As viruses go, SARS-CoV2, is actually less lethal that its cousin MERS-CoV and certainly less than the virus that causes Ebola. But it is very infectious and this has resulted in the pandemic which has changed the world–in 12 short months.
We humans have conducted a vast set of natural experiments on which societal policy responses work and which don’t. We have seen an unprecidented team effort among biomedical researchers and big Pharma that has delivered several lights and the end of the pandemic tunnel–a result which makes me not doubt my years of supporting groups like Research!America.
But we haven’t yet synthesized the lessons from this pandemic that will get us ready for the next pandemics–which may well, like smallpox, be both highly lethal and contagious. It is clear to me that we need to systematic way to observe the biosphere and its ecological landscape for emerging infectious disease threats to develop predictive models that are actionable.
At the same time, we need to institutionalize and internationalize the best responses to COVID so that there is minimal delay between detection and global response. And at the same time, we need to develop new public health interventions that are less destructive of the economy and civil rights–a very tall challenge.