Is it R.I.P. human race?
It was a sign that the Cold War was over when the North American Aerospace Command (NORAD) moved its personnel out from the 5.1-acre complex embedded under Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado to above-ground headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. In 2006, the Cheyenne complex, with its 15 buildings designed to withstand an almost direct nuclear blast, was designated a backup for the new primary Peterson Air Force base complex. That was the case until recently when NORAD and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) moved personnel from Peterson back under 1800 feet of mountain rock to prevent them from being infected by Covid-19.
There are also unconfirmed reports that the federal government has activated two other "continuity of government/operations" sites -- Raven Rock Mountain Complex (RRMC) or "Site R" in Summit, Pennsylvania, [right] not far from the Camp David presidential retreat and Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley near Purcellville -- to maintain military and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) operations, respectively, should the White House, Pentagon, and FEMA headquarters be overwhelmed and rendered useless by Covid deaths and absences.
Contingency and continuity operations have been increased since it was revealed that Covid has infected the president's personal military valet, the Vice President's press secretary, Secret Service agents assigned to presidential and vice presidential protection, and the personal assistant to Ivanka Trump. There was confusion during the evening of May 10 as to whether Vice President Mike Pence was going to be self-isolating or not, with erratic signals coming from White House sources. Either Pence is being urged to isolate as much as possible from Donald Trump, who may be an asymptomatic super-spreader of the virus, or Pence may be showing some symptoms. In either case, the rapid changing of information about the Vice President's health status indicates a fear that the presidential line of succession may be in jeopardy.
The virus has just impacted the Joint Chiefs of Staff after the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mike Gilday, went into self-quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid. Another member of the JCS, National Guard Bureau chief General Joseph Lengyel, tested both positive and negative for the virus. Any additional infections among the JCS staff may force the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon to transfer its operations to Site R.
Continuity of government planners are directed by various contingency plans given various code names. ATLAS involves the re-location from Washington of congressional leadership and the Supreme Court. Top priority for relocation is given to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chief Justice John Roberts. Other plans with code names such as OCTAGON, FREEJACK, and ZODIAC would see much of the White House staff, including the President, Vice President, Cabinet, and other critical government agency heads evacuated from Washington to secure locations.
Other governments are also moving their emergency government functions to continuity centers. These include Israel's National Management Center located in a bunker underneath the Knesset, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister's Office, and Supreme Court in Jerusalem. [right]
The Covid infection of the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his resulting quarantine, as well as the Covid infection and subsequent intensive care of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saw the implementation of emergency continuity of government operations in both nations. Queen Elizabeth has reportedly indefinitely canceled all future public appearances and is said to be sheltering, along with Prince Phillip, in Windsor Castle, outside of London. British government continuity of government operations are located underneath the Ministry of Defense in Whitehall.
Emergency Preparedness Canada began notifying provincial and territorial governments about transfers of certain responsibilities to their governments from the National Capital Region due to the pandemic. Chief of the Canadian Defense Staff, General Jon Vance, activated Operation LASER Phase 2 in March. The activation was intended to "preserve operational capabilities and readiness, and be prepared to support the Canadian government’s objectives and requests for assistance, according to the DND [Department of National Defense] and the Canadian Forces." The DND provides two secure bunkers for the leadership of government.
China has activated its continuity of government facility, called Project 131, located in an underground complex in the city of Xianning. [left] Russian continuity of operations centers are located in 12 underground levels under Moscow, some of which are connected by dedicated subway tunnels and trains. Taiwan has a dedicated Covid-19 response facility, the National Health Command Center, in Taipei.
Denmark has available an underground bunker, Government Complex East in Hellebæk, for the use of the royal family and government. The Norwegian royal family would be protected in a bunker in Sentralanlegget in Buskerud County. The Norwegian government maintains a continuity of operations facility beneath Høyblokka in downtown Oslo. Continuity operations for the Swedish royal family and government are maintained by a few Klara bunkers under Stockholm that are left over from the Cold War.
The German government would re-locate to a bunker at Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, some 19 miles from Bonn. [right] The Japanese government and imperial family would be housed at an underground bunker and tunnel complex, the National Emergency Response Center, at the former Tachikawa Air Base outside of Tokyo. The underground complex can accommodate 5000 people.
The French alternate military command center, where President Emmanuel Macron would likely be sealed off from the pandemic, is located at Mont Verdun near Lyon. [left]
There are provisions for New Zealand's Prime Minister, Cabinet, and military to be secured at Devonport Naval Base in Auckland.
There is also the distinct possibility that an adequate vaccine will never be developed to ward off Covid. There has been a pell mell rush to consider all sorts of therapies and cures, from the dangerous and ineffective, such as Donald Trump's advocacy for the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, ultra-violet light, and even poisonous disinfectants to various physicians' advocacy of herbal tonics, nicotine, THC and CBD in marijuana, convalescent plasma, interleukin inhibitors, interferons, Janus kinase inhibitors, the antiviral drug remdesivir, Avigan, and famotidine, a heart burn medication. The panoply of potential cures and therapies appear to be more of an exercise of throwing darts against the wall than anything else. Some have likened the search for cures and therapies to a "Wild West" of pharmaceutical research.
More alarming is the appearance of a Covid-related inflammatory condition that targets infants, children, and teens, all of whom had been relatively unscathed by Covid-19. The new Covid syndrome resembles the rare Kawasaki disease, which targets children younger than five. The Covid child syndrome has appeared in New York City and New York state, as well as abroad. In addition, three variants of Covid-19 have been reported from around the world, which means that any vaccine or therapy developed against one strain of the coronavirus may not be effective against mutated strains.
The inability of modern science and medicine to develop life-saving vaccines or therapies to combat Covid-19 and the implementation of continuity of operations plans by the U.S. government and military may mean that with second, third, and follow-on waves of the virus predicted, as well as the fact that those already infected have been re-infected, without any developed immunity, the world could be facing a civilization-ending or extinction-level event (CEE/ELE). In effect, Covid-19 may be the biological equivalent of a meteor striking the Earth, similar to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
The rush to re-open businesses has led to spikes in the virus in poorly-managed states with pro-Trump Republican governors like Georgia, Tennessee, Arizona, Oklahoma, Alabama, South Carolina, Iowa, and Texas. But even in countries that established strict stay-at-home protocols and regimes, including Germany, Singapore, Canada, and South Korea, there have been resurgences of Covid-19. New virus clusters are being traced to situations in which people refused to self-isolate and socially distance. These clusters have appeared in Pasadena, California; Seoul; Shulan, Jilin province, China; and Pastraveni, Romania. The world is already sitting at the disastrous economic level of the Great Depression and, if there are repeat waves of the virus, things could get much worse financially and politically.
There are dire predictions by some public health experts that the current 80,000 U.S. death toll is a drop in the bucket to where we may be headed. Currently, the world infected total is over 4,178,000 with over 1,367,000 of the world total in the United States. World deaths are over 283,000, with over 80,000 in the United States. However, without some form of medical abatement of the virus, a few experts are predicting a worldwide infection rate of 70 percent of the world's 7.8 billion people. A worldwide death total of over 100 million is not outside the realm of possibility.
While it is important for U.S. federal, state, and local officials to be cognizant of new outbreaks and clusters in the United States, it is just as important for public health officials, including the wrongly-maligned World Health Organization (WHO) to pay very close attention to new outbreaks, a steady rise in infections, and emergent clusters in places with non-household names like Imphal, Manipur; Swat, Pakistan; Kaduna, Nigeria; Jaipur, Rajasthan; Juba, South Sudan; Brač, Croatia; Taiz, Yemen; and Magas, Ingushetia. These places may not be familiar to the Manhattan- and DC-centric talking bobble heads on cable news channels or to the dullard Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but they would have been at the center of attention of the pandemic experts fired or displaced by Trump. These are all places where recent outbreaks and clusters of Covid have been detected. What happens in these locations may impact Los Angeles or New York next week, travel restrictions notwithstanding.
Trump did his best to destroy the ability of the U.S. government to detect and track outbreaks of Covid and other deadly viruses like Ebola by scrapping pandemic intelligence and monitoring functions in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Homeland Security, National Security Council, and State Department. Trump's decision to freeze U.S. financial assistance to the WHO also blindsided America's top epidemiologists, virologists, and public health experts to the ongoing Covid threat.
While the first wave of Covid has merely disrupted the food supply chain, swamped health care capabilities, and crippled national economies, the second, third, and successive waves may not only destroy the food supply chain and health care services, but also heavily disrupt public utilities, including electricity and water and sewage, law enforcement and social welfare services. Other casualties would include telecommunications, banking, and public transportation. On a global scale, such disruptions could end modern human civilization.
Secondary and tertiary Covid waves will see vacancies in government among governors, legislators, mayors, county executives, and other officials not sealed off from the outside world in bunkers and other secure facilities. Because of the problems of holding special elections, many of these posts will remain vacant.
Strongly-defended city-states may be able to fend for themselves but any lying adjacent to populous landmasses, for example, Singapore, Hong Kong, Penang, Labuan, Halifax, Juneau, Willemstad, Zanzibar, and Copenhagen, would be subject to being overrun by millions of displaced persons in search of clean drinking water, medicine, and food. Perhaps more remote locations with sustainable infrastructures and agriculture could survive as civilized entities with New Zealand, Iceland, Newfoundland, Tasmania, the island of Hawaii, Ireland, Guam, Cuba, Mauritius, and a few other islands having a leg up. However, if the virus keeps returning in new phases and kills off billions of people, practical human extinction is a possibility. Perhaps a few isolated communities like Tristan da Cunha, the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island, and Saint Helena in the South Atlantic or the South Pacific's Easter Island, Norfolk Island, or Pitcairn Island, where a small group of descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers still live, might survive, but for all intents and purposes, the human race may go the way of the dodo bird, the woolly mammoth, and the sabre-toothed tiger.
But we can all be comforted by the fact that we will have left our species' markers for possible future interstellar extraterrestrial travelers to discover. The space-born "messages-in-a-bottle" are aboard two Voyager spacecraft departing the solar system, as well as on the solar system- outbound New Horizon. There are also landers, probes, and rovers found on Earth's moon, Mars, and on the Saturnian moon of Titan. Undoubtedly, otherwordly intelligent beings might find it puzzling that a species that was able to send spacecraft beyond their own solar system was done in by a simple virus.