As Americans cope with the circumstances surrounding the novel coronavirus, the federal government struggles to come up with a concise plan to mitigate the virus over the next several months. The irony of it all is that the Trump Administration ran a simulation in August of 2019 encountering a similar scenario; the Crimson Contagion. The New York Times published the draft report highlighting the many issues that were discovered through conducting the simulation.
The Crimson Contagion was a simulation led by the Department of Health and Human Services, dating back to January 2019. The simulation modeled what twelve states, Washington D.C, and federal agencies would do in the event of a global pandemic that originated in China. The details of the Crimson Contagion are strikingly similar to that of the coronavirus.
The scenario specified that visitors from China would act as carriers of the virus, rapidly spreading it within their home countries and noting respiratory symptoms. It also detailed that the CDC would put out guidelines regarding social distancing and that the United States would enlist the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Many of the issues we have seen in the past several months have appeared in the simulation. There were problems among the bureaucracy regarding school closures, what to declare as essential, shortages of antiviral medications, shortages of supplies for those on the front lines, and ventilators. It depicted just how the federal government would fail to put the proper measures in place, while state governments struggle to fund and supply hospitals.
Preparing and simulating for future pandemics is not a new concept. The Crimson Contagion was one of many pandemic simulations, yet the United States failed to learn from the past mistakes and errors found within them. This is exhibited through the lack of preparedness and the President’s avid downplaying of the crisis since it first emerged. One of the reasons behind this is due to the President’s act of breaking up the members of the pandemic response team that handled the simulation well. In 2018, Trump called for the redistribution of the members among other departments within the National Security Council, while others left the administration altogether.
The Trump Administration was more concerned with creating a department in the National Security Council to focus primarily on nuclear threats. Dr. Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, who has briefed several past presidents, agrees that the National Security Council was not prepared. In December of 2019, there was a Congressional briefing that presented the findings of the Crimson Contagion. We see that Congress is coming together to push for bipartisan legislation to help the economy, but it isn’t enough.
The CARES Act was passed on March 27, providing financial relief for families, businesses, and workers. The hope was to stimulate the economy with this 2 trillion dollar injection. On April 24th, the President approved a 484 billion dollar stimulus package that specifically aids small businesses and hospitals. Americans are wondering what further aid they will be receiving following the $1,200 stimulus check, as Congress struggles to agree on what should be in the follow-up bill.
The Trump Administration has not been proactive in using the findings from the simulation in order to come up with a concise plan that pinpoints the priorities of the nation in this time of crisis. The lack of leadership and diplomacy from President Trump is displayed by his inability to acknowledge the severity of the virus, his racism in calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” his avid “liberation” of the states, and his claim that he has “total” power as president. Thankfully, there is the existence of federalism, which delegates powers that are not explicitly given to the federal government, to the state governments.
The governors of the states have been doing a great job of handling the situation, giving educated briefings, and encouraging the proper measures. This is an achievement that President Trump has tried to take credit for. His support for protests that want to “liberate” the states and violate social distancing protocols is unethically sound and dangerous, further escalating the crisis.
President Trump has shifted his priorities from domestic issues to international ones. With the rising tensions to hold China accountable for their misinformation surrounding the virus and activity in the South China Sea, U.S warships have entered the territory. At this point, there isn’t room for negotiation between the nations. Trump has ordered the U.S to strike down Iranian ships. Iran and China have both been pushing propaganda that places blame on the United States, while upping their military strengths. Diplomacy has shown to be a sunken ship at this point. History has shown that in times of war or crisis, the sitting President gets reelected, and that’s just what Trump wants as he rallies support among white rural voters.
The hope is that the next administration will take on future crises with leadership and diplomacy and learn from this unprecedented time. Simulations can be effective and allow the people in charge to view the situation from a broader perspective. It offered the Trump Administration a chance to take a different approach to mitigate the problem and issue a detailed plan. Instead, the choices that the President has made are reflective of his political agenda as the nation is divided on socioeconomic and racial grounds, as the elections approach.