- As Bush explained in 2005: “A pandemic is a lot like a forest fire: If caught early, it might be extinguished with limited damage; if allowed to smolder undetected, it can grow to an inferno that spreads quickly beyond our ability to control it.” Because of a decade of failures, we are now in the midst of that inferno, waiting for the fire to burn itself out. And there is no excuse for it.
Not long after WW II, the civil defense came up with guidance that was distributed to schoolchildren in the 1950s. This 1952 film provided a prescription about how students ought to react in the event of a nuclear explosion. At the time, the Soviet Union was engaged in nuclear testing and the US was in the midst of the Korean War. The lyrics most of us recall went like this:
There was a turtle by the name of Bert
and Bert the turtle was very alert;
when danger threatened him he never got hurt
he knew just what to do ...
He'd duck! [gasp]
(male) He did what we all must learn to do
(male) You (female) And you (male) And you (deeper male) And you!
[bang, gasp] Duck, and cover!
When we look back at this old memory, I probably chuckle. We wonder, “Did we really think hiding under our desk would protect us from a nuclear explosion?” Our teachers and parents realized that doing something, however minimal might confer a degree of from a potential oncoming nuclear fireball that was likely to cause serious injury or death.
The 2013 Noble Prize biologist Mike Leavitt served as the Secretary of Health and Human Services during the Bush Administration. In 2004, he urged that Americans store canned tuna and powdered milk under their beds for when bird flu hits. But Americans did not take him very seriously, and the comedian Jay Leno ridiculed Leavitt, who quipped, ““What? … Powdered milk and tuna? How many would rather have the bird flu?”
Nobody thought of distributing facemasks, or rubber gloves. Like a young child, our nation with a sense of invulnerability; we never imagined we would ever need rubber gloves, disinfection, and facemasks. The so-called “experts” from the Centers of Disease Control suffered from the type of hubris that Aristotle characterized in his depiction of the tragic hero, who, despite his great or virtuous character was destined for downfall, suffering, or defeat: Oedipus, the classic tragic hero. But Leavitt wisely observed, “In advance of a pandemic, anything you say sounds alarmist,” Leavitt explained. “After a pandemic starts, everything you’ve done is inadequate”
Our political leaders would love to blame Trump for the lack of America’s preparedness for the coronavirus outbreak. The pandemic revealed how the wealthiest country in the world was asleep at the wheel. Politicians, who lack foresight and wisdom, defunded monies that might have made the difference in our country’s preparedness.
When we chronicle the list of pandemics, we witnessed over the last twenty years, we recall the warning signs, e.g.,
- the 2002 SARS outbreak;
- the 2003 resurgence of H5N1 avian flu;
- the 2009 H1N1 swine flu outbreak;
- the 2012 MERS outbreak;
- the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
- The story behind today’s ventilator shortage is even more infuriating. The New York Times reports that in 2008, the Bush administration launched a project to stockpile ventilators for a pandemic, and in 2009 the Obama administration contracted with a California company to provide 40,000 of them. But in 2014, the company withdrew from the contract without delivering a single ventilator. So the government started over with a new contractor. It took another five years for the Food and Drug Administration to sign off on a new ventilator design, and the government did not place an order for 10,000 ventilators until December 2019 — the month that the COVID-19 outbreak began. We lost more than a decade due to government incompetence.
The belief in scientism and our unquestioning belief in the scientific experts have revealed to all, “The Emperor has no clothes.”