A coronavirus response action plan compiled by the United States task force warned lawmakers on Friday that the pandemic is expected to last 18 months or longer with waves of illnesses striking the American public.
The pandemic will strain the country’s healthcare system, resulting in significant shortages for the government, the private sector and individuals, it predicted.
A copy of the ‘U.S. Government COVID-19 Response Plan’ was acquired by the New York Times on Tuesday, revealing that the coronavirus task force, headed up by Vice President Mike Pence, released a report on Friday outlining the long-term impact of the outbreak in the U.S., the same day that President Donald Trump declared a national emergency.
The announcement marked a change in tone for Trump who had previously described the country’s coronavirus outbreak as an issue that would fade away, downplaying its seriousness.
The president continued to downplay how long his administration thinks the crisis could last during a press conference Wednesday.
When quizzed about the time frame outlined in the report and about officials’ assessment that the pandemic could last longer than 18 months, he responded ‘No, we’re not seeing that at all’.
President Donald Trump announced he would invoke the Defense Production Act in a press conference Wednesday. It was advised in a report from the federal response task force
A patient wears a protective face mask as she is unloaded from an ambulance at The Brooklyn Hospital Center emergency room on Wednesday. A federal report predicts that there will be a significant shortage in supplies and strain on hospitals during an 18-month pandemic
A student loads his surfboard in a truck at San Diego State University in San Diego where theer rest of the semester has been canceled. A report from the federal coronavirus task force has predicted that the pandemic could stretch over another academic year, lasting over 18 months
The report predicts that the pandemic could last another year and a half
The report also suggests that the public and government will experience significant shortages
The 100-page report presents a grim prediction, however, of ‘multiple waves’ of the virus straining the healthcare system and significantly impacting the supply chain and transportation resulting in shortages across the country.
The report also outlined a government response including President Trump invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950, which he announced during Wednesday’s press conference.
The act is a Korean War-era law that allows President Trump extraordinary action to increase American production of critical equipment such as ventilators and respirators.
Doctors have already voiced their concern about the lack of ventilators available with a hospital in Washington State already running out.
The act will also force further production of protective gear for health workers amid an acknowledged shortage on masks and other protective wear.
Several hospitals have spoken of the low number of face masks still available to staff with some nurses being forced to wash their mask and reuse it.
Among those hospitals with a shortage is the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, one of the country’s top cancer hospitals, where it was revealed there is just one week’s supply of masks left after eight patients and staff members were diagnosed with the coronavirus.
‘Shortages of products may occur, impacting health care, emergency services, and other elements of critical infrastructure,’ the plan warned.
‘This includes potentially critical shortages of diagnostics, medical supplies (including PPE and pharmaceuticals), and staffing in some locations,’ it added, referring to medical staff’s lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The increase in coronavirus cases in the United States from January until March 18
‘State and local governments, as well as critical infrastructure and communications channels, will be stressed and potentially less reliable,’ it continued.
‘These stresses may also increase the challenges of getting updated messages and coordinating guidance to these jurisdictions directly.’
The report made the assumption that a ‘pandemic will last 18 months or longer and could include multiple waves of illness’.
It added that the ‘spread and severity of COVID -19 will be difficult to forecast and characterize’ adding to the response pressures as the outbreak worsens.
The report also predicted that there will be further hospitalizations among at-risk individuals and that this will place a severe strain on the healthcare system.
‘Supply chain and transportation impacts due to ongoing COVID – 19 outbreak will likely result in significant shortages for government , private sector, and individual U.S. consumers,’ it concluded.
The federal report also sets out a plan of action to respond to the pandemic, several points of which have already come into play including the closure of schools and the cancellation of large events.
The invocation of the Defense Production Act as outlined in the report was also rolled out by President Trump on Wednesday after significant pressure from lawmakers to use its power to boost American production to make up for the shortages predicted.
Last week, 57 Democrats sent a letter to the presdent in which they compared the current pandemic in the U.S. to the World War II.
The same comparison was drawn by Trump on Wednesday when announcing his decision to invoke the act as her referred to himself as a war-time president.
The act was first passed in 1950 after American troops went to war to defend South Korea and was based on powers used during World War II.
It allows the president to require businesses to prioritize and accept contracts that are deemed necessary for the country’s defense and was later expanded to include domestic preparedness and national emergencies such as the current pandemic.
‘I view it — in a sense as a wartime president,’ Trump said Wednesday, saying that he would employ the act as needed to steer industrial output and overcome shortages of face masks, ventilators and other supplies needed against the expected onslaught of cases.
‘It’s a war,’ Trump said, likening the anti-coronavirus efforts to measures taken during World War II and warning of national sacrifices.
The 18-month pandemic prediction described in the federal government’s report is similar to the claim made by the Imperial College London that widespread shutdowns may need to continue for 18 months until a vaccine is available.
In their study released on Monday, Imperial College issued the stark recommendation, as the US and UK governments began planning for dramatic and long-term shutdowns.
If the US and UK did nothing, they estimate that 81 percent of each population would become infected, and 2.2 million Americans would die, along with 510,000 Britons.
But keeping people away from each other could cut US deaths down to some 200,000, Mother Jones estimated.
So far, more than 120 Americans have died since the coronavirus emerged in China in December.
However, an academic paper published on Tuesday by the New England Complex Systems Institute argues that Imperial College’s model ignores other key interventions that could be deployed after a lockdown ends.
In essence, the authors argue that a lockdown of several weeks could be sufficient to stamp out the virus, as long as travel restrictions, widespread testing capabilites, and contact tracing protocols are in place to limit any subsequent outbreaks.