With the city, state, nation and planet in the grip of a fast-spreading pandemic, America’s appalling lack of virus tests and medical equipment – surgical gloves, masks, ventilators, respirators – is a scandal; a deadly one.
In the Seattle area, the country’s first coronavirus hotspot, testing remains inadequate and medical workers are still pleading for the most basic protective gear. Both the doctors and nurses themselves, as well as outside volunteers, are figuring out ways to manufacture homemade masks and visors as a desperate stopgap measure, but hospital safety should not be a do-it-yourself project.
There are a number of reasons the United States has fallen short in having vital equipment in abundant reserve in anticipation of a pandemic. Most manufacturing of such items is done abroad, particularly in China. Most hospitals, being for-profit entities, do not spend money on buying more masks, gloves and other gear than they need for normal demand. They have assumed that additional supplies would be easily obtainable when an emergency arises.
Unfortunately, when the whole world is having the same emergency at the same time, the supply chain goes empty very quickly.
The federal government was just as unprepared. President Donald Trump recently said “nobody” knew this pandemic was coming. He is wrong again. Many people, including Bill Gates, have been warning for several years that a pandemic of some kind was inevitable and probably imminent. The Obama administration established a group within the White House national security staff to monitor and plan for a pandemic. A detailed plan of action was passed on to the Trump administration. The Trump team not only ignored the plan, they dissolved the monitoring team.
Yes, it is a scandal that we were unprepared for the arrival of COVID-19. And it is a lie that we were not warned it was coming.
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