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Much has been written about how the pandemic originated, but the details of how it spread so quickly in the United States are not well known.
Author Michael Lewis has written a new book, The premonitionwhich fills these gaps. And this is an extensive indictment of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Louis, also author of Liar Poker, Moneyball, The Blind Side and The big short, says a California public health doctor named Charity Dean is one of the people who saw the real danger of the virus before the rest of the country.
“No one should be as brave as the charity Dean as a local public health officer. In order to do her job, she had to be brave in a way that brought tears to my eyes,” Lewis told NPR. And when I first met her, I realized that I had character, because her whole house was like these notes after her, reminding her to be brave, like … “courage is a muscular memory” or “the tallest oak in once the forest was just a little nut. She had all these inspiring things. And when you get into the story of what Charity Dean … had to do on the ground, your hair stands on the back of your head. “
Lewis writes about how Dean tried and tried to get government officials around her to look at the data and take action to make sure the virus hadn’t spread. She put everything in line, her reputation, her job. And across the country, there was another group of doctors led by Carter Mesher who were trying to do the same at the federal level.
“It was amazing to me that there was this kind of secret group of seven doctors – they were called Werewolves – who were located in interesting places in and around the federal government, who had been together for most of the 15 years and who had always come together. when there was a threat of an outbreak of the disease to help organize the country’s response, “says Lewis.
But by 2020, the Trump administration had disbanded the pandemic response unit, and these doctors were forced to cheat. A common acquaintance connects Charity Dean with Carter Mescher.
“And Charity took the whole analysis of Carter Mesher. And she said it was like pouring water on a dying plant, that this was the first person she met who thought about that threat the way she thought about it. “says Louis. “And so she soon began private conversations. … Think of her as a real commander on the battlefield. She’s in the war, in the trenches, as if she realized in the course of her career in public health that there are no generals or generals. they understand how, how the battle is fought. And she will have to somehow organize the strategy on the ground. “
In January and February 2020, hundreds of Americans in Wuhan, China, were returned to the United States. Given how many people have died from COVID-19 in China at this time, it would make sense to test those Americans who return. But according to Lewis and his sources, then-CDC director Robert Redfield refused to test them, saying it would mean doing research on inmates.
“Redfield is a particularly outrageous example, but it’s an expression of a much bigger problem. And if you just say ‘oh, this is the Trump administration’ or ‘oh, this is Robert Redfield,’ you’re missing the bigger picture.” Louis. “And the more general picture is that we as a society have allowed institutions like the CDC to become very politicized. And that’s a bigger model in the US government. More and more jobs are being politicized, more and more people in those jobs. places are on shorter, narrower straps.Rather, the person who finds himself in this job is someone who is politically pleasant to anyone in the White House.Thus … the conditions Robert Redfield to be of this work were created long ago. “
Lewis says he contacted the CDC for comment, but the CDC did not want to talk to him.
“So what I did was guerrilla journalism,” he says. “I interviewed people who wanted to talk to me either in the background or off the record. And a few people were on the record. But the CDC itself told me he wouldn’t want to talk to me.”
According to Louis’s report, the CDC initially had two positions on the pandemic. In the beginning, there was nothing to see here – that it wasn’t a big deal. It is exaggerated. And then there was this very fast pivot, when it started to spread in the United States and the position became too late and there was nothing we could do.
“Charity Dean said the great shame about their behavior was that they waited so long that we were never able to contain it,” Lewis said. “They pretended it didn’t matter until it was too late. That it could be contained as, say, Australia. There were things we could do, very, very much. [if] they were more aggressive in the front. Many, many thousands of Americans would be alive today who are not. “
According to Lewis, the tragedy that became the American coronavirus pandemic was the perfect storm of then-president Donald Trump’s reaction, the CDC’s long history of politicization, and the lack of a public health system.
“I think all my characters would say that because of the way we fail to govern, the way we fail to create a system, it would be pretty bad in almost any administration and it would reveal the gaps in the system and the weaknesses. in the system, the absence of the system, ”Lewis says.
Lewis followed these doctors inside and outside the federal government for many months as they tried to raise alarm bells and demand the kind of life-saving interventions. But for him, Charity Dean excelled at what she was willing to risk.
“You can’t believe what we want from these people,” Lewis said. “And for me, there was something just amazing about this woman, who had decided that even though she herself was full of fears for all sorts of good reasons, she wanted to be brave for the sake of other people’s lives. And it had saved all those lives because she had insisted on that trait in herself. “
This is a trait that the system not only does not reward, but also punishes.
“You saw this during the pandemic. The charity will tell you – and I think it’s true – that the pandemic has put a kind of selective pressure on our public health workers,” Lewis said. “And he removed the brave. The brave were beheaded. So this is some kind of institutionalized cowardice that we’re going to have to deal with, so this business is punishing the people who do everything possible. Try to save us from yourself, you have to stop. “