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COVID-19: No One Could Ever Envision a Pandemic Like This One

The statement above is a flat out lie told many times over the last 10 months.

This article dates from August 2020, but the value of it is in documenting the past efforts to issue "wake up calls" for action on pandemic preparedness. Some people might not like the title of the article: "Two decades of pandemic war games failed to account for Donald Trump."

Not too long ago, I got an email from a "former reader" of this blog calling out my political leanings that were showing up in my blog posts. So let me explain a bit. First and foremost, a blog is not the same as being a "reputable" reporter who works for a "mainstream" news organization. A blog is like a running commentary on the events of the day. In newspaper terms, it is an opinion piece (op-ed) where, in my case, I usually share a bit of information I've found on the Internet or that someone has sent to me. 

I encourage you to read the article above. It is not a hit piece on President Trump, not in the extreme anyway. What it is is a hit piece on governments in general who have failed over time to fund public health systems at all levels of government. When we responded to the pandemic, we stumbled coming out of the starting blocks. 

The article goes through all the ways that attention to pandemics has tried to focus on the risks and encourage nations and governments to better prepare for the eventual catastrophic pandemic — which we are still experiencing. 

For the United States, there are some key aspects that are facts and not opinions.

  • The United States has been behind the eight ball on testing from the get-go. Mistakes were made!!!
  • The president downplayed the pandemic all the way through 2020, from its inception up until election night, and now it is not even a major portion of what he is working on today. Read the tweets and tell me I'm wrong on this. 
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was sidelined early in the crisis. Now it is back online and the primary source of information.
  • Vaccines have been developed at "unprecedented" speed without sacrificing the safety of the vaccine.
You would think that this current pandemic will have a profound impact on funding for science in general and public health in particular. I do think this will happen — but, we are terrible about sustaining an effort over time. Just look at our history in fighting wars. After WWI and WWII, we totally let our guard down and we paid a terrible price at the beginning of WWII and the Korean Conflict (never a declared war).

It is not just President Trump who has screwed the pooch. Many governors heeding his lead on masks and "freedom to die" did not enforce or lead with the wearing of masks. So our nation that "supposedly had the best system in the world" leads the world in infections and deaths proportionate to population. 

  • We have weak public health systems at the state and local levels.
  • Lacking any universal medical system of care, we have a portion of our population that continues to suffer poor health outcomes — every day, not just during a pandemic. 
Most recently, meaning Christmas week, we are finding that it is one thing to ship millions of doses of a vaccine, and it is quite another to deliver those doses as vaccinations into people's arms. This will be the struggle of the moment. 

We love to place blame and make villains and heroes out of individuals. In reality, we have a complex system of government and we have failed in so many different ways collectively in responding to the pandemic. As some look to point the finger at people and institutions, remember there are four fingers pointing back at you when you do so.  


Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.