The Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic demonstrates the devastation a biological agent can have on a globalized, modern society. The recent outbreak of COVID-19 highlights the impact bioweapons have on strategic assets and accentuates the shortcomings of the U.S. biodefense strategy and DOD (U.S. Department of Defense) response. This paper will describe COVID-19 impacts economically and to the U.S. military, examine gaps in the U.S. Biodefense plan, and outline the similarities of COVID-19 to emerging second generation synthetic biological threats. The conclusion offers three areas upon which to focus future policies; leadership, biosurveillance, and homeland preparedness
Late in 2019, a novel virus outbreak was discovered in Wuhan, China. Closely resembling Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – Associated Corona Virus (SARS-CoV), this new virus was titled SARS-CoV-2, with an associated disease termed COVID-19. Since the first known national case in Washington in January, COVID-19 has resulted in more than eight million confirmed cases and over 200,000 deaths in the United States as of October 2020. In addition to causing medical casualties the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an economic downturn, decreased military readiness and deployability, and has been detrimental to many manufacturing industries directly related to national defense. COVID-19 has shown the world the limited preparedness of the United States and others to deal with a bio-agent outbreak on a national level.
COVID-19 is a disease primarily spread via respiratory droplets between persons in close contact and has a global mortality rate (death per confirmed infection) of approximately 2.7%. Although a low mortality rate compared to some other viruses, such as Ebola (approx. 50%), the infection rate of COVID-19 is high due to the mechanism of transmission. This is what drives the extensive positive case numbers above. The COVID-19 pandemic was caused by a naturally occurring virus. This outbreak has proven the catastrophic effects and lasting devastation that would transpire if a man-made, engineered pathogen was released. Modern day science has, theoretically, made it possible to generate a bioweapon that pairs the transmission rate of COVID-19 with the mortality rate of Ebola. Instead of 200,000 deaths in the U.S., the nation would be facing more than four million dead, hospital and mortuary services would be overwhelmed, and a greater degradation to national security would occur.