By Tank Murdoch
(TNS) Last week, TV personality and real-life physician Dr. Drew Pinsky laced the mainstream media for its shameless over-hyping of the coronavirus outbreak.
Judging by the fact that our local Walmart is suddenly out of toilet paper — enter eye-roll here, please — his words largely fell on deaf ears.
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Nevertheless, they bear repeating, especially now that President Trump has essentially been goaded into shutting down all travel to the U.S. from Europe and after the Democrat Media Complex forced the Dow Jones to lose more than 6,000 points with coronavirus fear mongering.
â€œA bad flu season is 80,000 dead, weâ€™ve got about 18,000 dead from influenza this year, we have a hundred from corona,â€ Dr. Drew told CBS News.. â€œWhich should you be worried about, influenza or Corona? A hundred versus 18,000? Itâ€™s not a trick question.
“And look, everything thatâ€™s going on with the New York cleaning the subways and everyone using Clorox wipes and get your flu shot, which should be the other message, thatâ€™s good. Thatâ€™s a good thing, so I have no problem with the behaviors,” he continued.
â€œWhat I have a problem with is the panic and the fact that businesses are getting destroyed, that peopleâ€™s lives are being upended, not by the virus, but by the panic,â€ Dr. Drew added. â€œThe panic must stop. And the press, they really somehow need to be held accountable because they are hurting people.â€
Well, in a perfect world, outlets responsible for purposely misleading the public over something as potentially serious as a viral outbreakÂ would be held accountable. But we don’t live in a perfect world.
That said, besides Pinsky’s statistics — and the fact thatÂ more than half of all global coronavirus patients haveÂ already recovered — there is more reason to calm the hell down: Namely, Uncle Sam has got this.
In fact, the U.S. government has been preparing for a major outbreak or pandemic far worse than COVID-19 forÂ years.
In 2016, NPR published a short expose on the government’s vast network of secret warehouses that are chock full of the kind of supplies it would need to take care of Americans in the event of a major health emergency:
WhenÂ Greg BurelÂ tells people he’s in charge of some secret government warehouses, he often gets asked if they’re like the one at theÂ endÂ ofÂ Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the Ark of the Covenant gets packed away in a crate and hidden forever.
“Well, no, not really,” says Burel, director of a program called theÂ Strategic National StockpileÂ at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Thousands of lives might someday depend on this stockpile, which holds all kinds of medical supplies that the officials would need in the wake of a terrorist attack with a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon.
The location of these warehouses is secret, as is the number of them (NPR quoted a former government official who said at a public meeting there were six). What’s actuallyÂ in the warehouses is a secret as well.
“If everybody knows exactly what we have, then you know exactly what you can do to us that we can’t fix,” says Burel. “And we just don’t want that to happen.”
National security and all that. Got it. Makes perfect sense.
Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, told NPR his main questions about the stockpiles have more to do with logistics.
“The warehouse is fine in terms of the management of stuff in there. What gets in the warehouse and where does it go after the warehouse, and how fast does it go to people, is where we have questions,” he said.
Fair enough. But each situation is different; distributing these supplies — getting them to the people most in need — would depend on many factors, including available transport, condition of infrastructure, amount of personnel available to deliver supplies and care for survivors, etc.
In other words, there are no answers to Redlener’s questionsÂ untilÂ an emergency occurs, but you can bet that the government, along with state/local officials, the U.S. military, National Guard, FEMA, DHS, and other agencies have already “war gamed” several scenarios.
Anyway, the NPR reporter managed to actually get access to one of the storage facilities and managed to slip a few details into her story:
The Strategic National Stockpile got its start back inÂ 1999, with a budget of about $50 million. Since then, even though the details aren’t public, it’s clear that it has amassed an incredible array of countermeasures against possible security threats.
The inventory includes millions of doses of vaccines against bioterrorism agents like smallpox, antivirals in case of a deadly flu pandemic, medicines used to treat radiation sickness and burns, chemical agent antidotes, wound care supplies, IV fluids and antibiotics.
I notice that one section of the warehouse is caged off and locked.Â Shirley Mabry, the logistics chief for the stockpile, says that’s for medicines like painkillers that could be addictive, “so that there’s no pilferage of those items.”
As we walk, I hear a loud hum. It’s a giant freezer packed with products that have to be kept cold.
Just outside it, there are rows upon rows of ventilators that could keep sick or injured people breathing. Mabry explains that they’re kept in a constant state of readiness. “If you look down to the side you’ll see there’s electrical outlets so they can be charged once a month,” she says. Not only thatâ€”the ventilators get sent out for yearly maintenance.
In fact, everything here has to be inventoried once a year, and expiration dates have to be checked. Just tending to this vast stash costs a bundle â€” the stockpile program’s budget is more than half a billion dollars a year.
“If you envision, say, a Super Walmart and stick two of those side by side and take out all the drop ceiling, that’s about the same kind of space that we would occupy in one of these storage locations,” Burel said.
“We have the capability, if something bad happens, that we can intervene in a positive way, but then we don’t ever want to have to do that. So it’s kind of a strange place,” Burel added. “But we would be foolish not to prepare for those events that we could predict might happen.”
As someone who has helped plan, and participated in, emergency preparedness exercises, I can tell you that there are a lot of perfect plans butÂ no perfectÂ responses.Â That’s because fallout from catastrophes like a major chemical/biological/nuclear attack — or a massively deadly viral outbreak — cannot be measured until they happen.
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But the fact remains, there are plans in place. There are massive stockpiles of goods and supplies ready to be distributed in the event of such an incident.
Coronavirus doesn’t come anywhere close to one of these kinds of events.
Hence, Dr. Drew’s advice: Calm down, do the ‘flu’ things that you already do, and to the mainstream media always looking for the next Donald Trump “Gotcha!” event, knock off the BS and stop needlessly scaring people.
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