Name-calling is Not Helpful for Pandemic Risk Reduction

Written by Peter R. Jutro, PhD

The recent name-calling regarding COVID-19 (Wuhan virus, Chinese virus, or Kung Flu) is hardly without precedent, but certainly not helpful for preventing the next pandemic.

History provides us with many examples of nations attempting to shift blame for disease problems. Although the 14th Century Black Death, or Black Plague’s Yersinia Pestis bacterium most likely moved westward from Asia to Europe along the Silk Road, it never acquired a geographic name.  Perhaps the earliest disease to become the cause of international blame-shifting, took place in the 15th and 16th centuries, when many countries tried to assign responsibility for one particular disease to other countries. 

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The Ban on Elective Procedures is Killing More People Than COVID-19

Written by A. J. Kay

On March 15th, Janet Mills of Maine became the first US Governor to recommend statewide cancellation of all elective medical procedures. Governor Mills proclaimed that such action would, “relieve the strain on the healthcare system as Maine prioritizes COVID-19-related cases.”

That same day, the American Hospital Association (AHA), in cooperation with three other healthcare advocacy organizations, published an open letter to the Surgeon General rejecting the idea that the COVID response necessitated such sweeping measures. They stated declaratively,

Our ability to respond to patients must not be prevented by arbitrary directives.”

In the following weeks, a cascade of 35 states included similar restrictions on elective procedures in their stay-at-home and shelter-in-place (commonly known as “lockdown”) orders. These directives ranged from instruction on the prioritization of “grey area” elective surgeries to compulsory cancellation and postponement of all non-emergent procedures. Orders in seven of those states outlined explicit civil and criminal penalties (some including imprisonment) for doctors who failed to comply.

In the weeks since the unprecedented multi-state lockdowns, the US Healthcare system has been left with an opaque patchwork of the very same ‘arbitrary directives’ against which the AHA cautioned. The lockdown orders and elective procedure bans were instituted with the intent to save lives. However, our failure to safely and quickly resume elective surgeries when lockdowns helped blunt the impending crisis has financially crippled our hospitals and private practices, led to mass furloughs, and denied healthcare to those who need it most. 

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Made in China: How U.S. Dependence on Chinese Medicines and Components Could Pose a Security Threat

As America struggles to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, one has to wonder how we allowed ourselves to become so dependent on China for critically important pharmaceutics. This didn’t happen overnight. For more than two decades America has been off-shoring our pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities. This is a serious national security problem.

A Good War highly recommends you read Rosemary Gibson’s article.

“America’s dependence on China for antibiotics and other medicines has been steadily rising. If China shuts the door on exports, military and civilian hospitals would cease to function within months.”

This dependence became evident when the FDA inspected a factory in China in 2015 that made multiple key ingredients for prescription drugs. Sixty-one complaints from commercial customers reported products lacked full-potency and contained impurities. FDA inspectors spent a week at the plant and ended up banning 29 products from the U.S. for serious breaches of standards. But because the FDA was so concerned about shortages of antibiotics and chemotherapies for cancer treatment, it exempted 14 products from its own ban.”

Rosemary Gibson – Made in China: How U.S. Dependence on Chinese Medicines and Components Could Pose a Security Threat – MOAA Magazine

Rosemary Gibson is the author of China RX.

How to Win the War on Coronavirus

Written by Col Randy Larsen, USAF (Ret)

I remember the first time I thought about World War III. It was October 22, 1962. As President John Kennedy addressed the nation about the “unmistakable evidence” of nuclear-tipped Soviet missiles in Cuba, my dad whispered to my mom, “This may be World War III.”

Thankfully, Dad was wrong. But during the first two decades of my military service, the possibility of WWIII between the U.S. and the Soviets remained a serious threat until the collapse of the Soviet empire. By the time I became a professor and department chairman at the National War College (NWC) in 1998, I had become convinced that the most serious threat to national security was not Russian or Chinese missiles, but a pandemic — either man-made or naturally occurring. I was so convinced, I hired Dr. Robert Kadlec — the first physician to serve on the faculty at NWC. Several of the “old cold warriors” on the faculty could not understand. They asked, “What is he going to do? Give us flu shots?” (Dr. Kadlec continued his work on the national-security aspects of pandemic preparedness during two tours on the National Security Council, and he now serves as the assistant secretary of preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services.)

Since the 1970s, scholars have defined national security with the acronym DIME: diplomacy, intelligence, military, and economics. (With the onset of the information age, some modified it to intelligence/information.) During the past several decades, many of my colleagues in the biosecurity and public-health communities, plus a bipartisan group of political leaders including senators Bob Graham (D., Fla.), Jim Talent (R., Mo.), Gary Hart (D., Colo.), Richard Burr (R., N.C.), and Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.), have argued to include public health as a key element in national security. Unfortunately, most national leaders failed to listen. I suspect that may be changing, albeit, a bit late.

Not since WWII have all Americans been engaged in a war requiring a national mobilization. Not only did 12 million serve in uniform, but virtually every man, woman, and child in America was involved in one way or another. From war-bond drives, victory gardens, and ration cards, to women taking on completely new roles outside the home — building airplanes, tanks, and battleships — the entire nation participated in a united effort.

Compare that with the nearly two decades following 9/11. Shortly after that tragic day, President Bush told Americans, “Go back to the malls.” Understandable at the time. We could not let 19 hijackers destroy our economy. But as the war on terrorism dragged on, only the military and their families made the sacrifices. Less than a fraction of 1 percent of the U.S. population have been asked to sacrifice.

Suddenly, everything has changed. We are once again back to a reality like that of 1943. All Americans are once again involved. WWIII has begun. And it is not just a war against COVID-19, it is a war against infectious disease. WWIII will be a “good war” — a war between the human race and infectious diseases.

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A Good War Needs You

We created A Good War to help inform you and your family during the epic battle against COVID-19. America’s top public health leaders will be among the contributors, along with heroes working on the frontlines.

I am Randy Larsen. For the past 25 years, I have held various executive positions, inside and outside of government, working with my fellow public health warriors to try and convince America’s leaders that public health preparedness is a critical element of national security.

I have been working with Jay Lavender since 2008. Jay is a writer and producer with a great passion for protecting America’s national security. For the past dozen years, we have been telling stories in film and print celebrating unsung heroes.

Jay and I are honored to be working with a world-class team to edit this site and produce the podcast, A Good War. Our mission is to help tell the inspiring stories of public health heroes—past and present—in the battles between the human race and infectious diseases.

Look for the podcast to debut in the coming weeks.

Please reach out with ideas for posts or questions and share with everyone who wants to help play their part.

Thank you for spending your valuable time with us. We need each of you to help Win A Good War.