It started with a new virus emerging in China – which tourists rapidly brought home to Chicago, setting off a cascade of events that confounded government officials and revealed gaping holes in the national stockpile.
But it wasn’t the new coronavirus – it was the ‘Crimson Contagion’ – part of a government exercise that anticipated many of the failures currently holding back government agencies and front-line health professionals.
The exercise produced a draft report that was produced on a ‘Do Not Distribute’ bases that involved a range of government agencies. It came out in October of 2019, just two months before officials in China identified a new coronavirus that would shut down much of the world economy and bring on a terrifying death toll and infection rate.
A devastating draft report from October 2019 identified weaknesses in how the feds would respond to a flu pandemic
The draft report, obtained by the New York Times, was revealed on a day President Trump claimed ‘nobody knew there’d be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion’ and his administration backed a $1 trillion recovery plan and said it identified tens of thousands of ventilators that could be ‘converted’ for hospital use. Construction workers were being asked to donate excess masks, and the military was determining where it could set up mobile hospitals.
The draft report described a simulation and exercise involving 19 federal departments and agencies and 12 states, as well as 87 hospitals. One such state was New York, which now has the most U.S. coronavirus cases and is searching for ways to accommodate patients, even on hospital ships or in a convention center.
Partners ‘lacked clarity’ on agency partners’ roles, according to the report, overseen by the Health and Human Services Department. It found there was ‘confusion’ among briefs submitted by various agencies, including HHS, FEMA and Homeland Security.
President Trump said Thursday that ‘nobody knew there’d be a pandemic’
A trader wears a face mask on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) following traders testing positive for Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New York, U.S., March 19, 2020. Financial markets have tanked as the coronavirus spread
A man wearing a protective face mask walks with his luggage in Times Square, following the outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 19, 2020
The agencies undertook the exercise after identifying problems in the response to Ebola and other outbreaks
The report identified ‘insufficient funding sources’ for a pandemic response. The treasury will now be out trillions trying to resuscitate the economy
A driver wears a protective mask while traveling in an Amazon.com Inc. delivery truck in New Rochelle, New York, U.S., on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Members of the National Guard have arrived in New Rochelle to clean institutions and deliver food to the more than 120 sick residents within the three mile containment area
Members of the New York Army National Guard assist Hope Community Services to pack food for distribution in an area with multiple cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New Rochelle, New York, U.S., March 18, 2020
The draft ran a simulation for the ‘Crimson Contagion’
An October simulation forecast how a pandemic might play out
The simulation tracked the spread of a respiratory disease
‘The current medical countermeasure supply chain and production capacity cannot meet demands imposed by nations during a global influenza pandemic,’ authors wrote – in a finding that mirrored the lack of gloves, ventilators, and masks for caregivers.
States experienced ‘multiple challenges’ requesting federal resources and responded differently to events – a finding that echoes the gulf of available resources and funding to respond.
Some states ‘were not clear on pre-pandemic vaccine’ or the nation’s stockpile.
The simulations followed problems in the U.S. response to Ebola and H1N1 swing flu and other outbreaks.
The planning happened at a level lower down the bureaucracy, the Times found, without getting sufficient attention from top officials now calling the shots.