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Saturday, March 14, 2020
AMERICANA / I RAN THE WHITE HOUSE PANDEMIC OFFICE. TRUMP CLOSED IT.
Who would do something so stupid? Pictured above is suspect-in-chief
The federal government is
moving too slowly, due to a lack of leadership.
By Beth Cameron,
PhD vice president for global biological policy and programs at the Nuclear
Threat Initiative.She previously served
as the senior director for global health security and biodefense on the White
House National Security Council.
Excerpt from the Washington Post article:
before Trump took office, we were watching many health security threats, including
a rising number of cases in China of H7N9 influenza, a deadly strain with high
mortality but low transmissibility between people. Earlier, we had been
tracking a large outbreak of yellow fever in Angola that threatened to sap the
limited global supply of that vaccine, affecting the local population,
international travelers, deployed citizens and troops. We were focused on
naturally occurring diseases and potential bioterrorism — any and every
biological threat that could cause a major global health and security
Dr. Beth Cameron
My office was also tasked with preparing — at
home and around the world — for the next health emergency, no matter its
origin. In 2014, even before the first cases of Ebola came to light in Guinea,
the Obama administration launched the Global Health Security Agenda, which now
includes more than 60 countries, to accelerate epidemic preparedness. That
effort, bolstered by $1 billion from the U.S. government in an emergency
spending bill to fight Ebola, led to major gains in global capability to combat
the Ebola outbreak and prepare for the next pandemic, which turned out to be
covid-19. We began building, measuring and tracking capacities each country
had, such as the strength of their national laboratory systems and their
abilities to detect and report disease, stand up emergency operation centers,
build an epidemiology workforce, and maintain safe and secure practices. We
spurred the use of transparent, measurable assessments of progress, and we
leveraged our diplomacy with other countries to finance and fill gaps. At the
same time, we strengthened international biosurveillance networks to help alert
us to future potential pandemics.
can’t stop the pandemic now. But we can be ready for it.
Another critical task came in early 2017, when
we began transitioning pandemic preparedness to the incoming Trump
administration. As a civil servant and the head of the directorate, I remained
at the White House for several months after the transition. I attended
senior-level meetings and directly briefed the homeland security adviser and
the national security adviser. After I left the White House that March,
pandemic preparedness remained on the agenda; my office remained intact under
the leadership of my well-respected successor, Rear Adm. Tim Ziemer; and the
national security adviser was tracking H7N9 and other emerging threats.
It’s unclear whether the decision to disband
the directorate, which was made in May 2018, after John Bolton became national
security adviser, was a tactical move to downgrade the issue or whether it was
part of the White House’s interest in simplifying and shrinking the National
Security Council staff. Either way, it left an unclear structure and strategy
for coordinating pandemic preparedness and response. Experts outside government
and on Capitol Hill called for the office’s reinstatement at the time.