they were tested and found to have Corona Virus infections.
* THE U.S. HAS BECOME FAR MORE DEPENDENT ON CHINA AND INDIA FOR DRUGS AND MEDICAL SUPPLIES. For example, I ordered a box of high rated face masks for my office and staff, and when they arrived, the fine print said; “Made in China”. All along I thought I was buying from an American source. But it goes further. Drugs, in mass are made overseas, most of them or their ingredients are manufactured in China and India. What if, for example, China uses its power to withhold critical drugs to Doctors and Hospitals in the USA?
* Another important issue is the financial stress on American hospitals and health care providers. Doctors in the USA are retiring or changing professions in great numbers. Hospitals are closing or filing bankruptcy from coast to coast in the USA. Some medical doctors and nurses are working 70, 80, 90 hours shifts, many are just exhausted and quitting. More examples and cases of the virus are impacting doctors and nurses. A rising number of rural areas and small towns are losing their hospitals and doctors.
We have seen shortages of hospital beds, physical capacity and huge, unexpected expenses and financial deficits of hospitals in America. By 2019 an absence of long-range preparation was reported, but in 2020, it became a stark frightful reality. Lack of long-term meaningful preparation continued in spite of repeated warnings and 100,000, then 200,000 and probably 300,000 deaths of Americans by year end of 2020.
- Epidemiologists discovered a “storm” of new microbial events, that alarmed epidemiologists.
- Reports in December of a new infectious disease in Wuhan, China were coming in.
But China suppressed public knowledge of the viral epidemic
- The CDC published a report on the “mystery disease” on December 31, 2019 and identified it as a novel coronavirus Jan 8, 2020.
- By January 20, 2020, the US Government was still dismissing the prospect of an outbreak in the USA.
All of these matters seriously delayed a timely response of the US or the American medical system to this danger. It now appears that the delays or “downplay” of the danger may have been because of political reasons.
We appreciate and encourage a call of leaders in government, medical, fields of state and national levels, to seriously, fund and support efforts to thoughtfully plan, create supplies and support equipment, to prepare for future epidemics. Most professionals in the field report that there will be “bigger” Pandemics, that could have national and international repercussions. Boothe Global Perspectives did a research study of the 22 largest pandemics in history (see www.bootheglobalperspectives.com and hit the search box for “largest pandemics in history”.
The consequences of pandemics in history has been devastating on economies, political power chaos, public health, and even is related in many cases to wars.
We are looking to the future and welcome broad and open discussions in meetings around our nation, hopefully in early 2021, to bring in the best minds, to discuss:
What can we do, in the future, to prepare for the next pandemic?
It is not our goal to stress mistakes or blame, but to learn from those mistakes and then systematically gather to discuss sources for funds, political education and influential power, and medical minds to create an agency or body focused totally, on “What to do. How to do it better? How to prepare” and then to create a national effort to fund and assure that this organization is effective and relevant.
Ben B. Boothe, Sr.
Credit to and thanks for publications, quotes, and excerpts from sources such as FOREIGN AFFAIRS and their published article: “The World After the Pandemic” as well as the excellent work and quotes of Michael Osterholm and Mark Olshaker.