Experts look back at the pandemic and issue a report saying the nation’s public-health system was not equipped to deal with it

By Krista Mahr and Daniel Payne

Politico Pulse

As the Covid-19 public health emergency enters its final weeks, Washington is still gripped by debate over how the pandemic started and what the Trump and Biden administrations got wrong. But one thing most can agree on: This won’t be the last time we face off with a deadly pathogen, and we’d better be ready. That’s the premise of a new report released by the Covid Crisis Group, headed by Philip Zelikow, former executive director of the 9/11 Commission.

The group of 34 experts was assembled in 2021 to lay the groundwork for a future Covid commission that never came to be. So they released their findings Tuesday, offering a series of lessons about what went wrong — and occasionally right — in America’s pandemic response. A few highlights:

When 19th century infrastructure met a 21st century virus: America’s public-health infrastructure was built on a 19th century design, researchers wrote, focused on the state and local response to outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, founded as a research center early in the 20th century, was neither conceived nor updated to manage a national health emergency. The modern health-care system evolved separately and with more resources from the nation’s public-health infrastructure, and both public health and the health-care system were detached from the bio-pharma complex, which ultimately made the drugs that saved Americans’ lives.

Policy failure created the pandemic partisan divide, not the other way around: Red and blue states had surprisingly similar approaches to lockdowns and reopenings early in the pandemic, upending the narrative that there were distinct “red” and “blue” pandemic responses. Instead, researchers said, it was a series of federal policy failures that created the toxic political environment that has come to define many people’s feelings about Covid and the government’s response.

Health security is national security: The report hails Operation Warp Speed as a major success in the pandemic response, partly due to researchers already being familiar with coronaviruses and the mRNA vaccine platform already being so advanced. The program helped invest, manufacture and distribute vaccines, and its leadership was granted unusual autonomy by the Trump administration, researchers wrote.

Previous Article
Next Article