Coronavirus pandemic will last 18 months or more, could come in several waves and cause a critical shortage of medical supplies, 100-page federal plan warns

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
By Paul Martin

Plan, dated Friday, outlined how pandemic will play out and options for leaders
Missive warned of several waves of infection that will last 18 months or more
Infection could cause critical shortages of medicines, equipment, protective gear and staff as it sweeps across the nation
It urged Trump to use Korean War-era powers to force industries to respond
Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

18 March 2020

The coronavirus pandemic will last 18 months or more, could come in several waves and cause critical shortages of medicines, equipment, and staff, the government has been warned.

A 100-page document, issued Friday as Donald Trump announced a state of emergency, says Washington should close schools and cancel public events to curb the spread of the virus.

The missive also urges the President to invoke Korean War-era powers to force industries to respond to the crisis by ramping up production of key items.

Activating the Defense Production Act would force companies to accept and prioritize government contracts for items including ventilators, protective gear for medical workers, medicines and diagnostic tools such as testing kits, the plans says.

The document, a copy of which was seen by the New York Times, also warns that state and local government resources will be stretched and less reliable as the crisis goes on.

‘These stresses may also increase the challenges of getting updated messages and coordinating guidance to these jurisdictions directly,’ it says.

On Monday Trump urged Americans to avoid public gatherings of 10 or more people, but stopped short of a federally-enforced ban.

While individual states have shuttered schools and universities, there has been no order from Washington to do so yet.

And Trump has also avoided invoking the Defense Production Act, despite widespread problems with testing that has been blamed on a lack of kits.

Asked Tuesday about invoking the act, Trump said: ‘We’re able to do that if we have to. Right now, we haven’t had to, but it’s certainly ready.

‘We’ll make that decision pretty quickly if we need it. We hope we don’t need it. It’s a big step.’

As of Wednesday morning there were almost 6,500 confirmed coronavirus infections in the US – more than double the 2,300 cases reported on Friday when the plan was issued.

Deaths have also climbed above 100, more than double the 48 reported Friday.

What the plan does not address is the economic impact of the crisis, which is being felt across the globe as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned that a recession has already begun.

Mnuchin told senators in a Tuesday briefing that he believes the economic fallout from the coronavirus is potentially worse than the 2008 financial crisis, Bloomberg reports.

He then said that the virus could drive up the unemployment rate to 20 per cent, a level not seen since 1935.

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