The federal government released a 100-page plan on how it plans to address the coronavirus. In it, experts warn that Americans should expect significant disruption to their daily lives over the next 18 months.
The plan, obtained Friday by the New York Times, lays out three phases for disease response: initial containment, which has failed; mitigation in affected communities, which has also failed; and full community mitigation, which federal and state governments are in the midst of enacting.
The phase of the plan for addressing nationwide spread reads as follows:
“During this Phase, there maybe widespread illness and scarce resources available across the Nation. Assuming most, if not all, states are impacted [all states are impacted] and are requesting assistance, federal support maybe limited to these activities:
- Funding to augment enhanced medical operations and execution of emergency protective measures
- Operational guidance and reach-back support
- Expert technical assistance
- Emergency management coordination and liaison support as needed.”
President Donald Trump has already taken many of the measures called for in this phase, such as invoking the Defense Protection Act.
The DPA grants the administration special authority to force the private sector to produce certain resources that are currently facing shortages. The administration can then direct those resources to states that request them or to areas most in need. In the case of coronavirus, those resources are medical beds, ventilators, respirators, and various other medical equipment. (RELATED: MNUCHIN: The IRS Won’t Push Back April 15th Tax Filing Deadline)
The DPA measures won’t be able to compensate fully for the the shortages facing the U.S. economy, the plan says, especially for products whose shortages the pandemic causes indirectly. While ventilators and respirators are being funneled into hospitals, quarantine guidelines are also causing shortages for numerous products facing higher-than-usual demand, such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and could cause shortages for countless more.
But while Americans are noticing temporary shortages of more trivial products now, the quarantines here and across the country could have deeper impacts down the road, according to experts.
“We talked about the short-term demand disruptions but we’ve got supply disruptions too,” Daniel Stanton, the author of Supply Chain Management for Dummies, said on Fox News. “Factories in China that haven’t been making things or haven’t been able to ship things, and those go into all kinds of things we buy, electronics, automobiles, basically any type of engineered manufactured product.”
Maintaining supply chains for not just the medical industry but also trade in general has become a top priority for Trump as markets have gone into freefall since February. He and Senate Republicans introduced a plan calling for $1 trillion in stimulus funding to keep businesses afloat as hundreds of thousands of workers stay home or are even laid off due to social distancing measures. (RELATED: Trump Confirms He’s Shutting Down Southern Border To Illegal Aliens And Asylum Seekers)
Several states and cities have already enacted some of the “emergency protective measures” referenced in the response plan. Ohio, Illinois, New York City, and Los Angeles have forced gyms and sit-down restaurants to close indefinitely. While restaurants can still offer take-out and delivery, the leading hospitality workers union expects between 80 to 90 percent of its 300,000 members to lose their jobs while the pandemic is being resolved, according to the Huffington Post.
The ultimate solution to the outbreak would be to completely quarantine for several generations of the virus to prevent it from being able to transmit to new hosts, but a full mandatory quarantine is essentially out of the question. The Trump administration has warned that the virus has a “lifespan” within an infected person of roughly 15 days. The plan projects that over the course of 18 months, work on a vaccine and aggressive social distancing measures will bring an end to the pandemic. (RELATED: Trump Closes US-Canada Border Over Coronavirus Concerns)
Trump says his administration is equal to the task, however, styling himself as a “wartime president” in a battle against the virus.
“Do you consider America to be on a wartime footing in terms of fighting this virus?” a reporter asked Trump at a Wednesday press briefing.
“I do, I actually do,” Trump responded. “I view it as a — in a sense a wartime president — that is what we are fighting. It’s a very tough situation. You have to do things. You have to close parts of an economy that six weeks ago were the best they ever been. We had the best economy we ever had and then one day you had to close it down in order to defeat this enemy.”