Right. I don't remember either.
The administration, though, has nothing but faith in the Postal Service. In fact, it's willing to make a big bet on the Postal Service's nimbleness, sense of urgency, and dedication to duty.
And when I say big, I mean really big; it's willing to bet your life on it.
Literally. If we suffer an anthrax attack, everyone who's been exposed will need antibiotics within three days of the attack. That's within two days of our discovery of the attack, if we're lucky. Every day of delay after that is a death sentence for roughly five or ten percent of those exposed.
How will we get antibiotics in the hands of what could be hundreds of thousands of really worried people? The Administration's answer is contained in an executive order released quietly last week: We'll get the Postal Service to do it. Of course they're already demanding armed protection, so we'll send local law enforcement officers with them.
Stop for a moment to imagine the scene. Postal workers will be asked to drive into contaminated neighborhoods even though they can't be sure their countermeasures will work against whatever strain has been spread there. The neighborhoods are full of people desperate to get antibiotics, so for protection, the postal workers will first have to meet up with guys with guns whom they've never seen before. They'll collect antibiotics from pickup points that they may or may not have gone to before. They'll meet the guys with guns there, or someplace else that may have to be made up at the last minute. Then they'll start out on routes that almost certainly will be new to them. As they go, they will seamlessly and fairly make decisions about whether to deliver the antibiotics to homes where no one is present, to rural mailboxes that may or may not be easily rifled, to people on the street who claim to live down the way, to the guys with guns who are riding with them and have friends or family at risk, and to men in big cars who offer cash for anything that falls off the truck.
And all this will put antibiotics in the hands of every single exposed person within 48 hours, from a no-notice standing start.Yeah, that should work.
I don't mean to be flip. I talk about this in the book, and the fact is that no delivery method will work really well, and so, as a fallback, the Postal Service may be our best option.
That said, no one but an idiot would bet their children's lives on that option.
So here's what I did -- and what you should do too. I asked my doctor for an emergency supply of antibiotics that would get me through the first week or so of a crisis. I promised not to take the antibiotics irresponsibly for colds or other viral infections. And I was ready to change doctors over the issue.
I got the prescription.
Some public health officials may try to make you feel guilty about "hoarding" antibiotics or contributing to antibiotic resistance. Poppycock. If you buy while supplies are plentiful, you're actually making a bigger market for these products and contributing to the maintenance of production capability. And if you don't take them irresponsibly, you won't affect resistance.
In fact, you're even being socially responsible. If we do suffer an anthrax attack and the Postal Service is having trouble keeping up, a sure bet if ever there was one, you can defer your delivery in favor of someone who has no stash. You'll take a bit of strain off a system that is going to need all the relief it can get.
(In addition to the glow of virtue, you can feel a bit of that leftover 60s civil disobedience thrill. When I tried to put this home stockpile advice in a speech toward the tail end of the last administration, I was informed by the lawyers that advocating an unapproved use of prescription medicine is a criminal offense under FDA law. And, while taking antibiotics for an anthrax attack is an approved use, getting antibiotics in case of an anthrax attack is not an approved use. I think that may mean that this post is, um, a felony. If so, well, power to the people and come and get me, coppers!)
What's unfortunate about the executive order is that there's not a hint that the administration is considering the home stockpile as the first and best way to prepare for a possible attack. If that's really the government's last word on the subject, it's like telling passengers that the best response to an air hijacking is to sit tight and wait for the authorities to arrive.
It's insufferably paternalistic and it's bad advice.
The only good part about it is, no one is going to listen.