The Costs of Poor Prep

As the world comes to terms with the inevitable spread of COVID-19—now in at least 2 dozen countries—we’re all likely to have a brush with it, James Hamblin reports in The Atlantic.
He cites Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch’s prediction that some  40-70% of people around the world will be infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 sometime this year—with the critical caveat that many will have mild cases, or be asymptomatic.

And, “If we’re putting all our hopes in a vaccine as being the answer, we’re in trouble,” says Jason Schwartz, an assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health. Even best-case scenarios are not likely to produce a vaccine in time to thwart this outbreak.

It's too late to correct for the world’s failure to prepare post-SARS. As the emergency faded, so did funding and interest. Setting aside the SARS-vaccine-research program aside meant losing foundational work that could have been applied to this new coronavirus, Schwartz says.

In other news: The White House is asking Congress for $1.8 billion in emergency funds to respond to COVID-19, The Washington Post reports—including a request to transfer funding that was to be used to fight Ebola. And, Hamblin notes, it coincides with President Trump’s new budget proposal that shaves pandemic preparedness funding for the CDC, the NIH, and foreign aid. 

"These long-term government investments matter because creating vaccines, antiviral medications, and other vital tools requires decades of serious investment, even when demand is low," Hamblin writes.

For the latest numbers, the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University is tracking the COVID-19 spread in real-time.

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