It was 180 days ago that the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. Almost 79 years ago, we faced another crisis.
On Dec. 7, 1941, our battleship fleet was attacked and destroyed at Pearl Harbor and we were suddenly in World War II. President Roosevelt immediately mobilized our economy. Auto makers were ordered to stop making cars. Five months after Pearl Harbor, Ford’s Willow Run plant was building B-24 Liberator Bombers at a rate of one per hour.
General Motors plants were building naval aircraft and M4 Sherman tanks. Chrysler was manufacturing tanks, B-26 and B-29 aircraft engines. Liberty ships were being built in less than two weeks from the time the keels were laid. Millions of young Americans were inducted, trained and eventually became the “Greatest Generation.”
In 180 days, the U.S., using comparatively primitive manufacturing techniques, without computers, completely transformed its industrial base and was producing huge quantities of weapons and munitions required to win the war.
Compare that to our present situation. One-hundred eighty days after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the richest, most technically advanced country in the world, more than 150,000 Americans are dead and there is still no coordinated national plan to protect our citizens.
Critical items needed for this fight are missing or in short supply. After 180 days, there is still a shortage of N-95 masks, which cost pennies to make. Quick-result COVID-19 test kits are not widely available. Shortages of PPE are widespread. There is no national plan or support for contact tracing. The technical difficulty in making masks or test kits is trivial compared to that of producing B-24 Bombers and Sherman tanks. If one compares our response to COVID-19, with President Roosevelt’s leadership after Pearl Harbor, it is clear that we have failed miserably. The Greatest Generation would be appalled.