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article imageWhy the Strategic National Stockpile doesn't belong to the states

By Karen Graham     Apr 4, 2020 in Politics
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, most Americans had no idea the U.S. had a national stockpile of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency. On Friday, we found out these supplies don't belong to us.
Former President Bill Clinton is responsible for the formation of the Strategic National Stockpile. In 1998, after reading Richard Preston's novel The Cobra Event, about a mad scientist spreading a virus throughout New York City, he quickly mover to change how the government responded to a public health emergency.
It should be noted that prior to Bill Clinton's involvement in creating the Strategic National Stockpile, the government had stockpiles of medications for military personnel, but did not have them for the civilian population.
In April 1998, according to Time Magazine, Clinton met with a group of scientists and Cabinet members to discuss the threat of bioterrorism,” the scholar Martha Crenshaw wrote in a 2006 terrorism-studies anthology. “The briefing impressed Clinton so much that he asked the experts to brief senior officials in DOD and HHS.”
By Oct. 21, 1998, Clinton signed into law a roughly $51 million budget for “for pharmaceutical and vaccine stockpiling activities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” The original name was the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile (NPS) program.
In short supply: ventilators are needed to help the worst-hit COVID-19 victims to keep breathing
In short supply: ventilators are needed to help the worst-hit COVID-19 victims to keep breathing
Axel Heimken, POOL/AFP/File
However, on March 1, 2003, the NPS was renamed the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) program with joint management by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services. In 2005, the Bush administration called for the coordination of domestic production and stockpiling of protective gear in preparation for a pandemic influenza outbreak.
Congress did approve funds to add protective gear to a national strategic stockpile — among other things, the stockpile collected 52 million surgical face masks and 104 million N95 respirator masks, according to the New York Times. But about 100 million masks in the stockpile were deployed in 2009 in the fight against the H1N1 flu pandemic, and the government never bothered to replace them.
Who is allowed to use the SNS?
By law, signed by Clinton in October 1998, the SNS belongs to the people of the United States, for use in the event of a pandemic or other health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out. This description of the SNS is part of the original wording.
The global coronavirus pandemic has left more than 51 000 dead worldwide
The global coronavirus pandemic has left more than 51,000 dead worldwide
Angela Weiss, AFP
However, on April 3, 2020, after remarks made at a coronavirus Task Force news conference made by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the description of the SNS was magically changed. Kushner told the nation the stockpile's reserves are the property of the federal government, and not the states.
According to a brief online summary on the Department of Health and Human Services website today, the stockpile's new role "is to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies. Many states have products stockpiled, as well."
"The notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be the states' stockpiles that they then use," Kushner said. "So we're encouraging the states to make sure that they're assessing the needs, they're getting the data from their local situations, and then trying to fill it with the supplies that we've given them."
More about Strategic national stockpile, Bill Clinton, Jared Kushner, Federal Government, PPEs
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