Wednesday, October 28, 2009

H1N1: National Emergency or Hype?

Let’s start with the fact that H1N1 IS a really virus and it is nasty. It has hit my immediate family and several friends. I don’t want to belittle the fact that it will knock you on your feet and, yes, some people are dying. We have debate in my family for the last 2 weeks whether or not to get the vaccine, because my family as a matter of practice do not usually get the flu vaccines. My kids’ school sent home a letter that they were going to give free vaccines at school and another local school district has had to close for a week due to the virus. Are these precautions necessary? Absolutely! We can’t be to cautious when it come to this flu or virus.

When President Obama declared H1N1 virus a national emergency the now famous quote from Rahm Emanuel echoed in my head, “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste”. But is this really a national emergency? Or an unfortunate circumstance hyped into an emergency?

Here is what I found out: In August, the Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology release a report that predicts a scenario of 30,000 to 90,000 people dying in the United States from the pandemic. During a normal flu season the mortality rate is about 36,000. According to the CDC situation update the mortality for H1N1 from April – Oct 17, 2009 is 1004 laboratory confirmed deaths in the US. Is it me? I can’t make the connection of an emergency. Is the worst still to come? I hope not.

What is happening is the flu season is starting earlier than usual, as was predicted. Then you pile on a prediction of overwhelmed hospitals (yet to happen) and with the added prediction of the mortality rate 30,000 – 90,000. Well, what can you do but declare a national emergency. What does that mean, anyway?

A National Emergency gives the President Powers:

Under the powers delegated by such statutes, the President may seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, institute martial law,seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel, and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens.

These powers are subject to the checks and balances in Congress, including rescinding, but these days that is of little comfort to me. By declaring H1N1 a national emergency he gives himself power. The AP had this in their coverage of the declaration:

The national emergency declaration was the second of two steps needed to give Sebelius extraordinary powers during a crisis.
On April 26, the administration declared swine flu a public health emergency, allowing the shipment of roughly 12 million doses of flu-fighting medications from a federal stockpile to states in case they eventually needed them. At the time, there were 20 confirmed cases in the U.S. of people recovering easily. There was no vaccine against swine flu, but the CDC had taken the initial step necessary for producing one.
"As a nation, we have prepared at all levels of government, and as individuals and communities, taking unprecedented steps to counter the emerging pandemic," Obama wrote in Saturday's declaration.
He said the pandemic keeps evolving, the rates of illness are rising rapidly in many areas and there's a potential "to overburden health care resources."

So to re-cap, on April 26th the swine flu was declared a public health emergency. Now it is a national emergency because we are “preparing” for the worst. This makes it easier for hospitals. Well this patriot is not buying it and there is much more to the story.

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