Home > Uncategorized > NJ State Officials Knew For Years That A Pandemic Could Cause Healthcare System To Collapse And 50,000 Residents Could Die

NJ State Officials Knew For Years That A Pandemic Could Cause Healthcare System To Collapse And 50,000 Residents Could Die

State Officials Were Ill-Prepared And Delayed Appropriate Response

NJ Hazard Mitigation Plan And Pandemic Influenza Plan Largely Ignored

Plan Calls Pandemic A “Looming Threat” & “Inevitable”, Yet Little Real Preparation

Bosch  (1450 - 1516)

Bosch (1450 – 1516)

In an interview with CNN Sunday, Harvard University epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch said the coronavirus crisis “was foreseeable, and foreseen, weeks and months ago.”

“Only now is the White House coming out of denial,” said Lipsitch, “and heading straight into saying it could not have been foreseen.” ~~~ Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

[Updates below]

Trump is not the only one who is failing.

There has been intense and valid media and public criticism of how the Trump administration has responded to the Coronavirus Pandemic, from delays in testingto suppression and misrepresentation of science, to budget cuts and dismantling the government’s response capabilities:

The Trump administration has come under criticism for its proposed cuts to overall health funding in 2018. Cuts to CDC slashed 80% of its global disease outbreak program,[103][104] forcing the four-year-old program to reduce operations from 49 countries to 10. In its fiscal 2020 budget, the Trump administration proposed eliminating funding for epidemiology and laboratory capacity at state and local levels.[105][106][103] A $30 million Complex Crises Fund had also been cut entirely, which would have allowed the State Department to fund deployment of disease experts in the event of outbreaks.[107] In May 2018, Trump’s then-national security advisor John Bolton disbanded a National Security Council global health security team set up to lead the American response to a pandemic.[108]

While the CDC has announced plans to screen people for the coronavirus, only three of the 100 public health labs were reported to be fitted for that role even after delays, which has been attributed to the agency’s funding cuts.[109]Trump has been further criticized for proposing further cuts to the CDC and Health Department budgets, of the amounts of 16% and 10%, respectively, in budget requests submitted to Congress on 10 February. The proposed budget also called for a $65 million cut to the US’ contribution to funding for the WHO.[110]

But, NJ State officials have independent State legal authority and responsibility to plan for, respond to and otherwise manage pandemics that has gotten little if any scrutiny.

The NJ Emergency Health Powers Act (EHPA), signed into law September 14, 2005 (P.L. 2005, c.222), grants certain powers to state and local public health authorities to ensure effective planning and response to public health emergencies.

Thus spake the NJ Department of Health’s Pandemic Influenza Plan:

The Looming Threat:

History tells us that Influenza pandemics are inevitable but unpredictable and arrive with very little warning. Should an influenza pandemic virus again appear that behaves as the 1918 strain, the results could be catastrophic, even when taking into account the remarkable advances in medicine. Air travel could hasten the spread of a new virus, and decrease the time available for implementing interventions. Outbreaks would most likely occur simultaneously throughout much of the U.S., preventing shifts in human and material resources that usually occur in response to other disasters. The effect of influenza on individual communities will be relatively prolonged (weeks to months) in comparison to other types of disasters. Healthcare systems could be rapidly overburdened, economies strained, and social order disrupted. […]

If a severe (1918-like) pandemic hits NJ, the impact on the healthcare system and the number of deaths is estimated as follows:

Deaths                                                5,000 (2% of ill)

But the NJ Hazard Mitigation Plan’s Pandemic Chapter estimates 10 TIMES more deaths:

Three major influenza pandemics affected areas across the globe in the 20th century, causing millions of deaths. New Jersey saw the impacts of these pandemics. If a new influenza virus were to begin spreading throughout the world, New Jersey could experience more than 50,000 deaths, more than 275,000 people hospitalized, and more than 2.5 million people ill (NJDOH, 2012). Table 5.21-3 provides details on pandemic events that have impacted New Jersey.

In addition to a huge order of magnitude conflict in the projected number of deaths, the NJ Hazard Mitigation Plan (“will be”) is also far more blunt, honest and certain than the DoH Pandemic Plan (“could be“) about the totally inadequate capacity and likely collapse of the healthcare system:

The healthcare system will be severely taxed, if not overwhelmed, from the large number of illnesses and complications from influenza requiring hospitalization and critical care. CDC models estimate increases in hospitalization and intensive care unit demand of more than 25%. Ventilators will be the most critical shortage if a pandemic were to occur (Global Security, 2011).

What did NJ State officials do with this knowledge?

Knowing of this shortfall, did they procure and stockpile an adequate number of ventilators? Test kits? Hospital capacity? Face masks? Budget sufficient resources? Staff state DoH offices with qualified experts?

I found nothing about any of this in the FY’20 budget testimony of Gov. Murphy’s Commissioner of the Department of Health or on the OLS analysis of the DoH proposed FY’20 budget.

Why did they wait on the failed Trump administration response?

Is anyone asking Gov. Murphy and the State Department of Health these questions?

Gaps and lack of resources are no secret. As Robert Reich writes:

Local and state health departments are already barebones, having lost nearly a quarter of their workforce since 2008, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Healthcare in America is delivered mainly by private for-profit corporations which, unlike financial institutions, are not required to maintain reserve capacity. As a result, the nation’s supply of ventilators isn’t nearly large enough to care for projected numbers of critically ill coronavirus victims unable to breathe for themselves. Its 45,000 intensive care unit beds fall woefully short of the 2.9 million that are likely to be needed.

Despite a dire lack of resources, the NJ State Hazard Mitigation Plan Pandemic element abdicates State leadership and shifts the burden to local government – and inappropriately relies on police to respond to what is a public health emergency:

In New Jersey, a municipality in which a pandemic occurs bears the first and primary responsibility to control the epidemic. Pandemics that remain uncontrolled warrant local mutual aid from neighboring municipal and/or county and state resources. If the epidemic remains beyond the capabilities of local law enforcement agencies alone, limited State Police assistance may be requested. If the restoration of public health is beyond local, county, and state abilities, the Governor may declare a State of Emergency calling on federal and worldwide support.

We saw the same fatal abdication in the response to Superstorm Sandy, which was exacerbated by Gov. Christie’s “unfunded mandates” “State Mandate/State Pay” policy under Executive Order #4. Gov. Murphy has not repealed Ex. Order #4 and has retained the same State abdication.

Finally, Gov. Murphy has championed climate change, so he and DEP Commissioner McCabe should be asked about this finding in the Hazard Mitigation Plan:

Climate change has the potential to increase the probability of pandemic occurring. While the relationship between climate change and increase in virus susceptibility is difficult to predict with certainty, there are scientific linkages between the two.

[Update: 3/25/20this writer expands upon my point and connects the dots between nature and Coronavirus. ~~~ end update]

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides the global pandemic response management framework for all nations and states to follow.

I urge readers & intrepid journalists to read The WHO 2013 updated Pandemic Guidance.

Then compare the WHO Guidance to NJ Gov. Murphy’s Hazard Mitigation Plan – Pandemics

The WHO 2013 Guidance is is FAR more detailed than the NJ plan, because the Murphy 2019 Plan relies on an outdate WHO 2009 framework, not the 2013 update.

The 2013 WHO update includes a major new section on “Risk Management”.

NJ’s pandemic planning and response strategies are way behind the scientific curve.

Validating Bernie Sanders’ Medicare For All, WHO also recommends FREE healthcare – see WHO Guidance (@ p.31):

Explore ways to provide drugs and medical care free of charge (or cover by insurance) to encourage prompt reporting and treatment of human cases caused by a non-seasonal influenza virus or virus with pandemic potential.”

I assume that politically powerful NJ based Big Pharma and healthcare insurance industries kept that policy out of NJ’s policy planning.

Trump is not the only one who is failing.

original

[End Note: Once again, the historical and artistic context is stunningly apt:

In the Garden of Earthly Delights and elsewhere Bosch distinctly personalizes his indictments, by extending his warnings about human evil to encompass even his noble patrons, in this case the counts of Nassau. Bosch was extremely class-conscious, as the centerpiece of the Haywain triptych (fig. 17) reveals, with its mounted noble riders, literally chevaliers, lording their position of patrician privilege above the struggling pedestrian plebeians. In similar fashion, the sin of Luxuria, enacted in the central panel of his Garden of Earthly Delights, connects to the aristocratic tradition of courtly love gardens, which would have been an indulgence available chiefly to the wealthy, like his workshop’s depiction of Luxuria in the Seven Deadly Sins tabletop.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 10.52.09 AM

 

Update 3/19/20 – The NY Times writes a devastating story, similar to NJ failures, at the national level:

[Update 4/5/20 – Noam Chomsky agrees with my assessment – and he also notes China’s gene sequencing:

“This coronavirus pandemic could have been prevented, the information was there to prevent it. In fact, it was well-known. In October 2019, just before the outbreak, there was a large-scale simulation in the United States – possible pandemic of this kind,” he said, referring to an exercise – titled Event 201 – hosted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Nothing was done. The crisis was then made worse by the treachery of the political systems that didn’t pay attention to the information that they were aware of.

“On December 31, China informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of pneumonia-like symptoms with unknown origins. A week later, some Chinese scientists identified a coronavirus. Furthermore, they sequenced it and provided information to the world. By then, virologists and others who were bothering to read WHO reports knew that there was a coronavirus and knew that had to deal with it. Did they do anything? Well yes, some did.

“China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore began to do something, and they have sort of pretty much seemed to have contained at least the first surge of the crisis.”

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