How did it happen? And who’s accountable? Seems now a lot of people saw it coming. Stephen King wrote his viral bestseller The Stand 30 years ago; Bill Gates put his warning in a TED talk; our Pentagon had a plan to counter the pandemic. It was the reporter Laurie Garrett, covering viruses before HIV/AIDS in the ’80s, who got inside 30 different epidemics around the world before this one, and put a title on her scrupulous non-fiction: The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance. That was 26 years ago. This week she’s just out with a first draft of our coronavirus history, with two plausible villains and also two possible sources of critical help, if it’s not too late.
The coronavirus attack comes to feel like “the nearest thing to a world war,” the people of the planet at the mercy of an invisible bat virus, counting each of us on our immune systems and very little in the way of common defense. The US is now the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic as it spins toward plague standing—up toward the wreckage and transformation that came with HIV-AIDS, with the Spanish flu of 1918 and the Bubonic, ancestor of all plagues. We are counting this hour on the singular reporter Laurie Garrett, a paragon of “knowledge-based journalism,” seeing epidemics for herself in huts and hospitals all over the globe—30 epidemics in 40 years—and writing with precision about the coming plague that is now upon us.
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