Wuhan, China – December 2019: A small cluster of patients were presenting with flu- and pneumonia-like symptoms — not unusual for this time of year, except for the fact that this virus was unlike any previously-known virus. Medical professionals called it a “pneumonia-like illness of unknown origin.”
By December 31, the Chinese government notified the World Health Organization that a novel virus was emerging and the world greeted 2020 with the discovery that a new coronavirus was making its way around China.
Within weeks, the first American case appeared, federal officials were screening for infection at airports in major US cities, travelers were being advised to avoid unnecessary travel to China, and the US was trying to evacuate American citizens from China. Drugmakers were already racing the clock to fast-track making the first vaccine available to the public, with the full cooperation of the federal government.
Now, keeping the first case of this new virus presented in December 2019, let’s jump back to October 18, 2019, two months before the first patient contracted the novel Chinese coronavirus.
On that date, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, World Economic Forum, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hosted a think tank they called “Event 201.” For 3.5 hours, Event 201’s attendees participated in a tabletop simulation of a hypothetical pandemic of – you guessed it – a deadly, novel coronavirus that had somehow adapted from one that only infected animals into one that infects humans as well. The hypothetical virus wipes out 65 million people worldwide.
The goal of this simulation was to identify solutions to the policy and economic issues that would evolve from a global catastrophe of this magnitude.
You can view the highlights of the event here:
You will note they are not focused so much on public health or the tragedy of losing 65 million people. They are more focused on the economic and political ramifications of a pandemic. From the
The next severe pandemic will not only cause great illness and loss of life but could also trigger major cascading economic and societal consequences that could contribute greatly to global impact and suffering.
Ultimately the panel concluded that in order to resolve a global pandemic would require “unprecedented levels of collaboration between governments, international organizations, and the private sector.” In short, the global public/private partnership must be strengthened and supported in order to “save the world.”
This all begs the following questions:
- Why a “novel coronavirus?
- Why not a new strain of flu or a brand new disease altogether?
- And why now, just two months before the hypothetical scenario began to play out in real life?
The day wasn’t a total downer. 65 million people could be dead and the world could be on the brink of economic collapse, but each Event 201 participant left with their very own commemorative Coronavirus stuffed toy.
— Lane Warmbrod (@LaneWarmbrod) October 18, 2019