READER’S EDITORIAL: TO COMBAT COVID-19, WE SHOULD MOBILIZE OUR MILITARY TO BUILD HOSPITALS AND ASK FACTORIES TO PRODUCE VITAL SUPPLIES

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By Ammar Campa-Najjar, candidate in the 50th Congressional District
 
March 18, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) - Make no mistake: I’ve lived in a war zone.  We are at war with the Coronavirus. People are scared, unsure and know the worst is yet to come. Working parents are sheltering in place with their children, small businesses struggling to meet overhead costs. 

The virus has outpaced us at every turn: 
 
1. Imposing the Chinese travel ban 10 days after (Jan 31) the first US case was reported in Washington State (Jan 21). 
 
2. Introducing social distancing guidelines after the first case of community spread (infections between people who did not contract the virus outside from the US). KEEP PRACTICING SOCIAL DISTANCING.
 
3. Lifting regulations allowing local governments own test kits and approving commercial test kits developed by companies weeks after CDC kits were found to be malfunctioning. The purpose for testing is to identify who has the infection and quarantine them, we needed this weeks ago. Now, schools, bars and other public spaces are shutting down and people are being told to stay home. We’ve already adapted past the need for test kits by asking people to assume they have the virus, by essentially asking everyone to self-quarantine and to go to the hospital if you have severe symptoms. 
 
4. Now, we’re in phase 4 of the coronavirus, trying to slow the pace of infection to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system. If the rate of sick people outnumbers capacity, healthcare providers will have no choice but to ration resources, turn patients away, and begin assessing need against likelihood of survival. 
 
We need to outpace this next phase of the outbreak and get ahead of it before it happens. That means doing BOTH: (1) Continue practicing social distancing to spread infections evenly across a longer period of time that can be managed, and (2) rapidly surge our healthcare system capacity. We have to flatten the curve and supercharge our capacity at the same time.
 
The only way to quickly build hospitals is by deploying the Army Corps of Engineers. We’re at war with Coronavirus, time to send in the military. Our healthcare system’s ability to provide care depends on our ability to prevent a shortage of (1) space (2) supplies (3) staff.
 
(1) Space: The military can help reopen old closed hospitals, retrofit bases, vacant hotels, warehouses, campuses and tents into temporary hospital.
 
(2) Supplies: The CDC is already loosening it’s guidance due to the shortage of respirator masks, hospital staff are now using the same mask to treat multiple patients. 
 
Some providers have reported not having enough gloves and other equipment.
 
Like we did before in WW2, Ford Motor Company built one combat plane every hour.
 
We need to repurpose factories to mass-produce sanitizers, masks, gloves, and other needed protective gear and medical equipment.
 
Today, perfume companies are switching to making hand sanitizers. Same is happening with masks. We need to encourage more companies to temporarily repurpose with the guarantee that the federal government will buy these supplies. 
 
(3) Staff: While we’re mass-producing these needed supplies with the help of the private and public sectors, equip healthcare providers with supplies to protect doctors and nurses from infection. We can rapidly produce supplies, we can’t rapidly produce qualified staff. We need to protect our healthcare professionals to end the pandemic. 
 
Turn ICU units (one nurse per patient) unto sub-ICU units with manageable nurse-patient ratios, temporarily cut regulations, and allow any experienced healthcare professional to care for patients.
 
We can pin this thing to the mat but we have to find our footing again and finally be one step ahead of the outbreak. Let’s not wait and see if we’ve flattened the curve, let’s mobilize the strongest military on earth to bolster our healthcare system, contain the virus and win this war.

The views in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine.  To submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org 

Comments

Speaking of the military,

not one of the US Navy’s 82 ships currently underway has received coronavirus test kits for their crews, even as the number grows of sailors ashore testing positive. “There are currently no FDA approved testing platforms that are suitable for placement on forward operating Naval Ships. So, the ships in the Pacific do not currently have the ability to conduct diagnostic testing for COVID-19. Depending on location, specimens can be sent for testing at shore based labs.” -- a Navy official

Two other sailors from ported ships have been identified.

The three sailors are in isolation at home, as are individuals identified as having had close contact with them. Military health professionals are investigating whether or not others were exposed, and the ships are undergoing extensive cleaning. Meanwhile there are dozens of ships at sea crewed by sailors in close quarters, not entirely isolated from outside influences but lacking test capabilities.

“I would call out the military now,”

Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden said on Sunday. But Pentagon officials are warning that fighting a virus really isn’t their thing, and that those tent hospitals are designed to treat combat casualties, not respiratory illness. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, the top medical adviser to the Joint Chiefs, said that the US military simply doesn’t have any 500-bed hospitals designed for infectious disease. Even more of a problem, they don’t have a bunch of idle doctors and nurses to man them if they did. . .Meanwhile, Governors across 22 states have mobilized components of the Army and Air National Guard to assist in their state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 1,500 guardsmen have been called up to state active-duty status, with more states expected to activate additional Guard resources as the novel coronavirus continues to spread. All 50 states have issued emergency declarations, a critical step before mobilizing National Guard resources