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Salena Zito: How many deaths will it take before Biden forcefully addresses the fentanyl crisis?

Salena Zito

Salena Zito

When the Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, police and paramedics arrived at a modest suburban Pittsburgh home Jan. 14, they found the father of 7-month-old Zhuri Bogle desperately performing CPR on his infant daughter. It was 6:44 a.m.

The first responders immediately took over from the father and administered CPR on the unresponsive baby for the next 21 minutes. At 7:05 a.m., Zhuri was pronounced dead.

The local police immediately requested the Allegheny County Police Homicide Unit assist in the investigation. Those detectives, in turn, launched an investigation into the baby’s death.

Two months later, the Allegheny County medical examiner announced Zhuri died from acute fentanyl toxicity. The detectives on the case also determined that Zhuri’s grandmother and her “friend,” David Poindexter, age 58, were watching Zhuri when the baby overdosed.

Poindexter was recently served with an arrest warrant and charged with involuntary manslaughter and recklessly endangering another person.

Ten-month-old Senna Matkovic was luckier than Zhuri. A fast-acting nanny and nearby paramedics earlier this year helped Senna survive exposure to fentanyl. He was playing with his twin brother at San Francisco’s Moscone Park when it happened. Within 10 seconds of Fire Rescue Captain Robert Kuzma administering Narcan, the child went from supine, unresponsive and blue to breathing and crying for his parents.

Kuzma said it was not his first pediatric opioid overdose in his career. Tragically, it likely won’t be his last.

The number of children under 5 who have died from overdoses in the U.S. has increased significantly in recent years, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. The highest number of those fatal poisonings of children comes from opioids.

The study, which relied on records from the National Fatality Review-Case Reporting System, showed that two-fifths of the children who died were infants and that 65% of those deaths happened at home. Nearly a third of those occurred under the supervision of someone who was not their biological parent.

We have looked the other way as opioid addiction and abuse in the U.S. has gone from zero to a grotesque and infinite epidemic. It now endangers every aspect of life. Our public health has degraded, our economic output has suffered and our national security has been breached so brazenly and without consequence that it is hard to grasp. Even infants are not safe. Yet we do nothing.

In the past 23 years alone, over 1 million people in the U.S. have died of drug overdoses, almost exclusively opioids, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. By the end of this week, 1,500 people will have overdosed on opioids and died. By the end of next week, 1,500 more people will have overdosed and died from an opioid, and the week after that, and the week after that.

China is the main manufacturer of the ingredients needed to create fentanyl. They find their way from China to the southern border, where the drug cartels are happy to produce the drug and then hand it off to distribution networks to smuggle it across the porous border.

The Biden administration “urged” Mexico and China to take strong action in their countries. Both countries responded that the problem wasn’t with them — it was with us.

With no consequences from the U.S. government, the drugs make their way into the U.S. Those carrying the drugs blend in easily with the record-breaking 2.7 million other illegal crossings that happened last year. They spread the drugs to cities, suburbs and rural communities in your backyard.

Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. It is cheap to produce and deadly to the unsuspecting.

Every year at the border, the number of seizures of the product gets higher. Every year, the amount that gets past law enforcement gets larger as well. Fentanyl is poisoning babies, teenagers and adults. Those in government in Washington, D.C., who were elected to protect us have done the opposite.

It is the border agents, law enforcement, first-responders, doctors, firefighters and paramedics who are our last line of defense. It makes no sense that we accept the death of Zhuri as normal. It makes no sense that any parent must worry about sending a child to a public park and having him or her not come back alive. It makes no sense that this White House has not done something serious to call all of this out publicly, telling both China and Mexico unequivocally that this ends now.

We have allowed China to steal our intellectual property, outperform us in technology and military capabilities, supersede us in forming strategic alliances with our former allies, escape accountability over the spread of COVID-19, spy on us, out-manufacture us and now poison us. Still, we do nothing.

We also have allowed Mexico to take zero accountability for its hand in this, to turn the problem back on us. Last month, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that in his country, they do not have a problem with fentanyl consumption. “Why don’t they take care of their problem of social decay?” he asked.

A little baby died here in western Pennsylvania — a victim of a series of failures by our government. When does the Biden administration say that enough is enough?

Zito is a CNN political analyst and reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner:

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