The First CDC Warning Was Ignored — How About Now?

Warnings are often ignored.

(Monday, March 29th)

Warnings require three things. One is for the hazard to be detected. Next, a warning must be issued by the appropriate authority. Lastly and most importantly, people must heed the warning and take action. 

We are at exactly the moment in the pandemic where people need to heed the warning. By people, I mean first and foremost the elected officials in state and local jurisdictions, and then average citizens — you reading this blog post, who have to take appropriate prevention and mitigation measures. Wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, and don’t fly commercially for no good reason — that includes vacations. 

If we look back in time to Feb. 28, 2020, it was then that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had their first stark warning about what was coming to America (it wasn’t a movie). That warning was captured in this Washington Post article: “Coronavirus’s spread in U.S. is ‘inevitable,’ CDC warns.” It was right after this that the CDC was silenced by the Trump administration for too much bad news. Feb. 28 was actually the day when the first death in Washington state was recorded and the dam broke on the fact that the virus was here already and here in force.

Here’s an extract from the article and what the CDC was saying on Feb. 28, 2020:

“‘Disruptions to everyday life may be severe, but people might want to start thinking about that now,’ said the CDC’s Messonnier. She said parents may want to call their school offices to see what plans they have in place and consider options for child care. Messonnier added that she called the office of her children’s schools superintendent to find out about the school system’s plans.

“Businesses need to consider replacing in-person meetings with telework, Messonnier said. School authorities should consider ways to limit face-to-face contact, such as dividing students into smaller groups, using Internet-based learning or even closing schools. Local officials should consider modifying, postponing or canceling large gatherings. Hospitals should consider ways to triage patients who do not need urgent care and recommend that patients delay surgery that isn’t absolutely necessary.”

Any of the above sound familiar about how we ended up reacting to the spreading pandemic — once it could not be ignored — basically because people were dying?

Which brings me to the CDC director’s warning from Monday, March 29, 2021, which I discussed in a blog post: “Dr. Doom’s Prediction on COVID-19 Spike May Be Coming True.”  

To summarize: The hazard has been detected. The warning has been issued. Now it is up to us to take action. 

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