(March 8) Don’t get complacent about COVID-19, because the mutants are coming.

That was the main message from author John Barry, whom I interviewed Monday for the anniversary of my piece last year, in which Barry correctly warned about the public health disaster that was about to unfurl.

Barry, who teaches at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, is the bestselling author whose works included The Great Influenza, the award-winning 2004 book about the 1918 flu pandemic. I interviewed him last year two days before the United States went into full-blown panic about the coronavirus — two days before the National Basketball Association suddenly pulled players off the court, which was the same day actor Tom Hanks announced he had contracted the contagion and the same day the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic, and yet still two more days before then-President Donald Trump declared a national emergency.

But Barry’s predictions then, back when most of us thought this thing was serious (at worst) but not a disaster, were right on target: “This is going to be very, very bad,” with “the potential to spread very, very widely” because there were probably already “thousands” of U.S. cases that we did not yet recognize as COVID-19.

Barry urged Trump to let public health officials take the reins of public messages and give “more guidance to the states” while we all “prepare to hunker down.” Hundreds of thousands of U.S. deaths, he intimated, were probably in the offing.

On all counts, Barry was right. It’s probably worthwhile to listen to him more closely.

I asked him to look back and look forward. Looking backward, Barry identified two big mistakes. First, he said the U.S. missed the chance to do what free-ish Asian countries and Australia did in terms of “contact tracing,” which, along with stricter (but shorter) lockdowns, could have brought much better results. Australia’s grand total of only 909 coronavirus deaths is the per capita equivalent of only 12,000 U.S. deaths — or just one-45th the horrific number we’ve actually experienced….

[Read the rest at this link.]


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