A National After Action Report on COVID-19

A woven history of personalities and the pandemic.

(Updated, Sunday, January 10)

I just finished reading the New Yorker article "The Plague Year." It is a really long, long article, which may cause you to decline to read it. However, I did and am better informed because of it.  You can also listen to a Fresh Air Podcast, America's Pandemic Failures that is an interview with the article's author. 

There is an intermixing of the story of the pandemic that includes vaccine development, test kits, the national response — non-response. The personal stories of key players are mixed with those of average citizens or the medical professionals and scientists who responded to the coronavirus pandemic. The role of FEMA is not really touched on as it relates to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

If you are looking for some key bits of information I encourage you to read it. You will learn about:

  • In pandemics, the speed of the response is critical
  • How years of pre-work on vaccine development all came together at just the right time to produce the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — fast, very fast! 
  • How and why the CDC kits failed and put the United States behind the power curve
  • The story of "no masks" no, "wear masks" and how that developed
  • Like in the military, with soldiers in combat not making friends with new combat replacements, the medical personnel who saw death every day developed "psychological distancing" so as not to become too attached to patients who were dying all around them
  • The bravery of medical personnel who showed up (and continue to show up) to do their duty. Again, I'm reminded of soldiers going into battle and knowing everyone doesn't have a family reunion at the end 
There are many more takeaways. Some of the "inside scoop" on the debates that raged in the White House might be lessons in leadership for some to use in the future. Many people take their cues from leaders they respect and admire. It is an awesome responsibility.

As I watched the events happening in Washington D.C. today and the capitol building being besieged, I was reminded that words matter. Words from leaders matter more! 

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.