US May Not be Prepared to Deal with Coronavirus
Health experts are warning that cuts to personnel and budgets over the past three years have left the United States under-prepared for the Coronavirus threat.
The Guardian reported that there is no one in the White House specifically charged with coordinating a “government-wide response in the event of a pandemic, since the post of senior director for global health security and biothreats on the national security council (NSC) was eliminated last May.”
The office was shuttered by former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who did not perceive global health issues as a national security priority, the publication said.
The office was established in 2016 after the Ebola virus outbreak made it clear that the U.S. government was not adequately prepared to respond to a lethal epidemic.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus appears to be more contagious than health experts originally thought, leading “health and disaster planning experts [to argue] for contingency preparations for a global outbreak.”
“You have to at least now be anticipating and responsibly planning against a sort of pandemic level scenario reaching the US,” Jeremy Konyndyk, who ran foreign disaster assistance in the Obama administration, told The Guardian. “The fact that they explicitly dismantled the office in the White House that was tasked with preparing for exactly this kind of a risk is hugely concerning.”
Konyndyk added: “Both the structure and all the institutional memory is gone now.”
Further funding cuts have occurred at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resulting in reduced or discontinued prevention efforts in 39 out of 49 countries where the CDC once operated. China is one of those countries, The Guardian reported.
Additionally a proposal to decrease the CDC’s funding by another 10 percent in its 2020 budget, which would cut “funding for epidemiology and laboratory capacity at state and local levels.”
And the system put in place after the Ebola scare, which consists of a tiered epidemic response within the U.S., will see its funding run out this year. That system “involved identifying patients infected by ‘special pathogens’ in frontline hospitals and their transfer up a chain of specially equipped regional hospitals where they could be safely treated.”