Commentary: H1N1 and COVID-19: Let’s compare the facts and timelines

By Doris W. Draper

It is time for comparisons and fact checking on pandemics.

On April 14, 2009, the first case of H1N1 (swine flu) was reported in California. On April 19, President Barack Obama and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention activated the Emergency Operations Center. On April 26, a public health emergency was declared. By May 4, there had been a deployment to the states of 25% of the supplies and antivirals in the Strategic National Stockpile. By May 6, testing kits were available to all states. Time elapsed was 22 days. From April 2009 through April 2010, the United States had 12,469 deaths.

Compare that response time and the total deaths to the present day, with more than 82,000 deaths (as of this writing) in 111 days, and you see the total disregard for the American people.

Add to this the fact that the Obama administration presented the Trump administration with a book titled “Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents” as a guide and that the current administration was given a presentation during the presidential transition process that warned of how the government would have to respond in the event of a deadly viral outbreak.

Even though the presidential daily briefings talked about the possibilities of this pandemic, President Trump often skips reading these and shows no interest in the oral summaries given three times a week.

The travel ban put into place by this administration did not ban all the travel from China. Thousands of U.S. citizens, family of U.S. citizens, and permanent residents who had traveled to China were not screened. Even after the outbreaks in Europe, the restrictions from there were too little, too late.

On Jan. 22, Michael Bowen, owner of Prestige Ameritech in Fort Worth, Texas, sent notice to the Department of Health and Human Services that they had four like-new N95 mask-manufacturing lines that could be reactivated immediately. These four lines had the potential to make more than 7 million masks a month. But it was April 7 before he was finally awarded a one-year contract to produce 1 million masks a month.

Because of these kinds of delays, we are now dealing with subpar masks putting everyone at risk and paying horrendous prices while Bowen’s masks cost 79 cents each. At the same time, tariffs have driven the price of imported masks and personal protective equipment out of sight. And did you realize that in January, Health and Human Services chief Alex M. Azar named his aide, Brian Harrison, to lead the day-to-day coronavirus response? Mr. Harrison’s closest claim to medicine, public health or management is running a dog-breeding business in Dallas.

The reporting by Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx is being curtailed and they were not allowed to speak to the House of Representatives, effectively shutting out half of our Congress from needed information. Detailed advice from the CDC on opening the country has been shelved. Screening for people entering this country is nonexistent.

So, what has been the priority of this administration as tens of thousands of Americans die?

They are still pushing to totally end the Affordable Care Act so that millions more will have no health coverage, continuing construction of the border wall that puts workers and communities at risk, still pushing to send back those covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, who are a large number of the doctors, nurses and therapists fighting to keep Americans alive.

And at the same time, they are packing the courts with ultraconservative judges, even recommending Justin Walker for the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Please note that Mr. Walker is a buddy of Mitch McConnell, and that the American Bar Association has already sent letters stating he is not qualified for the job.

The administration has rescinded much-needed environmental laws, closed immigration which leaves us with few workers to harvest crops, done away with oversight of spending, and installed Andrew Veprek at the National Security Council – a person who is not only anti-immigration but also wants language “softened” on fighting racism. They want stricter curbs on voting, meaning soon we will have no voice. They are sending a Trump ally to the Pentagon to vet officials on their loyalty to the president. These men and women did not take an oath of loyalty to President Trump; it was to this country.

And where is the oversight on the supposed relief money for the people of this country? There were checks sent to dead people and even to a woman living in London who was a contract worker here for a couple of years.

As Fintan O’Toole wrote in The Irish Times, “The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful. Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode?”

Doris W. Draper is a resident of Houston.