The report that was released on Tuesday aims at guiding the governors and other state leaders on their preparation of what could be a darkened scenario that could catastrophically that takes thousands of lives, devastating government operations and shutting down businesses. Arizona Governor, Democrat, Janet Napolitano said, "Our rule of thumb here is plan for the worst, and hope for the best. And the planning has to happen now." She and Minnesota GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty are leading the NGA's effort to get states ready on the looming threat.
It was explained that the government and the medical community have been getting ready for the deadly H5N1 strain of the avian flu that has killed more than 100 people, mainly in Asia, which could make its way up to the United States. The virus generally spreads by direct contact with the contaminated birds, but scientists are of the fear that the virus would mutate and could be passed directly from person to person that could lead to a pandemic.
The report indicated that the leaders of the state would have to revisit their laws, and make sure that they have sufficient preparation, and resources so as to quarantine the populations in limiting their travel, and to restrict certain activities. They stated that that relationship would have to be built with private business so that all the essential services and goods would be available, even if majority of the population would not be able to leave their homes. They also stressed on the necessity of a good communication system so as to keep the public informed on what is going on.
The NGA's 23-page guide called 'Preparing for a Pandemic Influenza' stresses the preparation to four areas, mainly-
1. States must set priorities to make sure that the essential services continue and to also encourage citizens to be as independent as possible.
2. State leaders must take firm steps to limit the spread of the disease by restricting travel and activities, as there could be a high probability of medical services likely be overwhelmed and the availably of drugs probably taking months before they're available to everyone.
3. State leaders must work closely with the private sector to set up pre-existing networks so that critical commodities such as food, energy, and health care are provided. Businesses must be aware that as much as 40% of the work force could be out sick for months.
4. That thorough testing of emergency plans and responses must begin now.
Gov Pawlenty explaining that the states must expect to be the main coordinators of care, as the federal government will be spread too thin he said, "We can't look to them and them alone to be the first responder or even the main responder." Gov Napolitano said, "As huge as Hurricane Katrina was, it was a localized event." And so she explained that the federal government and other states were able to send help. A pandemic would likely be much broader, if not nationwide, which would make the probability of receiving help from outside the state much harder to find.