“A Storm For Which We Are Entirely Unprepared …”: A 2005 Pandemic Prophecy & Call For A “Manhattan Project” For The 21st Century (Forbes)

FORBES | Two years ago this week, the United States declared a public health emergency in response to what was then being referred to as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, now widely known to all as COVID-19. Few envisioned how all-encompassing and destructive this virus would become. Few would have believed that two years later, it would have led to nearly 900,000 deaths in the United States, with thousands more still suffering the effects of long COVID, as well as the devastating financial repercussions the pandemic has sowed.

Yet, it was predicted. A coming pandemic was certain. Tragically, it was not adequately prepared for. And now as we continue to recover and slowly enter a stage of endemicity, we must increase our resolve to prepare for the next pandemic — for there will be another.  

Seventeen years ago, I, serving then as Majority Leader of the United States Senate and one of the few physician-scientists in Congress, wrote a formal Declaration to serve as the foundation for a nationwide call-to-action to what I and a few others saw as the inevitability of a coming catastrophic pandemic that would cause massive loss of life and destruction of livelihood: “But we will not be able to sleep through what is likely coming soon — a front of unchecked and virulent epidemics, the potential of which should rise above your every other concern.”

The Declaration, which I share in its entirety below, was the substance of a speech which I repeatedly delivered over the course of a year across the country in multiple venues, from large outdoor settings in San Francisco to the National Press Club in Washington, DC to the lecture halls at Harvard. The mission was urgent — to warn we were not prepared for what we would have to face and to lay out a proposal that would “dwarf the Manhattan Project.”  We knew that if left unprepared we would face a global pandemic that would devastate our economy, our livelihoods, our health systems, our way of life. We did not prepare.

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