The CDC has issued their latest
guidance yesterday. Based on my experience in pandemic flu planning this is an excellent piece of work. It considers the relative severity of different scenarios and provides responses that are tailored to the threat. The mitigation measures do seem to dwell primarily on the impact of closing schools. It is indeed imperative that schools be closed, and especially colleges, because if pandemic flu does strike along the lines of the 1918 pandemic, college-age students are most likely to be at risk. That said, it is the colleges that probably can most easily shut down as they have the information infrastructure in place and the student body capable of adapting to on-line instruction.
Not so the k-12 schools. There administrators will have to develop plans for different forms of instruction; eg, mail-out lessons or use of public TV channels. Moreover, closing those schools will undoubtedly increase the overall absentee rate among businesses as working parents will have to stay home to supervise children.
There is a bottom line to this: There is little any level of government can do; they will need to focus on continuity of government operations and make sure the infrastructure continues to work properly. Our federal system imposes significant restraints on the ability of government to react, all the breast beating over Katrina notwithstanding.
Another major focus of planning will be the need for cooperation between businesses, schools, and governments; and from my experience it is difficult to get these entities to focus until the crises is upon us.
The report also points out the importance of home care; indeed, this is probably the most effective way to deal with a pandemic. The bottom line in terms of acute care is this: There are not enough ventilators to meet the projected demand and vents are the only reason for putting someone in the hospital; It is possible to provide palliative care at home to about the same degree you would receive in ICU less intubation and vents. The downside of home care is that many people striken with pandemic flu may die at home. The Red Cross has an excellent brochure and training session out on home care; indeed, the LDS Churches where I used to work actively provided training to their congregations: something that all groups should do.
There will of course be quibbles with CDC guidance, but it is an excellent piece from my perspective.
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