SUMMARY OF ARTICLE “HOW THE PANDEMIC WILL END” by Ed Yong, The Atlantic, March 25, 2020

This article is a few weeks dated, but it is a comprehensive summary of where we are and how this might turn out. I have updated the data where I could. Here is a link to the actual article:

Three months ago, no one knew this novel corona virus COVID-19 existed. Now it is in every country and has infected {over 1.5 million worldwide}. It has crashed economies and overwhelmed heath care systems.

A pandemic of this scale was inevitable. The U.S. should have been the most prepared because of our wealth and strength. But we failed miserably to be prepared. In the crucial month of February, the biomedical powerhouse that is the U.S. failed to develop a test that worked, and so we had no way to track the spread of the virus in our country. Because the pandemic spread to all 50 states, we cannot count on our usual means of dealing with disaster—unaffected states helping affected states. The states are in competition for supplies.

The current White House is “a ghost town of scientific expertise.” The Trump administration dissolved the pandemic preparedness office that was part of the National Security Council. America has failed to deal with this pandemic to a degree beyond the expectations of all experts.

To decrease the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S., 4 things need to happen:

  1. 1.      Adequate supplies of PPE. Trump should invoke the Defense Production Act.
    2.      A massive roll-out of COVID-19 tests.
    3.      Social distancing even beyond what feels proportionate. Without leadership from the White House, states have had to take the lead in this, and some states have done much better than others.
    4.      Public must be given accurate and up to date information. Trump of course lies and engages in “happy talk” rather than giving Americans the truth they need to hear. Fortunately, we have governors like Andrew Cuomo and JB Pritzker telling us the truth.

How this will end—3 possibilities

  1. Every nation in the world gets their epidemic under control at the same time—not likely!
  2. Herd immunity—the virus burns through enough victims that only those who are immune are left—millions of deaths!
  3. The world plays “whack a mole” stamping out outbreaks as they arise until a good vaccine is developed—the most likely and least horrible scenario but it takes time!  Question—How long does immunity last? Experts don’t know, but it could be a couple years.


The Aftermath

Enormous costs


  1. One in five people have lost jobs—even if only temporarily, but some will not come back. This hits low income people harder. There will likely be an increase in inequality.
  2. Mental health issues caused by isolation and lack of human contact. This social isolation is especially hard on the elderly. What is the effect on children—are they experiencing trauma?
  3. Could be some positive effects

a.      Attitudes towards health improve—more funding, more attention to public health

b.      People find different ways of doing work

c.      Communities come together

d.      The virus affects everyone, so might result in some positive social change such as universal health care.

Lessons Learned

Two Scenarios

1. Trump is re-elected and the U.S. turns further inward, rejecting NATO and other alliances. Blames future pandemics on other nations.

2. Trump (his nationalism, xenophobia, and isolationism) is rejected and under a new president the U.S. becomes more interested in and involved in international cooperation, which can help mitigate future pandemics.