A leaked Pentagon memo is said to have warned of a ‘globally-persistent’ coronavirus lasting until the summer of 2021, with no vaccine before then.
The memo — which was unsigned but reportedly prepared by Kenneth Rapuano, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security — details the ‘real possibility of a resurgence’ of COVID-19 in the coming months.
‘All indications suggest we will be operating in a globally-persistent COVID-19 environment in the months ahead. This will likely continue until there is wide-scale immunity, through immunization, and some immunity post-recovery from the virus.’
Laying out a framework for the military going forward it adds: ‘We have a long path ahead, with the real possibility of a resurgence of COVID-19.
‘Therefore, we must now re-focus our attention on resuming critical missions, increasing levels of activity, and making necessary preparations should a significant resurgence of COVID-19 occur later this year.’
The note suggest outbreaks will occur in ‘clusters’ but warns testing ‘will not provide 100% assurance of the absence’ of the virus.
Defense officials have said the coronavirus will be an obstacle to the military at least until a vaccine is developed, with Esper earlier this month acknowledging that the Pentagon is “preparing for a second wave and maybe more” of the illness.
The document called for increased testing as well as a registry “to track and closely monitor outcomes of those infected with COVID-19.”
The memo marks a decidedly different tone to that from Esper at a press conference alongside Donald Trump last week.
‘Winning matters, and we will deliver by the end of this year a vaccine, at scale, to treat the American people,’ said Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
The military will be deployed to deliver the vaccine once it is developed and tested.
‘We will deliver, we will win this fight,’ Esper said.
The Pentagon later clarified that Esper was merely announcing a goal and was not promising a vaccine by the end of 2020.
The administration’s push for a vaccine in such short time has been met with skepticism from health experts, who have said the development of a new vaccine can take 12 to 18 months at least.
Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, has said it’s possible a vaccine will be ready in January.
He has cautioned, however, that there is “no guarantee” a given vaccine will be effective.