Limited Availability of Medical Supplies due to Pandemic

Pandemic “will last 18 months or longer,” leaked US gov’t report warns

Gov’t report warns of medical-supply shortages and “multiple waves” in pandemic. 

The US government is reportedly preparing for the coronavirus pandemic to last 18 months or longer and result in “significant shortages for government, private sector, and individual US consumers.”

A 100-page US government plan was leaked to The New York Times, which today published an article summarizing the highlights.

“A federal government plan to combat the coronavirus warned policymakers last week that a pandemic ‘will last 18 months or longer’ and could include ‘multiple waves,’ resulting in widespread shortages that would strain consumers and the nation’s health care system,” the Times wrote.

The 18-month figure is in line with the best-case estimates of how long it will take to develop a vaccine and make it widely available. There could be millions of deaths in the US and UK alone during that time, but social distancing and other containment measures could limit the death toll, according to Imperial College London research that we wrote about yesterday.

The Times did not publish the full US government report. “Much of the plan is bureaucratic in nature, describing coordination among agencies and actions that in some cases have already been taken, like urging schools to close and large events to be canceled,” the article said.

The plan’s warnings include the following:

Shortages of products may occur, impacting health care, emergency services, and other elements of critical infrastructure… This includes potentially critical shortages of diagnostics, medical supplies (including PPE [personal protective equipment] and pharmaceuticals), and staffing in some locations. 

State and local governments, as well as critical infrastructure and communications channels, will be stressed and potentially less reliable. These stresses may also increase the challenges of getting updated messages and coordinating guidance to these jurisdictions directly. 

The Times article said the plan listed actions President Trump could take, such as “invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950, a Korean War-era law that authorizes a president to take extraordinary action to force American industry to ramp up production of critical equipment and supplies such as ventilators, respirators and protective gear for health care workers.”

Trump said on Tuesday that “we hope we don’t need” to invoke the Defense Production Act but that “we’ll make that decision pretty quickly if we need it,” the Times wrote.

Other options for the US mentioned in the government plan “include distributing medical supplies and equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile, providing money to states to help them meet demands caused by the coronavirus outbreak and prioritizing the distribution of essential resources to focus on areas most in need,” the Times wrote.

Update at 12:53pm ET: Trump announced today that he will invoke the Defense Production Act “just in case we need it.”

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