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COVID-19 defense and future diseases

  • 2 min to read
John Floyd

The coronavirus unexpectedly has played havoc with the United States and the rest of the world.

The arguments on whether or not the U.S. reacted fast enough are trivial. Separate the trivial many from the vital few. It doesn’t matter who was president, who controlled Congress, Democrats or Republicans, or who we all can blame for the coronavirus debacle that has besieged our country. We were un-prepared for a pandemic of major proportions. And it was nobody’s fault! Let’s start from there and quit the blame game. All that does is suck the energy from the people who should be planning the defense for the next infectious disease.

If the political adversaries can co-operate, the U.S. should be better prepared when the next pandemic invades. There must be a coherent plan that includes stockpiling necessary equipment such as ventilators, surgical gowns, respirators, and face masks. The United States does have a Strategic National Stockpile which carries the emergency inventory of critical medical supplies.

But when A pandemic like the coronavirus hits, supply was not sufficient to meet the requirements. We can talk about underfunding but overfunding the Strategic National Stockpile is a no-brainer. The military prepares for wars we never fight with too much military hardware. But they are prepared if necessary. Too much preparation is appropriate, especially when dealing with an un-seen enemy like the coronavirus.

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Legal drugs and the legal drug supply are essential to the health and welfare of the United States. Under normal conditions, more than 85% of the LEGAL drugs come from India and China. This has to change. There are certain American companies that are slaves to cheap labor. Cheap labor comes at a price, and right now the price has been paid with the lives of American citizens. For years American companies have chased cheap labor as a means to “enhance shareholder value.” I wonder how many shareholders are now happy with that premise?

The supply chains for drugs destined for the U.S. are far too long and fragmented. In an article written for “Fortune Magazine” by Michael Osterholm and Mark Olshaker, they state, “Even in non-pandemic times, more than 85% of the critical acute drugs needed each day to keep people alive are produced offshore. Nearly all are generic, with production concentrated in India and China. Despite their vital importance to our national health, these fragile just-in-time supply chains show how reliance on foreign on-demand manufacturing leaves our country highly vulnerable. This vulnerability can translate into tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of lost jobs.” My conclusion is drug manufacturing must be returned to the United States.

Rory Gamble, president of the United Auto Workers said, “This virus has also painfully exposed how dependent we’ve become on supply chains that have moved overseas, from health care to auto parts. It has clearly illustrated the need—to bring these essential products and jobs back safely and in full force to the U.S.” He continued, “But successfully restarting our manufacturing operations depends on two cornerstones, safe working conditions and demand for services and products.” But Gamble left out the most important criteria of returning jobs to the U.S., a change in the mindset of some American companies, such as Apple.

When the pandemic has subsided, when all the consternation has evaporated and political hysteria has diminished, American companies will continue to chase cheap labor. Even if Congress passes and the president approves a bill to return manufacturing of essential and strategic material to the United States, the American companies who have enjoyed cheap labor all these years will resist dis-continuing their rabid-like hunger for low wages. If Congress and the president do advance legislation to designate certain products like drugs as essential, the American companies will fight all the way to the Supreme Court to protect the adage, “to enhance shareholder value.”

Being a citizen of the United States protects us all, including the shareholders. Shouldn’t shareholders pay just a little for that protection? I think they would, given the chance.