The United States death toll from COVID-19 now ranks second globally, according to Johns Hopkins University’s data, as frontline health workers have been struggling with shortages of medical supplies while governors across the country have slammed the Federal response to the novel coronavirus.
An internal Pentagon document dated 2017 offered up a warning about the potential threat of a novel coronavirus and the disastrous fallout from it, according to The Nation magazine.
Marked “for official use only” and dated 6 January 2017, the 103-page document titled “USNORTHCOM Branch Plan 3560: Pandemic Influenza and Infectious Disease Response” was reportedly provided to the outlet by an anonymous Pentagon official.
Predicting an Outbreak
“Key security concerns that could arise from the political, social and economic instabilities include opportunistic aggression, opportunities for violent extremists to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD) … instability resulting from humanitarian disaster and decreased distribution of essential commodities,” said the document.
The draft, writes the publication, updated an earlier Department of Defense pandemic response plan, as it “incorporates insights from several recent outbreaks, including…2012 Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus.”
The internal document goes on to state that an outbreak of “disease coupled with instability may result in reduced security capabilities,” warning that the situation could potentially set the stage for “international military conflict, increased terrorist activity, internal unrest, political and/or economic collapse, a humanitarian crisis and social change”.
The memo also warns that US Northern Command, “due to the effects of the disease on personal and resources, may not have the capacity to effectively support [the U.S. government and partner nations] with the support required.”
The Pentagon memo cited by The Nation outlined the specific conditions under which an infectious disease similar to the current COVID-19 respiratory virus featuring “high virulence” might potentially become a pandemic, such as “crowded workplaces, proximity to international airports, and unsanitary living conditions.”.
Furthermore, the cited draft military memo seemed to predict some of the medical supply shortages and even “insufficient hospital beds” currently being witnessed.
“Competition for, and scarcity of resources will include…non-pharmaceutical MCM [medical countermeasures] (e.g., ventilators, devices, personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves), medical equipment, and logistical support. This will have a significant impact on the availability of the global workforce,” reads the draft.
The report continues:
“Even the most industrialised countries will have insufficient hospital beds, specialised equipment such as mechanical ventilators, and pharmaceuticals readily available to adequately treat their populations during the clinically severe pandemic.”
Yet another singular prediction in the memo underscored the global rivalry to obtain a vaccine, as a race against time is underway in several countries to develop new drugs and amidst accounts of Donald Trump reportedly offering German scientists large sums of money for exclusive rights to a vaccine.
The report ultimately states that US NORTHCOM may acquire and distribute vaccines to military personal via NORTHCOM logistics networks.
There has not been an official comment on the report from the Pentagon.
The news comes amidst grave concerns regarding insufficient medical supplies in the US as state governors say their demands for more masks and other medical equipment are not being met, forcing them to compete with each other for critical supplies.
“This should have been a coordinated effort by the federal government…It’s a Wild West out there…Indeed we’re overpaying for PPE because of that competition,” Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said on CNN’s “State of the Union”.
On 7 April leaders of the House Homeland Security and Oversight and Reform committees wrote to the Federal Emergency Management Agency about supply chain issues in acquiring medical supplies, referencing a recent inspector general report that deplored severe shortages faced by hospitals nationwide and questioned “the agency’s opaque and evolving processes.’
Last week Donald Trump urged General Motors and Ford on Twitter to speed up the manufacture of ventilators for COVID-19 patients.
General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!! @GeneralMotors @Ford
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2020
The United States has more than 432,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 14,800 deaths due to the disease, according to data published by Johns Hopkins University.