weekly blog--one for the ages
Let us imagine…A novel coronavirus emerges in Brazil, jumping from bats to pigs to farmers before making its way to a big city with an international airport. From there, infected travelers carried it to the United States, Portugal, and China. Within 18 months, the coronavirus had spread around the world, 65 million people are dead, and the global economy is in free fall.
This fictitious scenario played out in a New York City conference center before a panel of academics, government officials and business leaders last October. The exercises anticipated several failures that have played out in the management of COVID-19, including leaky travel bans, medical-equipment shortages, massive disorganization, misinformation, and a scramble for vaccines.
However, the scenarios did not anticipate some of the problems that have plagued the pandemic response, such as a shortfall of diagnostic tests, and world leaders who reject the advice of public-health specialists.
Most strikingly, biosecurity researchers did not predict that the United States would be among the hardest-hit countries.
Last year, leaders in the field ranked the United States top in the Global Health Security Index, which graded 195 countries in terms of how well prepared they were to fight outbreaks based on more than 100 factors. President Donald Trump even held up a copy of the report during a White House briefing on February 27, declaring: “We’re rated number one.” As he spoke, SARS-CoV-2 was already spreading undetected across the country.
Now, as COVID-19 cases in the United States surpass 4 million, with more than 150,000 deaths, the country has proved itself to be one of the most dysfunctional.