Paul Romer, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, envisions a day when all Americans are tested regularly for COVID-19, and they present proof when dining out or visiting a dentist.
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said that if a "big peak" of coronavirus floods hospitals this winter, "we have the potential here to go through days we have not seen since World War II. ... As a nation, we will not be ready."
“What we’re experiencing is a massive global destabilization of all our systems,” adds Brian David Johnson, a futurist and director of the Threatcasting Lab at Arizona State University. “We actually don’t know all the damage that has happened. We’re on life support, globally.”
If the world premiere of COVID-19 caught you off guard, you may need to get prepared for a sequel.
Many scientists believe the pandemic likely will dissipate over the summer only to return late this year in a second wave that could be worse than the first. While that outlook is no certainty – just one of several plotted by public health experts – disaster planning is all about anticipating worst-case scenarios.
So, with months to go before a possible Round 2, is the United States prepared – medically, economically and emotionally?
The leading answer from epidemiologists, economists and futurists: probably not. But tomorrow depends in part on what we do as individuals, communities and a nation.
The destabilization described by Johnson is glaringly evident in three realms:
Medicine. Some U.S. hospitals, hit with patient surges in COVID-19 hot spots, warned of running out of ventilators, personal protective equipment and other supplies. The Strategic National Stockpile was nearly emptied. Thanks to a global manufacturing binge, supplies appear to be catching up and, in key locations such as New York City, the disease is abating for now. But, if the coronavirus returns with a second wave, will the health care system be ready?