As previously reported, in the United States, the Covid pandemic response was designed and led by the national security branches of government, not by any public health agency or official.
Furthermore, we do not have a public record of what the national security pandemic plan actually stated.
So what? You might ask. Why should we care if Covid policy was determined by the National Security Council (NSC) instead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)? What’s so bad about the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) taking over as lead federal agency for pandemic response, replacing Health and Human Services (HHS)?
National security is about protecting us from threats of war and terrorism
The answer to these questions is, in short, that the national security pandemic response plans, devised under the rubric of biodefense, are aimed at countering bioterrorism attacks. They focus onpreventing hostile actors from obtaining bioweapons, surveilling for potential bioweapons use, and developing medical countermeasures.
According to the World Health Organization, “biological and toxin weapons are either microorganisms like virus, bacteria or fungi, or toxic substances produced by living organisms that are produced and released deliberately to cause disease and death in humans, animals or plants.”
In the rare event of an actual bioweapons attack – the biodefense strategy can be summarized as quarantine-until-vaccine: keep individuals as isolated from the bioweapon as possible, for as long as necessary, until you have an effective medical countermeasure (medicine/vaccine).
Bioterrorism response plans – under the broader umbrella of counterterrorism – are not designed to incorporate the complicated nuances of public health principles, which balance the need to protect individuals from a pathogen with the need to keep society as functional as possible to maintain overall well-being.
If counterterrorism measures are deployed against a public health threat, it is thus not surprising to witness massive disruptions to society, and harms to public health – as we have seen with the Covid-19 pandemic response.
Counterterrorism measures are not commensurate with public health
A good example of the gap between biodefense and public health policies in the context of the Covid response is the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (MSEHP) – an act invoked by state governors to initiate and perpetuate lockdowns. This act was specifically designed to give states a legal framework for responding to bioterrorism. As William Martin reported in the American Journal of Public Health in 2004,
In late 2001, during the aftermath of the anthrax letter attacks, model legislation was proposed to relevant state agencies to update their states’ public health laws to meet the threat of bioterrorism. This legislation was the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act.