Hispanic Outlook

Those Simulations

There is a German saying that goes, “An enemy that is surprised is already half-defeated.”

Acting separately in 2019, two groups in the US ran simulations of an important event; a novel respiratory virus that broke out and caused a pandemic.


Both simulations revealed glaring deficiencies in the US’ preparations for such an unfortunate event.


The first simulation was run in Washington DC and titled “ Crimson Contagion”. It was organized by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and led by former Air Force physician Robert Kadlec, an expert in biodefense. The program was started under the Obama administration after the 2014 Ebola outbreak. The staff at HHS kept it going under the Trump administration.


Last year’s simulation was run with dozens of states and federal agencies, charitable groups, insurance companies, and major hospitals.


The exercise imagined a “pandemic flu” that originated in China, infected 35 tourists who visited China and spread globally after these tourists returned to their respective home countries. The disease broke out in the US after the son of the infected tourist, who had a cough and body aches, attended a concert in Chicago and infected others.


The simulation ran from January to August of 2019 and in the process revealed several worrisome problems — problems that we are seeing play out even now: insufficient hospital space and medical supplies, as well as confusion between federal agencies and between states and the federal government. The organizers also discovered that the US did not have the means to quickly manufacture medical equipment, supplies or medicines, like antiviral medications, needles, syringes, N95 respirators, and ventilators.


Whether anyone in the White House saw or even read the results of the simulation is unknown.


The second simulation was run by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the Gates Foundation in New York City in October 2019. It was titled “Event 201” and was led by Eric Toner, an internist and emergency physician, who is also a senior scientist at the Hopkin’s School of Public Health. Participants were a group of policymakers, business leaders, and health officials. This simulation was partly driven by not only the possible loss of life but also by economic studies that show that pandemics could cause an average annual economic loss of 0.7% of global GDP — or $570 billion.


Event 201 simulated a coronavirus, modeled after SARS, that caused a condition called Coronavirus Acute Pulmonary Syndrome (CAPS). The virus was named the CAPS virus. It spilled over from bats into pigs on a Brazillian farm. The farmhands who worked on the farm got infected and somehow got it into some of the South American megacities. It exploded from there on and spread to Portugal and then to the US and China and then worldwide. Without a vaccine or an effective treatment, it ended up killing 65 million people. The simulation ran until a vaccine was found or until so many people were infected that a herd immunity developed over a period of 18 months.


As it was noted in one of the reports on the exercise: “The pandemic crippled trade and travel, and sent the global economy into a free fall. Social media was rampant with rumors and misinformation, governments were collapsing, and citizens were revolting.”


The verdict after the exercise was that the US as well as the rest of the world was not really ready for a pandemic. On January 17, 2020, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, World Economic Forum, and Gates Foundation released a paper with 7 recommendations on how to prepare and deal with a possible pandemic in the near future. By then, the COVID-19 outbreak was already underway in Wuhan China. Their recommendation can be found on Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Center News.


In hindsight, these two simulation exercises had results that should have caught the attention of our leaders but unfortunately, that was not the case and now we find ourselves unprepared and in the grips of a pandemic.


There is a German saying that goes, “An enemy that is surprised is already half-defeated.”


As we flounder around trying to get control of this COVID-19 outbreak, we as a nation look like the unprepared enemy that was surprised. We overlooked all the warnings and early signs and now, here we are. I guess if one turns a blind eye to all the warnings, signs and simulations, one can then boldly and rightfully say, “Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion. Nobody has ever seen anything like this before.” 



Even This Too

Written by Dr. Nana Dadzie Ghansah

Let go of the fear,

That envelopes your day.

Don’t let panic steer,

The joy in your being away.

Then as sure as night becomes day,

Even this too shall pass.


The invisible haunts the land,

The unseen stalks all souls.

A scourge has taken command,

Filling our essence with holes.

Yet as sure as the seasons change,

Even this too shall pass.


Ten thousand shall fall in the east,

Twenty thousand even in the west.

It’s roar like a crowned beast,

Does our very day and night arrest.

Yet as sure as the stars in the sky shine,

Even this too shall pass.


Thus we are asked to hold on,

Look beyond today’s plight;

Help each other towards the dawn,

Assist one another in the fight.

For as sure as the sun rises each morn,

Even this too shall pass.


So shout it on the mountaintop,

Echo it in every dale and valley.

Sing at every airport and bus-stop,

In every hamlet, city, and alley.

Then we must hold on tightly to hope,

For even this too shall pass. 


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