Coronavirus Special Coverage

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The US & the world do not look prepared for an nCoV-2019 pandemic

A Twitter thread from Jeremy Konyndyk, Former US Foreign Disaster Assistance chief, is yet another data point in a growing pile of indicators that we may really not be at all ready to handle an nCoV-2019 outbreak here in the US, especially if it strikes during an already busy flu season.

This isn’t much of a surprise, since the 2017-2018 flu season overwhelmed a hospitals in a number of states, to the point that beds were being set up in tents.

And then there are the likely equipment and drug shortages that continued city-by-city lockdowns in China — the world’s factory and the world’s pharmacy — will inflict on a US healthcare system that is totally dependent on it for critical supplies.

Meanwhile, not only did the current administration gut the White House office responsible for pandemic preparedness and coordination last year, but there are further cuts proposed to the CDC and aspects of the epidemic response set up during the Ebola scare.

It’s not just the US, either, that’s unprepared for what may be coming. A new report from the Global Health Security Index finds that the global health system is not in good shape to handle a major pandemic.

“The results are alarming: All countries – at all income levels – have major gaps in their capabilities, and they aren’t sufficiently investing in biological preparedness,” said Ernest J. Moniz, co-chairperson and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, in a written statement. “The bottom line is that global biological risks are growing – in many cases faster than health systems, security, science and governments can keep up.”

This fits with the WHO report on global pandemic preparedness from back in September, which found that the world is woefully unprepared to handle a fast-moving, deadly respiratory virus.

Then there’s Africa, which is especially in danger from the new virus, and knows it. It’s concerning to the WHO and other health authorities that Africa has yet to report a case of the virus — this is certainly due to a lack of testing, and not to a lack of the virus, itself. It’s possible — probable, even — that the virus is currently spreading there undetected, and once we uncover a cluster there we can probably kiss the recent slowdown in ex-China growth, goodbye.

So, we hope for containment, we pray the fatality rate turns out to be on the low side of estimates, and we prepare for the worst.

Update: More on the US’s lack of preparedness, including not nearly enough hospital beds to handle anything major.