I know we are not out of the woods yet as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, but this is as good of time to talk about preparation for the future whether it be coronavirus or some new strain of something as bad or worse.

We should all commend Governor DeWine and Lt. Governor Husted for taking early, albeit courageous actions, in trying to flatten the curve of the impeding numbers affected by this virus.  No doubt, it has been painful.  But our state was the first in the union to extend the schools’ spring breaks and send and keep our children home.  How many of you have been home with your children or grandchildren for over a month?  But, however, most are safe and well as are most Ohioans.

But should we now be thinking ahead?  What’s next?

Many of us have been discussing our next steps as we open back up many of our shuttered businesses and eagerly go back to work.  Stage two is all about our financial recovery, whether it be our local businesses or our own personal finances.  I join both groups.  Just when I was planning on retiring (July 31), the virus sickened my 401k just like it did to many others.

But I am also concerned about what other next steps need to be taken.  In my research and discovery of our serious problems with the medical side of our recovery, I found out that over the last ten years and several catastrophes, we have allowed our Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), once called the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile (NPS), of antibiotics, vaccines and critical medical supplies to dwindle to levels where to be severely impaired by one event, COVID-19.

Formed in 2003 and then managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is now run by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.  It seems far too many times we have been recently scrambling for ventilators, masks, gowns and other important medical equipment or medicines.  We’ve heard reports of far too many states who did not have or could not find sanitized supplies for use in clinics and hospitals.  Many communities like ours had to ask their local businesses to create products that they had not in the past … a manufacturer creating face shields, or a distillery making sanitizer, or an auto plant making ventilators.

That’s not what concerns me.  Actually, I’m damned proud of our local or national efforts.  Our parents and grandparents will tell you some of the same type of stories from back in World War II, like cars to tanks or refrigerators to rifles.

No, what I’m talking about is a better, stronger national stockpile for our states and communities and a better long-range plan in place for USA manufacturing conversions to strategic needs.  I was told by one of the healthcare groups that 80% of the 3-part layered masks are made overseas.  And that far too much of our medical supplies and raw materials come from other countries.  In a multi-national pandemic, where do you think those priority supplies might stay when faced with a world-wide threat?  And even if we can get that mask that once cost 88 cents, it now is being exported to us at almost $3.  We get gouged as one of the most benevolent countries.

We need to get back to a build-our-own strategy that makes sure we sustain not only our own nation’s people, but our businesses and our economic superiority.  But you might ask … what am I to do?  Well it starts with each of us demanding a full national review and accountability of our strategic stockpiles, not just oil but the medicines and supplies we will need if COVID-19 returns or if another should take its place.  The richest country in the world needs to get it right.

Phillip L. Parker, CAE, CCE
President and CEO
Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce

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