Infectious Disease

“Nobody” in public health foresaw the politicization of COVID-19

April 17, 2021

3 min read

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Barry JM. Pandemics – What the past tells us about our present and future of COVID19. Presented on: Interdisciplinary autoimmune summit. 15.-18. April 2021 (virtual meeting).

Disclosure:
Barry does not report any relevant financial information.

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The U.S. public health community could not foresee the rampant politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic and was shocked by the federal response, according to the New York Times bestselling author John M. Barry.

Barry, whose book “The Great Influenza: The Epic Tale of the Greatest Plague in History” won the 2005 Keck Communication Award from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine of the United States, was asked what during a virtual Q&A at the 2021 Interdisciplinary Autoimmune Summit What shocked him most about the United States’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. public health community could not foresee the rampant politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic and was shocked at IAS 2021, according to New York Times bestselling author John M. Barry. Source: Adobe Stock

“Probably the same as you and anyone watching – that you have a politicized public health crisis, that you have actions that can save people’s lives, and that you get political,” said Barry.

“Nobody in the public health community, I can guarantee you, or in the standby community ever imagined that the White House response would be as it turned out, or that in any national crisis, the President of the United States would be I would stand on the podium and say, “The federal government is a support”, not just once, but several times, “he added.” The federal government is a support “in a national and international crisis. Who could imagine that? It was not only the biggest surprise for me, but probably for everyone. “

John M. Barry

Barry, who is also a distinguished scientist at Tulane University’s Bywater Institute and a professor at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, also reflected on the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US There was a “frustrating one “Lack of tests.

In particular, in early to mid-February, he recalled that the lack of known cases in the United States – likely due to a lack of testing – had led both health officials and the public to a false sense of security.

“We felt it was here,” he said. “I live in New Orleans and Mardi Gras was probably a big spreader in hindsight. However, there were no reports of cases at this point – so no reason to close them. The last time I got off a plane I think was on February 23rd to give a talk about the impending pandemic, and I remember thinking, “Well, I’m going to adjust my personal habits, when it arrives, but it’s not there yet. ‘But I knew it was coming. And of course I was wrong – it was here and it spread. “

Perform during the Q&A session by the moderator Joel M. Gelfand, MD, MSCE, From the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, Barry gave a history lesson on the state of medicine before and during the 1918 pandemic influenza in the United States. He also described the measures that were being taken to contain the spread.

At the time, medicine in the United States had only recently become scientific after the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine opened in 1893, which was the first such school to have scientific requirements, Barry said. In addition, the idea that influenza was a virus-based disease was largely unknown.

“Doctors tried everything at the time, including injecting hydrogen peroxide intravenously,” said Barry. “Someone wrote an article about it in JAMA, and of the 25 patients, 12 if I remember correctly – died – and he claimed success.”

“They were familiar with vaccines, however, and they developed vaccines that were directed against a bacterial pathogen. So you didn’t do much unless you happened to be infected with secondary bacterial pneumonia,” he added. “They used transfusions, essentially what would become monoclonal antibodies. That had some effects, but basically all you could do back then was moisturize people. “

When it came to public health measures, officials at the time turned to a familiar strategy – masks and social distancing.

“Of course, one of the oldest interventions is quarantine,” said Barry. “They knew it was an infectious disease, they knew it was respiratory disease, and they had actually done pretty good experiments with masks for other respiratory diseases, and they knew it would be useful when you were someone who is sick to put on a mask to protect people who were fine. For example, masks were used quite widely in cities, but the keys were social distancing and closure.

“There was a tremendous amount of fear,” he added. “It was a fatal disease. Nobody thought anything else than that. Nobody refused that. You couldn’t if the death toll increases, your neighbors will be dead in 24 hours, and so on. Even if they hadn’t imposed social distancing measures, the streets would have been empty. “

When asked by Gelfand what historians will write about the COVID-19 pandemic 100 years from now, Barry said future scientists need to look at the planet as a whole and realize that “some countries got it right and others didn’t Law.”

“Unfortunately, we are not one of the countries that got it right,” he continued. “And they will find out the importance of politics in responding to public health.”

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Interdisciplinary autoimmune summit

Interdisciplinary autoimmune summit

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