CDeaths of vids in the United States have exceeded 680,000. More than 2,000 lives are lost every day. The south and southeast are the new death camps, intensive care units are operating near full capacity, vaccination rates are stagnant. In Florida, Republicans contemplate scrapping of vaccine mandates also for measles and mumps. Talk about turning back the clock.
Joe Biden’s statement that “America is reuniting” seems like a “mission accomplished” moment. The zigzag in booster injections has left the public scratching head and Biden’s poll numbers drop. With a third Covid winter approaching, the president competence it is a big problem.
Enter Scott Gottlieb, Donald Trump’s first commissioner in the Food and Drug Administration. Gottlieb left after less than two years with his reputation intact and even managed to fight the e-cigarette industry, much to the delight of suburban fathers and mothers. By summer 2019, Pfizer shareholders elected Gottlieb to its board – months before Covid brought the world under its control.
In his account of the worst pandemic in a century, Gottlieb lets us know what he has seen, what can happen next, and what we can do before the next pandemic hits. The book is informative and paced well. Sometimes it gets into the undergrowth, but does not catch on.
According to Gottlieb, the Trump administration was ill-prepared, reacted poorly, and at times moved erratically and reluctantly.
Gottlieb does not believe the pandemic could have been prevented. Rather, with better leadership and alignment, he argues, we could have “delayed its start and reduced its scope and severity.” Structural deficiencies made the task more difficult, but so did a “major company dedicated to making skepticism” about measures such as masks and vaccines. Gottlieb confirms that hydroxychloroquine is not a cure.
Obviously, the search for a vaccine, Operation Warp Speed, was the notable exception to a series of missteps, “one of the greatest public health achievements in modern times,” according to Gottlieb. “It showed what the government can achieve when it works well.”
But he criticizes China for obstructing, criticizes the World Health Organization for not putting pressure on Beijing and argues that preventing a pandemic is an essential component of national security.
As for the origins of the virus, Gottlieb emphasizes that we may never know. It also makes clear that the Obama administration was not betting on a coronavirus hitting the US in the short term – its public health measures were aimed elsewhere. Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff and Obama’s adviser on Ebola, receives no mention.
Uncontrolled Spread recognizes that both national parish interests and international cooperation arise during medical crises. This time, many were surprised by the interest that prevailed.
Transnational cooperation and domestic solidarity suffered under Covid.
“Covid normalized breakdowns in a global order that was supposed, perhaps naively, to protect us, just as Covid passed through our own perception of domestic resilience, cooperation and strength,” Gottlieb writes.
As for the social fabric at home, according to a recent survey Those who relied heavily on Trump and the White House Covid task force in the early days are now among the “least likely to have been vaccinated against the virus.”
Gottlieb tries to navigate political and bureaucratic minefields. He emphasizes that government agencies must articulate clear reasons for decisions. Along the same lines, he expresses his disapproval of the opacity on how 6 feet became the accepted measure for social distancing.
He also criticizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its reaction to the pandemic. Its mishandled development of a Covid test receives particular attention. The test kit developed by the CDC turned out to be contaminated. Gottlieb labels the agency for “unclear decision-making and process,” a flaw that he said helped Covid lose control. The first tests, Gottlieb believes, would have helped make a significant difference.
Elsewhere, he posits that political pressure from the White House to speed up FDA approval of a vaccine may have backfired. The west wing lawsuits may have hardened the FDA’s determination to comply with the markers and protocols.
A look at how the FDA responded to Biden by urging booster shots for everyone reinforces that hypothesis. This month, the FDA delivered less than what President No. 46 asked for and what the public believed was on the way.
Gottlieb measures his words as he lashes out at the Trump White House hydroxychloroquine fetish. He points to segments of the investment community, “outside physicians who gained access to the Oval Office” and the echo chamber on the right.
Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham “featured multiple segments on medicine and sent an email to the White House about the drug,” Gottlieb writes. Lest anyone doubt his influence, Gottlieb notes that within days, “Trump made his first mention of hydroxychloroquine from the White House podium.”
It didn’t end there.
“During a single two-week period between March 23 and April 6, hydroxychloroquine was mentioned on Fox News nearly 300 times.”
Gottlieb is a regular contributor to Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, a Fox News-related company. On January 28, 2020, Gottlieb and Luciana Borio wrote an op-ed: “How to Prevent an American Epidemic.”
What needs to be done in the months and years to come is now Gottlieb’s top priority. It calls for expanding mass testing capacity, large-scale production of a wide range of vaccines and antibody treatments, and a “remorseless spirit when it comes to pandemic preparedness.”
Such proposals seem essential, yet it is questionable if they could ever be enacted. Congress can’t even do the infrastructure. At the very least, uncontrolled spread leaves us a lot to think about.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism