An internal Pentagon plan from 2017 warned of a coronavirus outbreak - and a massive shortage of medical equipment

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An internal Pentagon plan from 2017 warned of a coronavirus outbreak - and a massive shortage of medical equipment

An emergency room nurse dons her face protectors after taking a break in a driveway for ambulances and emergency medical services vehicles outside Brooklyn Hospital Center's emergency room, Sunday, April 5, 2020, in New York, during the coronavirus crisis. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Associated Press

An emergency room nurse dons her face protectors after taking a break in a driveway for ambulances and emergency medical services vehicles outside Brooklyn Hospital Center's emergency room, Sunday, April 5, in New York, during the coronavirus crisis.

  • An internal Pentagon document from 2017 warned of a health crisis like the novel coronavirus epidemic.
  • The report, published by The Nation magazine, said the crisis would exacerbate shortages of medical equipment and hammer the economy.
  • It is "inconceivable that the White House did not receive this [report]," The Nation's Ken Klippenstein told NPR. President Donald Trump has repeatedly said the outbreak was unforeseeable.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly said the United States could not have foreseen the novel coronavirus outbreak, but a leaked Pentagon report authored in 2017 says otherwise.

The 103-page "USNORTHCOM Branch Plan 3560: Pandemic Influenza and Infectious Disease Response" references past coronavirus outbreaks and notes that coronavirus infections are common around the world, but warned that the country would be massively underprepared.

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"The most likely and significant threat is a novel respiratory disease, particularly a novel influenza disease," said the internal Pentagon report, which was published on April 1 by The Nation magazine. "Coronavirus infections [are] common around the world," it added.

The United States is in the middle of a sprawling medical crisis, facing a shortage of hospital beds, ventilators, and healthcare workers, similar to the shortage the Pentagon warned about.

"Competition for, and scarcity of resources will include…non-pharmaceutical MCM [Medical Countermeasures]" like "ventilators, devices, personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves ... medical equipment, and logistical support," the report said.

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To date, there are more than 337,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the United States, and almost 10,000 deaths.

A recent analysis found that the United States could have at least six times more COVID-19 patients than available hospital beds.

A recent academic study predicted that up to 960,000 patients will require ventilation over the course of the pandemic. But there are 160,000 ventilators across the country. The government itself has 16,000 ventilators in its stockpile.

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"Even the most industrialized countries will have insufficient hospital beds, specialized equipment such as mechanical ventilators, and pharmaceuticals readily available to adequately treat their populations during clinically severe pandemic," the Pentagon document said.

A health crisis like the coronavirus epidemic would "have a significant impact on the availability of the global workforce," it added.

In March alone, at least 10 million Americans lost their jobs and filed for government aid. "Many economists say the real number of people out of work is probably even higher," the Washington Post reported, "since a lot of newly unemployed Americans haven't been able to fill out a claim yet."

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The Nation's Ken Klippenstein, who reported on the Pentagon plan, told NPR that the Trump administration knew about the report and that intelligence circles have been concerned about a coronavirus outbreak since at least 2015.

It is "inconceivable that the White House did not receive this [report]," Klippenstein said.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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Read the full report from The Nation here.

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