Six days ago, I moderated a smart and informed conversation on Al Jazeera English’s The Bottom Line on what we knew (then) about the novel coronavirus. We are about six hundred further deaths and many thousands more reported official infections since what was the case then. What is clear is that the public health system readiness for a virus such as this is uneven, dangerous, and may be a foreshock for a far deadlier pandemic if we don’t learn from what is happening now.
One of the best lines though from the show came from former City of Baltimore Health Commissioner Leana Wen who chose optimism of cynicism in this moment and thinks we, the big global we, are getting some things right. She said, “Public health saved your life today. You just didn’t know it.” I hope her take is right as we are seeing worrying signs that even well-intentioned government officials and public health practitioners can’t contain a pandemic at a certain point. It’s a cliche to say time will tell, but time will indeed tell.
The contributors to the discussion were George Washington University’s Leana Wen, Johns Hopkins Health System infectious disease expert Lisa Maragakis, Notre Dame China specialist and Global Affairs Associate Professor Joshua Eisenman, and the Economic Policy Institute’s Robert Scott. I think this discussion, which rejects hype and embraces science, is well worth the time.
— Steve Clemons