Covid-19: Why Were We So Unprepared?
Initiated in response to the coronavirus pandemic, The President's Special Lecture Series on Pandemics features presentations by a wide range of distinguished intellectuals on the scientific, technological, historical, political, cultural, and economic aspects of pandemics. Dr. Frank Snowden’s lecture will explore why epidemic diseases are not random events. Rather, they reflect the nature of the societies within which they disseminate. In other words, humans do not create pathogens, but they do create the conditions necessary for them to thrive in our midst. Since 1997 and the avian flu epidemic, scientists have warned that the globalized world in which we live is congested, and interconnected cities create several vulnerabilities for microbes to exploit. In the opinion of leading virologists, the greatest danger was that of a major pulmonary virus, whose arrival was “inevitable.” Indeed, a series of medical emergencies in the new century – SAARS, MERS, swine flu, and Ebola – confirmed the danger and led to intermittent attempts at pandemic planning. Yet, after a quarter of a century of warning, and a series of pandemic “dress rehearsals,” both the US and the international community were caught unprepared by the onset of Covid-19. This talk will explore the reasons for this tragic lack of foresight and consider what a robust preparation would entail for the future.