Pentagon orders NORTHCOM to prepare for coronavirus “pandemic” as fears mount that China can’t stop it from spreading around the world
02/14/2020 // JD Heyes // Views

In the best indicator yet that the U.S. government is growing concerned that the Chinese government is incapable of containing the spread of the coronavirus beyond its borders, the Pentagon is ordering its various domestic commands to prepare for a “pandemic.”

As reported by Military Times, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) is currently executing plans to prepare for a wide outbreak of the virus, in large part by taking stock of available resources that would be called into action should a pandemic occur.

The site noted: 

An executive order issued by the Joint Staff and approved by Defense Secretary Mark Esper this month directed Northern Command and geographic combatant commanders to initiate pandemic plans, which include ordering commanders to prepare for widespread outbreaks and confining service members with a history of travel to China.

The order was distributed via service-wide messages to the Navy and Marine Corps, issued Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. They reference the order which directs NORTHCOM to begin implementing The Department of Defense Global Campaign plan for Pandemic Influenza and Infectious Diseases 3551-13.

This is the military’s plan for dealing with widespread influenza and other diseases like coronavirus.

The Pentagon attempted to downplay the issuance of the executive order, stating that in no way “does the planning indicate a greater likelihood of an event developing. As military professionals, planning for a range of contingencies is something we owe the American people," Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mike Hatfield said.


“The military profession fosters a culture of planning, and the fact that we are coordinating planning efforts across the geographical combatant commands is consistent with how we prepare to respond, if directed,” Hatfield continued.

‘I think we need to be prepared’

Perhaps. But then, as USA Features News reported, a series of experts told a Senate committee on Wednesday that they believe the U.S. should begin preparing now for a nationwide epidemic they believe is coming:  

Public health experts said during congressional testimony on Wednesday the United States should be preparing for “thousands” of new coronavirus cases rather than believing that only a couple will emerge.

Asha George, executive director of the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, “I don’t think we should be planning for the onesie-twosie cases that we’ve been seeing thus far in the United States.

“We have to plan for the possibility that we have thousands of cases,” she added.

George was one of five health experts senators called to testify about the potential spread of the virus, officially called COVID-19. The hearing came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta identified the 14th U.S. victim.

Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, told the panel he expects an outbreak to reveal itself across the United States in the next two to four weeks.

“We should be leaning in very aggressively to try to broaden diagnostic screening right now, particularly in communities where there is a lot of immigration; where these efforts could emerge to identify them early enough; that they’ll be small enough; that we can intervene to prevent more epidemic spread in this country,” he noted.

One of the biggest fears among U.S. military leaders and government health experts is the slow incubation period of the virus. Experts note that because it takes several days before symptoms can appear, people can be admitted to the country before anyone realizes they are stricken with the disease. 

“Some of the modeling out of the UK suggests that we’re capturing about 25 percent of cases at best. So for every case we identify, there’s three or four that we didn’t identify,” Gottlieb said.

A former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Julie Gerberding, told the Senate committee because health officials were initially unable to control the spread of the virus, “I think we need to be prepared for what are we going to do to try to slow down the spread.”

Sources include:

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