“There are so many alarms, we are no longer alarmed!” –Summer Verwers
“COVID-19 brings us smack up against the modern reality of a totally globalized and interconnected world — and strongly suggests the need for a globally coordinated response.” –former Acting Director of the CIA, John McLaughlin
“Everyone needs to be aware that this fight against the virus is a marathon, and at the end it will come down to different capabilities being made available, and that will especially be a task for the Bundeswehr.” German Defense Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer,
As all of us are being impacted by the nefarious effects of the officially named, SARS-CoV-2, which we will refer to in this edition of “More than Meets the Eye” as coronavirus. On top of washing my hands frequently, practicing social distancing and taking copious amounts of Vitamin C, my mind is preoccupied with many thoughts and questions, such as: Where did this thing really come from? Why is it spreading so quickly? Why are so many Italians dying while many South Koreans are recovering? Where are the Russians in all of this? Are they not getting the virus?
Mostly I wonder why we didn’t see the coronavirus coming and where something of this magnitude will lead us. It is likely to lead us to a host of new ways of thinking, some of these prompted by fear. More importantly, a pandemic this global in nature causes me to consider the other two-thirds of the world. What will developing countries do when the virus hits them? Will they have access to adequate healthcare or will millions of them perish? I have many questions.
I would like to review the results of several scenario-based exercises that perhaps should have sent up flares to governments in the world about the plausibility of coronavirus-like pandemics coming our way. We will look at the Lock-Step Exercise which took place in 2010, which our current pandemic frighteningly mirrors. We will examine two 2019 exercises: the Crimson Contagion Exercise and the Event 201. Each of these plays out many of our current occurrences with COVID-19 in accurate detail. We will check out with a little more granularity some of the recommendations which were proposed by the leaders of these studies and perhaps evaluate them for their second and third-order effects because it will be in these effects where we discover that there is for certain, more than meets the eye.
There is one thing I want to make clear. In reviewing a lot of literature on this matter, so much of it was aimed at blaming the current administration as well as previous administrations for not being better prepared for an event such as COVID-19. Hindsight is 20/20. Pointing one’s finger in situations like this is likely the least productive activity in which one can engage. It seems that the world in which we live is waging war against humanity. We are seeing this assault in some ways that may have been postulated, but few of us actually digested its veritable possibility. Today, we stand at a precipice. How will we respond as a community, a state and a nation?
Here are three specific significant Pandemic Preparation Exercises that have been run over the past decade. The results are staggeringly similar to those being played out today.
Was the scenario, (one of four included in a publication called “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development” in 2010) describing a coronavirus-like pandemic that becomes the trigger for the imposition of police-state controls on movement, economy, and other areas of society?
The introduction of a coronavirus was an “extremely virulent and deadly” strain of influenza originating with wild geese bringing the world to its knees, infecting 20 percent of the global population and killing 8 million people in just seven months – “the majority of them healthy young adults.” It devastated global economies and ruptured international trade.
In the Lock-Step pandemic scenario, “The United States’ initial policy of ‘strongly discouraging’ citizens from flying, proved deadly in its leniency, accelerating the spread of the virus not just within the US but across borders,” the report warns. But remove such obstacles as ‘individual rights’ and you have a recipe for surviving, even thriving in the event of a pandemic.
According to the exercise scenario outcomes, “During the pandemic, national leaders around the world flexed their authority and imposed airtight rules and restrictions, from the mandatory wearing of face masks to body-temperature checks at the entries to communal spaces like train stations and supermarkets. Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even intensified. In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly global problems — from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises and rising poverty — leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power.”
The Crimson Contagion planning exercise run last year (2019) by the Department of Health and Human Services involved officials from 12 states and at least a dozen federal agencies. They included the Pentagon, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Security Council. Groups like the American Red Cross and American Nurses Association were invited to join, as were health insurance companies and major hospitals like the Mayo Clinic.
What was the scenario? The fictional outbreak involved a pandemic flu, which the Department of Health and Human Services says was “very different than the novel coronavirus.” The staged outbreak had started when a group of 35 tourists visiting China were infected and then flew home to Australia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Thailand, Britain and Spain, as well as to the United States, with some developing respiratory symptoms and fevers enroute. In the fictional pandemic, as the virus spread quickly across the United States, the CDC issued guidelines for social distancing, and many employees were told to work from home. Federal and state officials struggled to identify which employees were essential and what equipment was needed to effectively work from home.
What were the recommendations? The exercise from last year then went on to predict how the situation on the ground in the United States would worsen as the weeks passed. Friction also emerged between the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is traditionally in charge of disaster response, and the Department of Health and Human Services, another scenario playing out now.
The problems identified were larger than just bureaucratic snags. The United States, the organizers realized, did not have the means to quickly manufacture more essential medical equipment, supplies or medicines, including antiviral medications, needles, syringes, N95 respirators and ventilators, the agency concluded. Congress was briefed in December on some of these findings, including the inability to quickly replenish certain medical supplies, given that much of the product comes from overseas.
- A significant topic of concern centered around the inadequacies of the existing executive branch and statutory authorities to provide HHS with the requisite mechanisms to serve successfully as the lead federal agency in response to an influenza pandemic.
- Further examination is needed to determine how federal interagency partners will coordinate with one another on a variety of pandemic influenza-specific response activities, including but not limited to information-sharing with the National Security Council, addressing shortages in medical countermeasure and ancillary supplies, bilateral state-federal request for information coordination nodes and processes, and the respective roles and responsibilities of HHS and DHS/FEMA in response to a complex and unique threat, with a nontraditional lead federal agency.
- The exercise also revealed several strengths, including collaboration between the federal government and healthcare and public health private sector partners and the ability of federal interagency partners to conduct a productive crisis action planning session to develop key leadership decisions, critical information requirements, and essential elements of information to successfully gather information for and maintain situational awareness products.
Event 201 was a 3.5-hour pandemic tabletop exercise that simulated a series of dramatic, scenario-based facilitated discussions, confronting difficult, true-to-life dilemmas associated with response to a hypothetical, but scientifically plausible, pandemic. Fifteen global business, government, and public health leaders were players in the simulation exercise that highlighted unresolved real-world policy and economic issues that could be solved with sufficient political will, financial investment, and attention now and in the future.
What were the recommendations? The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, World Economic Forum, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation jointly proposed these recommendations. Click the recommendations link for a fuller explanation.
- Governments, international organizations, and businesses should plan now for how essential corporate capabilities will be utilized during a large-scale pandemic.
- Industry, national governments, and international organizations should work together to enhance internationally held stockpiles of medical countermeasures (MCMs) to enable rapid and equitable distribution during a severe pandemic.
- Countries, international organizations, and global transportation companies should work together to maintain travel and trade during severe pandemics. Travel and trade are essential to the global economy as well as to national and even local economies, and they should be maintained even in the face of a pandemic.
- Governments should provide more resources and support for the development and surge manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics that will be needed during a severe pandemic.
- Global businesses should recognize the economic burden of pandemics and fight for stronger preparedness.
- International organizations should prioritize reducing economic impacts of epidemics and pandemics.
- Governments and the private sector should assign a greater priority to developing methods to combat mis- and disinformation prior to the next pandemic response.
They collectively called on leaders in global business, international organizations, and national governments to launch an ambitious effort to work together to build a world better prepared for a severe pandemic. Remember, this exercise was conducted in 2019.
Examining Pandemic Preparations Exercises helps us to know what to monitor, what to disregard and what to be passionate about. It is important in days such as these to be aware of how our leaders prepare or don’t prepare for pandemics.
It is interesting that two of the three exercises described above were held by private organizations and foundations, and only one by the government. All three alluded to similar deficiencies and strengths. Next week, I plan to analyze the conclusions further and more deeply.
To be clear, there are people out there who serve us in our governments who are devoting their lives to preparing for disasters such as the current novel coronavirus. I am sure that they have been sounding the alarm for quite some time now. However, the world has been full of many disasters one right after the other. My head spins trying to keep up. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to prioritize everything which our national leadership must handle.
Wash your hands! Practice social distancing. Keep about six feet between you and your neighbor. If you start feeling a bit sick, call your doctor; don’t just show up at the clinic. They will want to prepare for you.
Take plenty of vitamin C. Take a walk. Pray for your neighbors. Look for ways to serve them. Donate blood if you are able.
Pray for our local, state and national leadership. Let’s pray especially for our local police. They are in a terrible position as they are exposed all day long to people, with so much of their interactions being laced with conflict.
How the World Will Look After the Coronavirus Pandemic…https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/20/world-order-after-coroanvirus-pandemic/?utm_source=PostUp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20499&utm_term=Editor
Coronavirus research is being published at a furious pace…https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/03/20/coronavirus-research-is-being-published-at-a-furious-pace?utm_campaign=the-economist-today&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_source=salesforce-marketing-cloud&utm_term=2020-03-23&utm_content=article-link-4
For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trends in Digital Identities.. https://www.gemalto.com/govt/identity/digital-identity-services/trends
Biometrics and digital identity… https://precisebiometrics.com/blog/biometrics-secures-digital-identity-supports-cashless-society/