Some recommendations on how we move forward on the 1 year anniversary of the COVID pandemic
I am not a scientist, M.D. or public health “expert.” Just a journalist who has covered the federal public health bureaucracy since the AIDS pandemic spread in the 1980s (interviewed Dr. Fauci once, too).
But having witnessed this travesty over the past year and written about it in TBE here , here and here and here, let’s look back on this past year, as it was on March 11, 2020, that the World Health Organization, which for months swallowed communist China propaganda about COVID 19, declared this a pandemic, and the Trump administration soon responded with it’s “15 days to slow the spread “ guidelines. (then 30 days).
From there, every governor and mayor who had emergency powers started to close schools, beaches, parks, restaurants and decide which businesses shall live and which could die.
I suppose one could argue the death rate would have been WORSE without the lockdowns and social distancing requirements, the ban on large crowds (like church gatherings and ballgames). But 527,000 Americans among 2.6 million dead worldwide (assuming these are really all for COVID) gives me a lot of pause.
So, while the pandemic is still with us, though it’s been ratcheted down by the vaccines the Trump administration jump-started, I think a bipartisan commission should be convened (at some point when the WHO declares the pandemic over) to do a lookback on how to prevent this mess from happening again:
- BIPARTISAN COMMISSION: Congressional oversight of NIH, FDA and CDC and where those agencies flubbed should be Job 1. I can’t imagine why a Democrat-controlled Congress would not want to investigate the failure of the pandemic given it occurred under a GOP administration (Trump). I hope Republicans go along, but this commission is truly bipartisan like the 9/11 commission.
- NEVER TRUST CHINA AGAIN: COVID 19 is not the only pandemic to start in China. The 1918 Spanish Flu was really a China Flu, and China was the source of the 1958 pandemic, 1968 (Hong Kong Flu), 2003 SARS and Avian flu outbreak in 2008 (first found in Chinese poultry in 1995). The world needs to exact reparations from China and demand it shut down wet markets and perhaps exterminate the horseshoe bat population, which transmitted COVID to pangolins (sold in wet markets) and then to humans.
- NO MORE BROAD-BASED LOCKDOWNS, BUT FOCUSED ‘MITIGATION’: Using a bioterrorism response (lockdowns) to handle a pandemic was shown to be fruitless, according to studies released in January from non partisan journals. Social distancing and mask wearing probably helped – but not closing some businesses and allowing others to stay open based on the whim of each governor. – especially in poor densely packed communities. The data doesn’t lie – blacks and Latinos and poor whites (i.e. Orthodox Jews in New York and New Jersey) were hit hard by the pandemic, and it’s largely because (1) these groups have higher rates of underlying health conditions like heart disease, obesity and respiratory illnesses (2) live in dense housing situations (3) work in essential jobs where they cannot work remotely. But targeted “mitigation” to use Fauci’s word might be useful –especially with nursing homes , which accounted for 40% of COVID deaths.
- SHUT DOWN ALL TRAVEL FROM OUTBREAK COUNTRIES – NOT JUST THE PLANES: Trump should have received praise for stopping all China airlines from traveling to the U.S. on Jan. 31. However, he didn’t stop all holders of China passports from traveling to the U.S. via other airlines, and the European Union acted way too late on travel. But temporarily blocking holders of passports in infected areas to travel outside the area should be coupled with contact tracing, which to my knowledge, was not done with the estimated 452,000 Americans who traveled to and from China prior to the planes being shut down by Trump.
- PREVENT TRAVEL FROM OUTBREAK AREAS IN THE U.S. – I wonder how better off we would have been if back in March, the feds just locked down New York City, parts of NJ, Detroit, and barred travel to and from those areas, by plane, car, bus , etc. Instead of making the entire country lock down, just do it in one area. The public by and large ignored travel advisories, like over Thanksgiving and Christmas
- REVISE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT LAWS: Gubernatorial edicts in pandemics and weather crises should be subject to legislative review after 30 days. The lockdowns were pioneered in Santa Clara County, CA, in early March 2020 and every governor followed Gavin Newsome’s lead.
- CONSISTENT COMMUNICATION: It is usually standard operating procedure in a pandemic or outbreak to have a consistent message, and if the officials can’t answer a question they should not speculate. In this day of instant news and social media gossiping, it is vital for ALL parties (federal agencies, White House, states, etc.) to be on the same page in communication. It was very bad that Trump downplayed the pandemic at first – even while stopping plane from China – and tried to allay fear. His touting of specific treatments backfired. He was on TV daily just to be on TV and show the country “he was in charge.” But neither he nor Anthony Fauci and other health officials interviewed on TV were consistent with their message. This bred a lot of confusion and mistrust.
- NATIONAL STRATEGIC STOCKPILE SHOULD BE FULL: The Obama administration actually involved in not keeping the stockpile of medical devices and drugs to par, but the Trump administration did no better. As a result, the federal government in March was playing catchup on masks and ventilators and gave them to the governors who screamed the loudest – like Andrew Cuomo. Meanwhile, people in the most infected areas were often left without such gear. There should not be competition among states to get personal protective equipment and other needed materials for hospitals and clinics.
- THE IMPORTANCE OF THE HOSPITALITY, ENTERTAINMENT AND RESTAURANT INDUSTRIES TO OUR ECONOMY CANNOT BE UNDERESTIMATED: Millions of jobs were lost and businesses closed due to the lockdown of these industries. Some $50 billion has been spent to rescue the airlines, alone. It is my hope that a bipartisan commission can help devise means to keep these industries afloat if another pandemic comes.
- BRINGING U.S. MEDICAAL PRODUCT MANUFACTUING STATESIDE: This was one of President Trump’s priorities before the pandemic, but it was never pushed on the U.S. biomedical industry until COVID broke. I hope the Biden administration will continue to push incentives to bring drug and device manufacturing back to U.S. shores so we are less reliant on China, India and other nations without advanced regulatory standards. One incentive is this – foreign plant inspections take but 3 days, but an FDA audit of a domestic based plan can last weeks. OSHA and EPA rules also are a disincentive to manufacturing .
- RESTRUCTURE CDC: I wrote in April how CDC botched this crisis badly, by blocking the state labs to devise their own tests and not looking at their own research and divisions that handle Pandemics and Emerging infectious diseases, but took the WHO /China line that COVID was not going to be a problem . CDC has too much creep into gun safety and other areas. The 25,000-plus employee-agency needs an overhaul, including how it reports diseases and it causes
- MASS MEDIA ACCOUNTABILITY: If a 9/11-style commission is empaneled, it should also look at the role of the media in spreading falsehoods, false hopes, and negating medicines that could have been helpful. I strongly feel that because the president and Fox’s Laura Ingraham promoted hydroxychloroquine with Z-pac, the FDA and public health establishment countered and put out safety alerts, and thus the media kept saying the drugs were “unproven.” As a result, a number of COVID victims died.
- PRIVATE FUNDING TO WHO SHOULD BE BANNED: i.e. the millions the Bill Gates Foundation gave, which influenced its poor handling of COVID..
- CONGRESS MUST REMAIN IN SESSION DURING ANY CRISIS but should be allowed to operate remotely.
- PUBLIC OPTION HEALTH INSURANCE – COVID showed the impact of the uninsured and the unhealthy. Community health centers to be expanded and we need to get obesity under control by requiring medical coverage for waist-reduction surgery. Republicans need to work to fix Obamacare, not repeal it. They blew their chance in 2017 to replace ACA.
Well, there you have it. If I forgot anything on the punch list, please chime in.