Improving Pandemic Preparedness: Lessons From COVID-19
The United States and the world were caught unprepared by the COVID-19 pandemic despite decades of warnings of the threat of global pandemics and years of international planning. The failure to adequately fund and execute these plans has exacted a heavy human and economic price. Hundreds of thousands of lives have already been lost, and the global economy is in the midst of a painful contraction. The crisis—the greatest international public health emergency in more than a century—is not over. It is not too early, however, to begin distilling lessons from this painful experience so that the United States and the world are better positioned to cope with potential future waves of the current pandemic and to avoid disaster when the next one strikes, which it surely will.
This CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force report seeks to do just that, framing pandemic disease as a stark threat to global and national security that neither the United States nor the world can afford to ignore again. It argues that future pandemic threats are inevitable and possibly imminent; policymakers should prepare for them and identify what has gone wrong in the U.S. and multilateral response. One of the most important lessons of this pandemic is that preparation and early execution are essential for detecting, containing, and rapidly responding to and mitigating the spread of potentially dangerous emerging infectious diseases. As harmful as this coronavirus has been, a novel influenza could be even worse, transmitting even more easily, killing millions more people, and doing even more damage to societies and economies alike.