The Premonition: A Pandemic Story (I)

Labeled a non-fiction thriller that pitted a group of medical visionaries against our government.

As one of my characters put it, “Trump was a comorbidity.” (page xiv)

the only person whose authority trumped the health officer’s, in cases involving disease, was the governor of California. And then only if the governor had declared a state of emergency. (page 18)

By 2016, hep C was killing more Americans than all the other infectious disease put together, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it never made the list of diseases that required a swift response from the local health officer. It was blood-borne, which made it harder to contract, and easier to ignore. It didn’t scream “Emergency!” (pages 24-5)

The root of the CDC’s behavior was simple: fear. They didn’t want to take any action for which they might later be blamed….They wanted to learn from this meningitis outbreak, and I wanted to stop it. (page 40)

The CDC did many things. It published learned papers on health crises, after the fact. It managed, very carefully, public perception of itself. But when the shooting started, it leapt into the nearest hole, while others took fire. (pages 41-2)

The story of how the United States more or less invented pandemic planning began when George W. Bush, in the summer of 2005, read a book. Written the year before, it was the same volume that had dropped Bob Glass’s jaw: John Barry’s The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History…..Bush returned to the White House from his summer vacation with a new interest in pandemics. (pages 50-1)

Mistakes in private-sector medicine often never saw the light of day. The grievances they spawned could be resolved quietly, by insurance companies. Mistakes inside a VA hospital had to be reported to Congress, where members of whichever party did not control the White House would set about blaming the president for mistreating veterans. (page 64)

For that matter, why did no much of what he learned in life come from doing some job, and so little from school? (page 72)

A powerful conventional wisdom held that there was only one effective strategy: isolate the ill, and hustle to create and distribute vaccines and antiviral drugs; that other ideas, including social interventions to keep people physically farther apart from each other, had been tried back in 1918 and hadn’t worked. (pages 83-4)

In federal databases, he discovered that the majority of Americans employed by state and local government were employed in education, and he thought, No wonder those unions are so powerful. (page 90)

“I couldn’t design a system better for transmitting disease than our school system” (page 91)

He doesn’t dismiss your issues. He accepts that this is somebody else’s reality. (page 100)

They were exponential processes. If you took a penny and doubled it every day for thirty days, you’d have more than five million dollars: people couldn’t imagine disease spread any better than they could imagine a penny growing like that….The same mental glitch that leads people to not realize the power of compound interest blinds them to the importance of intervening before a pathogen explodes. (pages 104-5)

“I always felt a bit like a child in all this but having the eyes of a child and a sense of awe and no firmly held perspective to begin with was how I could help in some small way. I never had anything to unlearn.” (page 110)

“Experience is making the same mistake over and over again, only with greater confidence.” (page 124)

“The United States doesn’t really have a public-health system,” she said. “It has five thousand dots, and each one of those dots serves at the will of an elected official.” (page 131)

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