By Nana Dadzie Ghansah
Acting separately in 2019, two groups in the US ran simulations of an important event — a novel respiratory virus that broke out and caused a pandemic.
Both simulations revealed glaring deficiencies in the US’ preparations for such an unfortunate event.
The first simulation was run in Washington DC and titled “ Crimson Contagion”. It was organized by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and led by former Air Force physician Robert Kadlec, an expert in biodefense. The program was started under the Obama administration after the 2014 Ebola outbreak. The staff at HHS kept it going under the Trump administration.
Last year’s simulation was run with dozens of states and federal agencies, charitable groups, insurance companies, and major hospitals.
The exercise imagined a “pandemic flu” that originated in China, infected 35 tourists who visited China and spread globally after these tourists returned to their respective home countries. The disease broke out in the US after the son of the infected tourist, who had a cough and body aches, attended a concert in Chicago and infected others.
The simulation ran from January to August of 2019 and in the process revealed several worrisome problems — problems that we are seeing play out even now: insufficient hospital space and medical supplies, as well as confusion between federal agencies and between states and the federal government. The organizers also discovered that the US did not have the means to quickly manufacture medical equipment, supplies or medicines, like antiviral medications, needles, syringes, N95 respirators, and ventilators.
Whether anyone in the White House saw or even read the results of the simulation is unknown.
The second simulation was run by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the Gates Foundation in New York City in October 2019. It was titled “Event 201” and was led by Eric Toner, an internist and emergency physician, who is also a senior scientist at the Hopkin’s School of Public Health. Participants were a group of policymakers, business leaders, and health officials. This simulation was partly driven by not only the possible loss of life but also…