President George W. Bush Predicted Our Pandemic Response In 2005
For more nearly a month, the State of Louisiana has been making moves to slow the spread of COVID-19, or as it's commonly known, coronavirus. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has closed schools, bars, gyms, casinos, movie theaters, and has reduced restaurants to take out and delivery only. Then the Governor extended those measures for a longer period of time, now until April 30th.
Many of these moves have been triggered by guidelines put forward by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But some have suggested that the measures from the CDC, Federal Government, and Local Governments have been slow, or inadequate. But the general response is that "no one could have predicted this", which might not be accurate.
This weekend, ABC News spoke to members of President George W. Bush's staff who said the former President voiced concerns of this exact type of event. They also uncovered video of President Bush, and his staff, delivering remarks on this type of pandemic, and what our response would need to look like:
The plan the President set in motion was vast, and expensive. His initial vision came with a $7 billion price tag, and some inside his staff thought this was a low priority. In the wake of 9/11, with war taking place, some felt that preparing for something that wasn't at our doorstep was foolish. But President Bush said:
"If we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare. And one day many lives could be needlessly lost because we failed to act today."
The President delivered a speech at the National Institutes of Health, where he laid out his vision. But not just his vision of what our response should look like, but what the impacts of a pandemic would like like to our country:
"A pandemic is a lot like a forest fire. If caught early it might be extinguished with limited damage. If allowed to smolder, undetected, it can grow to an inferno that can spread quickly beyond our ability to control it."
Interestingly, ABC News reports that in the audience for the President's speech on pandemic response that day in 2005, was Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease for National Institutes for Health. Dr. Fauci held that title back in 2005, and still holds it today. He's become a household name as a member of President Donald Trump's COVID Task Force.
Part of President Bush's plan in 2005 was to build a massive stockpile of medication, and personal protective equipment, or PPE, which is in short supply right now, as Bush predicted it would be. The plan also included building a massive national stockpile of ventilators and face masks. One of the other pillars of the plan included an "early warning system" for emerging pandemics around the globe.
Unfortunately, over time, President Bush's vision was deemed unsustainable. His team continued to plan, but many parts of the plan were pushed aside for different reasons. Parts of the plan remained however, even if they were shelved. Many of the measures the United States has taken during the COVID pandemic are coming from the playbook put together.