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Who Will Be The First to Die?

Updated: May 7

Will Hospital Employees and Their Families Be Targeted as the First to Die in a Bioterrorist or Biowarfare Attack?

By Dr. John Norris


As a former FDA COO, Harvard faculty member, infectious disease spread expert, and advisor to the CEOs of MGH, Mass General Brigham (formerly Partners HealthCare), Pfizer, and many other critical US and global health and healthcare leaders in business and government, Dr. Norris has worked daily to create advanced, ever more innovative tools and systems to prevent or mitigate the dangers of significantly harmful effects of the spread of deadly infectious diseases. 


These diseases include the 24 now known to be the most lethal, including the three most deadly, Anthrax, Botulinum Toxin, and Ebola (coming soon). It's the "spread" that kills millions—whether the pathogen or its variant is born of nature or humankind, and its spread comes in the form of an attack by nature, terrorists, or hostile nations. Dr. Norris was a significant investor in the start-up company that invented and developed a vaccine for Anthrax. When that company was recently sold, he "paid it forward" by investing all the funds he received in a new company, Safely2Prosperity. He plans to invest in other start-ups needed to fill unmet needs in the infectious disease spread danger zone, bioterrorism and biowarfare attacks, which he believes is the most significant current threat to America and its allies.


Dr. Norris said: "War brutalizes people both physically and mentally. It destroys companies, investors, jobs, and the revenue, supplies, and buyers countries require to stay afloat. Bio wars will be especially hazardous and destructive—so much so that they can bring economies, people, and entire countries to their knees."


Because of their extreme workplace exposure and critical importance to our nation's survival, hospital workers and their family members are the ideal targets if an attacker, including nature, but most likely a hostile party, wants to disable or frighten an entire country into submission in one swoop. Since they are so valuable to the country in a crisis, frontline workers in hospitals, such as—physicians, surgeons, physician assistants, nurses, nurse assistants, orderlies, and pharmacists to dietary aids, pharmacy technicians, other technologists and technicians, medical records personnel, therapists, admitting aides, health aides, housekeepers, and the like (it is incredible how many people make up the comprehensive fabric of hospitals and their owned or allied enterprises, such as clinics, and pharmaceutical, medical device and therapeutics companies, and are either essential or critical to its ability to operate at a high level of productivity in a crisis—and their family members. 


Dr. John Norris said. "For national security and national defense reasons, we won't go into here all the reasons why hospital employees and their families will most likely be targeted first for bio attacks or by what ways and means they will be targeted—or at least be threatened first. We can only say here that we believe they will, and without protections in place, the damage to them and their families and to their hospital’s capacity to serve could be devastating."


The safety of employee family members is also of great importance. These reasons include, first, workers surveyed indicated they consider protecting their families a higher priority than protecting themselves. Second, there is a high risk that a worker infected at work will take the pathogen home and vice versa. The death of their family members by the workers' taking the pathogen home will psychologically, emotionally, and or financially disable many workers, to one degree or another, thereby reducing their willingness to come to work or destroying their productivity if they do. 


Dr. Norris said: "Clearly, the most significant question in the minds of some, and possibly most, workers will likely be: "Who will be the first to die? Will it be someone I deeply love? My spouse? My child? My Parent? My sibling? My grandparent? Deadly viruses and bacteria spread. So, to what end could this evil attack go."


Terrorists and hostile nations will target hospital employees and their families "on day one" of their attacks—and will do so most aggressively. That is terrible to say, but it is, with a high degree of certainty, correct. That is bad enough. Worse and even more regrettably, from a strategic planning perspective, many (perhaps most) hospital leaders and their trade association and union heads falsely and recklessly believe their hospitals are already exceptionally well prepared for such an attack. But they are not. Far from it. 


Primary Purpose of This Public Service Article


Our primary interest in writing this public service article is to awaken vital concern and create pro-active interest—and essential immediate strategic action—by hospital leaders in their (and thereby their hospitals' trade associations, unions, and systems) becoming more thoroughly and thoughtfully prepared now to save staff and family member lives during an attack. Even in a crisis of this magnitude, including death and "overwhelming credible fear of death," it cannot be allowed to hinder the hospital. Fear for self or others can be very disabling; workers can freeze in place. This result can be brought on by a bio attack or even a credible threat. At all costs, the hospital must remain open and highly productive—so it can also save the lives of people who present themselves or are presented by others for emergent, urgent, and ongoing bio-related care or intensive care.


What to Do?


Prior use, such as installing and fully operating (1) security systems to protect access, computing, and communications tools, and (2) a prevention, mitigation, and control software system to risk manage the detrimental impacts of an attack on your facility or facilities or an attack on a neighboring is vital. It is also essential to be prepared to use preventative actions, such as protective and proactive care. This action includes having “in-hand” proper levels and management of stockpiling, storage, and supply-increase agreements with suppliers. Replacement of spent goods must remain properly (timely and selectively) available, triaged, and administered. For example, effective vaccinations, tests, isolations, quarantines, therapeutics, and exposure-tracking tools are critical here. Analyses, generation, and execution of other strategic (timely, thoughtful, practical, and effective) acts to reduce or limit exposures of co-workers and family members, such as crisis risk-mitigation instructions, are too. 


Without proper use of these tools within well-coordinated systems, effectiveness and, therefore, productivity will fail almost immediately following an attack. These tools and their proper use and management are critically needed to prevent, mitigate, and control spread as quickly and effectively as possible given the specific nature of the crisis as it first and then continuously uniquely presents itself. The key is appropriately reacting to rapidly changing circumstances, not overreacting or underreacting. 


Dr. John Norris said: “I founded Safely2Prosperity to help enterprise leaders, especially hospital leaders, given their critical role, perform most of these required acts effectively. Safely2Prosperity's product, VirusVigilant, is a "comprehensive infectious-disease spread risk-management solution for business executives, government-agency heads, and nation leaders. It's not "insurance," but "assurance," at 1,000 times less the cost." It is an innovative infectious disease spread risk management software tool and system. S2P's competitors also offer good tools and systems. You are not required to buy our product. But you must at least purchase a similar one if you intend to do things right.”


Undoubtedly, these are dangerous times in the US and the world. Bioterrorism and biowarfare are the third legs of the trilogy of weapons of mass destruction, but they have not been used broadly in decades. However, historically, they have destroyed various tribes or nations. For example, the bubonic plague killed half the world's population in the Middle Ages. Could or would this happen again? It is hard to speculate. But we believe so. 


Only a thin piece of paper in the form of an agreement stands in the way of bioweapons being used again in biowarfare. And there is no agreement even that thick—stopping bioterrorists unless the source nation or its proxy can conclusively be found. A week ago, it was reported in the media, Washington Times, that China has increased the supply and nature of its stockpile of bioweapons. Plus, there is a suspicion that the global spread of COVID-19 was a test by China of how effective a bioweapon might be in incapacitating whole economies worldwide. The sad thing about all of this is that possibly as many as 40% of the US deaths from COVID-19 were “avoidable” had proper preparatory—and preventive, mitigative, and control—actions been taken before and during the crisis.


Dr. Norris said: “Regrettably and shamefully, government agencies or foundations have not funded a study to validate or invalidate the theory that as many as 40% of the US deaths from COVID-19 were “avoidable.” If there is a bioweapon attack against Israel and or the US by a terrorist group, such as Hamas, or by a hostile nation, such as Iran, critical hospital employees, and derivatively, their family members, will likely be targeted to be the first to die. To President Biden and his OSHA agency’s credit, he and they tried. They were shot down by stiff opposition from every direction.”


Considering these alarming possibilities, healthcare executives, government agency heads, and nation leaders must immediately and deeply consider the safety and well-being of their workforces. Again, this is especially true regarding hospital workforces. Hospital employees, including doctors, nurses, support professionals, and staff, are on the front lines of any infectious disease outbreak or bioterrorist attack. Their proximity to infected individuals and potential exposure to targeted initial and possibly most significant attacks by harmful pathogens make them especially vulnerable to the risks associated with such events. Additionally, their family members, who can be infected by spouses or other family members who can "bring the pathogen home" and who also often rely on healthcare workers for medical attention themselves, could also be at significant risk.


Hospital executives, agency heads, and national government leaders should immediately prioritize the safety of hospital employees and their families during a bioterrorist or biowarfare attack. It is unjust and unsound that Congress has not made funds available to enable the completion of this task. They all are already late to the game. 


Dr. John Norris said: “Infectious disease spread prevention and response programs and systems and their integrated mostly software response tools are similar to (1) fire safety codes, both public and private, (2) fire prevention and response programs and systems, including, plans, alarms, alerts, and warnings, and (3) fire spread prevention, control, and other response tools, such as fire sprinklers and warnings, best exit instructions, and other pre- and post-fire recommendations and danger control instructions.”


By taking proactive measures to protect their workforce, hospitals can fulfill their moral, ethical, and legal duties to protect employees and their family members from work hazards, including infectious disease spread. At the same time, they protect themselves (from personal liability) and their hospitals from various forms of liability, such as tort liability and liability for intentionally or recklessly (de facto intentionally) inflicting harm on their employees and family members. Plus, establishing such protective measures for their workforce and families will also protect their hospital by helping it to minimize the impact of infectious diseases on their operations (in many ways) and ensure the timeliness, efficiency, quality, effectiveness, and continuity of their healthcare services.


Dr. Norris said: “To be clear about who we hope to encourage to act by writing this public service article, it is not an attack on President Biden or OSHA. President Biden and OSHA tried hard to take our national response primarily out of the hands of litigation attorneys. Still, they were dramatically, shamefully, and counterproductively, both for their members and society, recklessly and foolishly but successfully pushed back by employer trade associations. For now, but not for long, it will be up to litigation attorneys to clean up the mess. We just hope that a proper legal and regulatory landscape appears soon enough. In the meantime, we will do our best to protect employees and families while at the same time protecting CEOs, COOs, and enterprises from liability for reckless conduct by failing to act."


One key strategy for safeguarding hospital employees is preparedness at all enterprise levels. Healthcare organizations, especially hospitals, should have detailed risk assessments and resulting well-defined emergency response strategic plans in place and fully active, specifically tailored to address bioterrorist attacks and biowarfare incidents. These plans should outline the necessary steps to be taken in the event of an attack, including the protection (and, if required, evacuation, isolation, or quarantining) of as few professionals and staff as is appropriate, the establishment of specific isolation, quarantine, and treatment rooms or facilities, and the coordination of communication with external authorities.


Training and education are also critical components of preparedness. Hospital employees should receive comprehensive training on bioterrorism and biowarfare, including (1) how to recognize and respond to potential threats and ring alerts or alarms when they become aware of a credible threat or attack, (2) the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and (3) the implementation of infection spread prevention, mitigation, and control measures, for use at work and to help prevent transmission to and or at home. Regular drills and simulations, like "Fire Safety Drills," with which we are all experienced, can help reinforce this training and ensure that staff members are well-prepared to handle infectious disease spread emergencies flexibly, no matter how or how often an attack is targeted at them and to a significant degree hits them. Terrorist and nation-state attacks on hospitals, more so than nature attacks, are likely to be repeated. 


What Must Be Added to Preparedness?


In addition to preparedness, healthcare organizations, especially hospitals, should prioritize acquiring and maintaining other necessary resources and equipment. These resources and equipment include an ample supply of PPE, such as masks, gloves, gowns, and respirators, as well as specialized equipment, such as the correct vaccines, tests, and other tools, strategies, and systems to prevent spread and therapeutics to treat infectious diseases (or a source to which they have high priority access). Regular inspections and maintenance of these resources are essential to ensure expiration dates and other factors that could reduce their effectiveness during an attack. 


For example, vaccines, tests, and drugs might have passed their expiration date. Software systems needed for protecting the hospital and its workers (including risk management systems and electronic door and or window lock systems) might have picked up an electronic bug of their own or even been tampered with by agents of the attacking terrorist group or hostile nation. Regrettably, the tampering agent might even be an embedded employee, so screening of employees during hiring processes must be better than in the past. This protective discovery is not an easy task. But it is essential. Some experts believe that Iran might have as many as 5,000 agents implanted in the US, for example.


Furthermore, hospital employees and their families should be given access to comprehensive healthcare services, including vaccinations and medical evaluations, to protect against potential bioweapon exposures. Some bioweapons might take months before significant symptoms are expressed. So periodic screening for the most likely bioweapons, such as COVID-19, the Flu, and RSV, which are far safer for the distributing terrorist or agent to distribute if they are not on a suicide mission, than Anthrax, Botulinum Toxin, and Ebola, would add another layer of protection for workers, co-workers, and families. 


Also, regular health screenings can help identify potential vulnerabilities or pre-existing conditions that may exacerbate the risks associated with these bioterrorist attacks or biowarfare incidents. People having low or increasingly damaged resistance might be especially vulnerable to collapse during an attack. It is the same with workers having anxiety and, in some cases, possibly very high levels of stress. A fear of or from a bio attack (remember you can't see these microscopic "bullets;" that makes them particularly scary) to yourself or your family members can lead to collapse or other dysfunctions. Productivity from this critical employee might be reduced or eliminated. In a crisis, Such employees and others must be triaged to minimize the loss of effectiveness of the hospital.


Internal and External Lines of Communication are Also Vital


Communication is also vital in ensuring the safety of hospital employees and their families during a bioterrorist or biowarfare attack. Healthcare organizations, especially hospitals and hospital systems, should establish clear lines of communication with professionals and staff members. For example, communications systems would be tested to ensure that all workers have installed regular updates or upgrades of safety system software on their cell phones and have received and read notices on potential threats, safety procedures, and any necessary precautions. Family members should also be included to a proper degree in this communication network, as they play a crucial role in supporting hospital employees and ensuring their well-being.


Furthermore, healthcare organizations should collaborate with local, national, and relevant international authorities, hospital systems to which they belong, trade associations and unions, and other healthcare providers--to (1) share information and resources, (2) coordinate response efforts, and (3) develop cohesive strategies for addressing bioterrorist attacks and biowarfare incidents. By working together, healthcare organizations can enhance their preparedness and response capabilities, ultimately better ensuring the safety of their employees and families--and minimizing the adverse impact of such events.


Conclusion


In conclusion, hospital employees and their family members are indeed at risk during a nature-made, bioterrorist, or biowarfare bio attack. However, with proper preparedness, training, and resources, especially counter-measures and tools, such as Safely2Prosperity's VirusVigilant infectious disease spread risk management platform system, and communication, healthcare organizations can mitigate these risks and help ensure the continued high quality and quantity provision of healthcare services. The safety of hospital employees and their families should be a paramount concern for healthcare executives, government agency heads, and nation leaders as they work towards protecting their workforces and minimizing the impact of bioterrorist attacks and biowarfare incidents. Together, we can ensure the resilience and effectiveness of our healthcare systems in the face of these complex and hazardous challenges.


A Public Service Announcement by Safely2Prosperity and Dr. John Norris


This article has been a public service announcement by Safely2Prosperity and its Executive Chairman, Dr. John Norris. Safely2Prosperity (S2P) provides a "comprehensive infectious-disease spread risk-management solution," VirusVigilant, for business executives, government-agency heads, and nation leaders. S2P's VirusVigilant "Infectious Disease Safety Program" (like a Fire Safety Program but much more sophisticated and complex) combines a SaaS platform with customized risk management for overseeing add-on packages of vaccinations, testing, therapeutics, and tracking technologies, among many others. It helps these leaders meet their moral, ethical, and legal responsibilities and protect and help enhance workforce (and family) safety and productivity. Thereby, it helps assure (it's not "insurance," but "assurance," at 1,000 times less the cost) business continuity, revenue, profits, investor and insurer protection, and the overall effectiveness of the enterprise. With a focus on proactive measures, S2P offers a cost-effective, low-cost (as low as pennies per employee per month), and intuitive solution for risk-managing infectious disease spread. Dr. John Norris is a former FDA COO and Harvard faculty member who is an expert in preventing, mitigating, and controlling the spread of infectious diseases. He has spoken and published often on this topic.


If you want to learn more about VirusVigilant, please contact Dr. John Norris by text at 617-680-3127 or by email at John.Norris@Safely2Prosperity.com (mailto: John.Norris@Safely2Prosperity.com). S2P's website is safely2prosperity.com (http://safely2prosperity.com/).


(c) 2024 Safely2Prosperity LLC and Dr. John Norris. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


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