Nine leading scientific advisers to former president Barack Obama have issued a dramatic warning that the US has three months to urgently replenish its national stockpile of emergency medical supplies ahead of a possible resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic this autumn, The Guardian reports.
“Preparation for a resurgence needs to be initiated now. It needs to be at a national level, in close collaboration and coordination with state and local officials,” says the seven-page report by nine authors, led by John Holdren, who served as Obama’s White House science adviser throughout his two terms in office.
In the letter, which was circulated to senior Trump administration officials, members of Congress, governors, mayors, and Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, the science advisers urge immediate action by the federal government to gear up for a possible new wave of the respiratory disease.
They insist action is needed to rule out a repeat of the “extraordinary shortage of supplies” evidenced in March and April, as they implicitly voiced criticism of Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
According to the group, which in addition to Holdren includes Eric Lander of MIT and Harvard, Chris Chyba of Princeton and Susan Graham of UC Berkeley, Donald Trump had failed to heed the calls of diverse studies that had urged the replenishment of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) in preparation for events like the current pandemic.
“The United States was unprepared for the supply needs of the spring 2020 COVID-19 pandemic,” says the letter, as quoted by the outlet.
Reminding that emergency stocks of surgical and N95 respirator masks had been exhausted during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, the authors point to the administration’s failure to act on a Congressional recommendation that the supplies be replenished.
“There has been a persistent shortage of ventilators, testing kits, masks and other PPE [personal protective equipment] … In recent years the nation has let down its guard,” claim the scientists.
It is also stated in the missive that in April 2020 the administration had reworded the remit of the national stockpile, earlier touted as the “nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency” with “enough supplies to respond to multiple large-scale emergencies simultaneously”.
The purpose of the national stockpile was subsequently pronounced as to “supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies” and to provide a “short-term stopgap buffer”.
Looking ahead, the group of some of the most pre-eminent scientists in the country lay out explicit practical advice to officials and politicians regarding how best to prepare for future waves of COVID-19 in the US, offering a 30-day plan to rebuild the stockpile with $30 bln from Congress.
Regular reviews would be called upon over the next five years to ensure supplies are subsequently sustained.
The scientists plan to continue offering advice over the coming months on issues such as contact tracing, serology, antibody tests, and data management, in other similar papers.
Obama-Trump Verbal Spat
Recently, Barack Obama and Donald Trump openly exchanged searing comments, as the former president expressed his criticism of the current administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 16 May Obama addressed graduating students in an online commencement address, saying in an apparent reference to the government, that the pandemic had " finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing – a lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge”.
Earlier, the ex-president told former members of his administration in a leaked web call on Friday first obtained by Yahoo News that “It would have been bad even with the best of governments… It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset — of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ — when that mindset is operationalised in our government.”
Trump hit back, accusing Obama of having been a “grossly incompetent” president.
We are getting great marks for the handling of the CoronaVirus pandemic, especially the very early BAN of people from China, the infectious source, entering the USA. Compare that to the Obama/Sleepy Joe disaster known as H1N1 Swine Flu. Poor marks, bad polls - didn’t have a clue!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2020
Ever since the US reported its first confirmed cases of COVID-19 on 20 January, Donald Trump has come under mounting criticism for his lack of a timely response to the epidemic, as the administration procrastinated with ramping up diagnostic testing. It was also deplored for reluctance to enlist commercial corporations into manufacturing supplies by resorting to the Defense Production Act.