Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Mirian Fuentes (L), a medical assistant, and nurse Laurie Kuypers check paperwork during a COVID-19 screening at an appointment-only drive-up clinic set up by the University of Washington Medical Center Northwest Outpatient Medical Center on March 17, 2020 in Seattle.

Mirian Fuentes (L), a medical assistant, and nurse Laurie Kuypers check paperwork during a COVID-19 screening at an appointment-only drive-up clinic set up by the University of Washington Medical Center Northwest Outpatient Medical Center on March 17, 2020 in Seattle. The new clinic was set up to provide additional screening capacity, support personal, and help reduce the number of patients entering healthcare facilities for coronavirus testing. (Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Internal Govt. Document Warns of 18-Month Emergency, 'Significant Shortages' as Trump Boasts of 'Fantastic' Response

The report also foresees a "straining" of the national healthcare system due to increased hospitalizations.

Andrea Germanos

New reporting on Wednesday reveals the federal government assumes the coronavirus outbreak will last at least 18 months, lead to "significant shortages," and cause "straining" of the healthcare system—an outlook greatly at odds with the president's repeated public downplaying of the virus's threat.

The forecast is laid out in an internal unclassified document, "U.S.Government COVID-19 Response Plan," which was seen by the New York Times. Marked "for official use only/not for public distribution or release," the document is dated March 13—the same day President Donald Trump finally declared a national emergency and rejected any responsibility for the lag in testing for the novel coronavirus, which has stymied efforts to track and appropriately respond to COVID-19's national spread.

As the Times reported Wednesday, the document includes in its assumptions that:

  • Universal susceptibility and exposure will significantly degrade the timelines and efficiency of response efforts.
  • "A pandemic will last 18 months or longer and could include multiple waves of illness."
  • "The spread and severity of COVID-19 will be difficult to forecast and characterize."
  • "Increasing COVID-19 suspected or confirmed cases in the U.S. will result in increased hospitalizations among at-risk individuals, straining the healthcare system."
  • "Supply chain and transportation impacts due to ongoing COVID-19 outbreak will likely result in significant shortages for government, private sector, and individual U. S. consumers."

According to the document, among the "key" additional actions the White House could take is invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950—something the administration has reportedly been considering

Doing so could "force American industry to ramp up production of critical equipment and supplies such as ventilators, respirators, and protective gear for health care workers," the Times noted.

Multiple lawmakers have pushed Trump to harness that authority, with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass) doing so in a letter dated Sunday that cited "a serious shortage of protective equipment for staff and infected patients."

Invoking the DPA, Markey wrote, would "facilitate and support increased private production of personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies and devices such as ventilators, and diagnostic testing supplies."

Sen. Bob Menendez echoed the demand with a letter on Tuesday, saying the president should be "using every lever of executive power to save lives."

Trump, however, has hedged on harnessing that authoring, saying Tuesday that "we haven't had to."

"We'll make that decision pretty quickly if we need it," Trump told reporters. "We hope we don't need it."

As the national death toll from COVID-19 passed 100 and spread to all 50 states, Trump told reporters that his administration's response to the pandemic deserved no criticism.  "We've done a fantastic job," he said.  

Trump's comments came the same day Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Republican senators that the coronavirus has the potential to drive the national unemployment rate up to 20%.

That worst case scenario could play out, warned Mnuchin, if the lawmakers fail to pass the $1 trillion stimulus package passed by the House.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Addressing Crisis 'Existentially Imperiling' Its People, Vanuatu Declares Climate Emergency

"We are in danger now, not just in the future," said Prime Minister Bob Loughman.

Andrea Germanos ·


'Grotesque': Disgust as Trump Reads Names of Uvalde Victims at NRA Convention

Former President Donald Trump and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas were among those pushing a "good guys with guns" theory that "utterly failed" the latest victims of a mass shooting.

Andrea Germanos ·


Wall Street-Funded Democrat PAC to Spend $1 Million in Bid to Unseat Tlaib: Report

"Imagine spending $1 million to oust Rashida Tlaib instead of organizing in Detroit to make sure Michigan goes blue," quipped one progressive group.

Brett Wilkins ·


Parents Demand Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty 'For the Sake of the Children'

"We cannot remain silent as the fossil fuel industry and world leaders rob our children of a livable future," parents from 32 nations wrote in an open letter.

Brett Wilkins ·


'We Can Do Better' Than Biden's Paltry Student Debt Relief Plan, Says AOC

The president's approach, said the New York Democrat, is "just enough to anger the people against it *and* the people who need forgiveness the most."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo