PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY
This is, unfortunately, the newest entry on the list of major societal problems. But it shouldn’t be. In fact, COVID-19 is the second pandemic to hit the US in the last 12 years. The 2009 swine flu pandemic infected 1.4 billion people across the globe and killed as many as 575,00 people. Unlike the novel coronavirus, swine flu primarily affected children and young adults, and 80% of the deaths were in people younger than 65. (A vaccine for the H1N1 swine flu virus is now included in annual flu vaccines.) There have been countless others, like the Zika virus, Ebola, SARS and the one that had the biggest impact on the US, the misnamed Spanish Flu of 1918, which may have killed 100 million people, including 500,000 in the US.
We obviously weren’t prepared for the novel coronavirus, and reacted too slowly once we learned of its spread to the US. If the events of 2020 have proven anything, it is that the US cannot continue to hope and pray that epidemics simply pass us by. The politicians who manage the federal government cannot be trusted to deploy the resources necessary to proactively protect us from them. We need to establish measures and institutions to protect our public health that are insulated from the political pressures to cut costs or shift resources to more politically desirable projects. We need the people to develop those ideas and then insist upon them.
Of course, this one can’t wait.