Taking a lesson from squirrels in preparing for the pandemic winter

By Dennis Archambault

You might liken it to the prudent thinking of a squirrel. It’s summertime and the living is easy. But a smart squirrel is packing away nuts and other food stuffs for the coming winter. Smart health providers are thinking the same way. Having fresh memories of the scramble to acquire personal protection equipment (PPE) this spring, health facilities are anticipating a surge of COVID-19 and influenza this fall/winter (https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/nation/coronavirus/2020/07/20/virus-protection-suppliers-brace-demand-surge-lockdown-eases/5441733002/). That will surely deplete stockpiles that now exist.

Whether it’s a concern of Homeland Security or the Centers for Disease Control, or both, the safety of the American public during a deadly pandemic should be a paramount federal concern. Preparation that should have occurred last winter needs to occur now. And the smart squirrels are busy doing it.

Rep. Elissa Slotin, along with Rep. Debbie Dingell and Rep. Fred Upton, have introduced legislation that will provide incentives for American manufacturers to create PPE (https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2020/07/19/slotkin-leads-bipartisan-bill-replenish-medical-supply-stockpile/5460732002/). The first glimmer of hope in flattening the pandemic curve occurred when auto companies repurposed some manufacturing plants to assemble ventilators and PPE. Dubbed “Arsenal of Health,” the effort reminded Detroiters of the region’s role in World War II. That should have been one of the first thoughts of the federal government in preparing for the impending pandemic last winter. At this point, Rep. Slotin’s legislation will address that.

As state health officials monitor the numbers of people infected by COVID-19, we shouldn’t allow a false sense of security to make us complacent. While the state has thus far kept the curve under control, winter is sure to come. Smart squirrels are busy.

Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health.