Lesson 9 of the coronavirus epidemic: nimble testing, rapid vaccines, racial inequality

At some point, this will happen again. There will be another new virus and another epidemic. And while each epidemic is different, there are some universal, tangible things we can try to do in a hurricane environment better than these hurricanes.

Big picture: The USA should do nine things here in the next epidemic – some big, some small, some lessons from what happened this time, some lessons from exactly what happened.

1. Move quickly

This is one of the largest, sharpest dividing lines between countries that handle coronaviruses well and those that handle them poorly. If you don’t sit in gear until an emergency arrives, you’re just going to make sure there’s a much bigger and longer-lasting emergency.

2. A variety of preparations

The global public health community was preparing for the epidemic, but may have focused too much on the influenza epidemic, says Claire Standley, an international public health systems expert at Georgetown University.

  • There were a lot of good reasons to believe that the flu would be the most likely source of the epidemic, and it probably still causes the next one, but the fact that we got it coronavirus should be a wake-up call against the disease. Special planning.
  • That means stockpiling a wide range of antiviral drugs, as well as generalized supplies such as protective gear and test components.

3. Have a backup plan for diagnostics

The World Health Organization’s initial coronavirus test had an error rate, so the USA decided to develop its own, but the test did not work. Mistakes happen, and it’s not realistic to plan for the next time.

  • Lessons are nimble – even a flawless test is better than a test.
  • The Trump administration has finally cleared a lot of red tape to get commercial and educational laboratories into the mix, and some of those policy changes should happen even faster in the near future.

4. Create contact tracing

Original number, in that order is testing, contact tracing and isolation. If testing is better in future epidemics, we would like to be able to take another step as well.

  • Other countries can do it. Massachusetts has contact tracing infrastructure that, although not perfect, In is probably the best and is a model to create. Baltimore found a clever solution by reassigning school nurses to contact.
  • Silicon Valley-in-the-fly coronavirus tracing tools had a relatively limited outlet, but there is a clear role for tech in a more structured, preemptive framework.

5. Accept the risk on vaccines

Governments, drug companies and philanthropists are embracing an unprecedented economic risk in the race for a coronavirus vaccine, and the prospect of paying it seems very high.

  • Tests are still ongoing, so there is no promise that any one vaccine will work.
  • But the way this process is progressing – plowing forward on multiple fronts, jumping into production and throwing out non-working products – is a new model. And it is possible that someone will deliver the vaccine as quickly as possible.

6. Walk in public through what you ask for

Especially with the new virus, our scientific understanding will inevitably change, and with it the public-health guidelines will have to change. Being transparent about what the public is being told to do, and why, it will go too far.

  • The mask is a great example. Initially, officials discouraged people from buying masks because there were not enough masks, and health care workers needed them. But that logic was not clearly made.
  • As scientists later learned that masks were more effective than they thought, and the supply of masks increased, a very reasonable evolution towards pro-mask guidance felt like confusion and whiplash weakening the message.

7. International cooperation is key

In the early days of COVID-19, China quickly and openly shared the genetic sequence of the virus, and the WHO helped disseminate that information. Experts call it the most consequential success of the epidemic, necessary to get started on potential tests, treatments and vaccines.

  • Since then, the WHO has faced well-established criticism, with the U.S. It has retreated from the body, and some of China’s data has become much less reliable.
  • Some institutions may need to be reformed, Standley said, and others – the United Nations – may need to play a larger role in some parts of future response efforts.
  • But in a global epidemic, sharing and cooperating information is necessary to understand that risk, find out who is most at risk, and allocate the resources needed to get everyone through it.

8. Create a more appropriate health care system

Coronavirus U.S. Reflects and expands inequality in the health care system. As long as those inequalities remain, future epidemics will also exploit them.

  • We are well aware before this epidemic that black Americans, on average, have worse health outcomes than white Americans. We know that inadequate housing, poverty and food insecurity are all linked to health, and those factors are also broken down by racial rifts.
  • We may not know the cause of the next epidemic, but we do know that the stability of the U.S. health care system will disadvantage the poor and people of color from the outset.

9. Economic feedback and health feedback go together

In epidemics like this, where isolation is part of the compromise, economic stability and public health reinforce each other.

  • Some European economies Have risen faster than, mostly because they have done a better job of containing the virus.
  • They were more able to control the virus in part because they had a more successful lockdown, and they had a more successful lockdown in part because they devised stimulus plans that allowed people to lock in without sacrificing their lives.

Bottom line: There is constant preparation and clear investment – in big-picture systems, in long-term planning and Swift, early action when an emergency arises.

  • “All of this money is well spent if you can avoid the kind of disaster we’ve seen with COVID-19,” Standley said.