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Was there a Covid Response Plan? If So, Where Is It?


For nearly three years, media outlets, pundits and commentators have raged about how Trump botched the Covid response by not going far enough with lockdowns, or, on the other side, how Fauci’s Covid policies destroyed millions of lives. 

The assumption behind these claims is that either Trump or Fauci designed and/or implemented our Covid response. 

Such claims are too simple. The response of a nation with over 330 million inhabitants to a pandemic virus is never in the hands of a single individual. There are complicated planning documents, protocols, laws and directives that have been developed and updated over the decades to address such emergencies. Multiple government departments and agencies are assigned various roles and responsibilities in the implementation and coordination of such operations.

If we want to evaluate whether an individual, group or agency “botched the pandemic” we should start by comparing their actions to the plans that were laid out for such emergencies. We can also go a step back and look at the plans to see whether we think they were sound.

So what was the official US Covid pandemic response plan? What was the goal? How was success to be measured? Where is the demonstration of the relationship between the means and ends? As noted in my previous article, we – the public – have no idea. 

As a former FEMA Administrator reported to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, “it was not publicly seen” that the plans the federal government had put in place for “responding and recovering from a range of biological threats, including pandemics” were “being used during the onset of COVID-19.” Furthermore, and most shockingly “nor does it seem that there was a national COVID-19 response plan.”

These are astonishing statements: the US government’s long-established pandemic response plans were not followed at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and nothing seems to have taken their place.

How could this be? Surely, there is a document telling the American people, politicians, public health leaders and state and local governments what our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is widely described as the biggest disaster to afflict us in the 21st century, was meant to be. It cannot be possible that the trillions of dollars we poured into the response were not based on a well laid out and publicly available plan.

And yet:

The closest document we have to a national Covid response plan is the Pandemic Crisis Action Plan – Adapted (PanCAP-A) dated March 13, 2020. In this plan, the National Security Council is designated as solely responsible for Covid response policy. The document states in a footnote that the “Strategic Objectives” of the response plan “were directed by the NSC Resilience DRG PCC on February 24, 2020.”

Where is there a record of what the “NSC Resilience DRG PCC” directed on February 24, 2020? PanCAP-A does not contain this record, nor did an exhaustive Google search turn it up. DRG PCC probably stands for the National Security Council’s Domestic Resilience Group (DRG) Policy Coordination Committee (PCC), but that’s about all we know.

Under “Concept of Operations” the PanCAP-A says it “layers in the COVID-19 Containment and Mitigation Strategy developed by the NSC.” The words “Containment,” “Mitigation” and “Strategy” are capitalized, suggesting they may be the title of an actual document. But such a document, if it exists, is nowhere to be found.

To summarize: the PanCAP-A, the closest document we have to a national Covid response plan, does not actually tell us what the basis for the “strategic objectives” of the plan are, nor does it present the strategy developed by the NSC to attain those objectives. 

So we have a pandemic planning document whose objectives and strategy are hidden.

Furthermore, five days following the official date of PanCAP-A, we know that the Lead Federal Agency for the pandemic response which, according to all previous planning documents was supposed to be HHS (the agency that encompasses the CDC, NIH and NIAID), was replaced by FEMA – an agency never intended nor designated for such a position in pandemic response in its entire history. FEMA, therefore, has no pandemic preparedness documents to which we can refer.

Conclusion and Implications

In order to understand why and how the US Covid-19 response was implemented, we need to know what the response plan actually was. If we want to blame someone or a group of people for what we think went wrong with the response, we first need to know what the response was supposed to be.

The fact that we know nearly nothing about what the National Security Council – the group in charge of US Covid-19 response policy – was planning suggests that they did not want to reveal what their actual objectives and strategy were. 

Could this be because they were responding to a potential bioweapon – a genetically engineered virus that they themselves might have been involved in developing? Did their strategy involve military-style draconian lockdowns which they never announced, and which they had to terrify the population into accepting – two weeks at a time?

Maybe if citizens, journalists and activists demand answers from our politicians, we can obtain the documents laying out the objectives and strategy of the US Covid-19 response, as developed and directed by the National Security Council. I hope by writing and publishing articles about this, I can prompt action on this crucial topic.

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  • Debbie Lerman

    Debbie Lerman, 2023 Brownstone Fellow, has a degree in English from Harvard. She is a retired science writer and a practicing artist in Philadelphia, PA.

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