Premonition : A Pandemic Story
by Lewis, Michael

"For those who could read between the lines, the censored news out of China was terrifying. But the president insisted there was nothing to worry about. Fortunately, we are still a nation of skeptics. Fortunately, there are those among us who study pandemics and are willing to look unflinchingly at worst-case scenarios. Michael Lewis's taut and brilliant nonfiction thriller pits a band of medical visionaries against the wall of ignorance that was the official response of the Trump administration to the outbreak of COVID-19. The characters you will meet in these pages are as fascinating as they are unexpected. A thirteen-year-old girl's science project on transmission of an airborne pathogen develops into a very grown-up model of disease control. A local public-health officer uses her worm's-eye view to see what the CDC misses, and reveals great truths about American society. A secret team of dissenting doctors, nicknamed the Wolverines, has everything necessary to fight the pandemic: brilliant backgrounds, world-class labs, prior experience with the pandemic scares of bird flu and swine flu...everything, that is, except official permission to implement their work. Michael Lewis is not shy about calling these people heroes for their refusal to follow directives that they know to be based on misinformation and bad science. Even the internet, as crucial as it is to their exchange of ideas, poses a risk to them. They never know for sure who else might be listening in"-

The bestselling author turns to the Covid-19 pandemic and the failure of the U.S. government to contain it effectively. "Trump was a comorbidity," one source told Lewis, speaking of the spread of the virus through the country. The Trump administration ignored the threat, failed to act on it, and then tried to suppress those who were advocating lockdowns, school closures, and other measures to avoid the worst-case scenarios that emerged. As Lewis notes, the Lancet, one of the world's leading medical journals, calculated that if the U.S. had followed the models of its G7 partners, 180,000 of the nearly 600,000 victims would still be alive. In an intricate background section, Lewis delivers a study of how epidemiologists and others had long predicted the pandemic. A high school student, for example, developed a model for a science-fair project in which she determined that an effective means of control would be to vaccinate young people first, since they were the ones who were interacting socially-just the opposite of the tactic later used of vaccinating older people first. Other case studies include the work of a dauntless California public health examiner who tracked the spread of hepatitis and other communicable diseases, all of which provided object lessons that were often lost to political considerations. George W. Bush emerges as a perhaps unlikely case of someone who did the right thing with respect to epidemics while Barack Obama stumbled before getting it right. As for his successor, Lewis writes, "the Trump White House lived by the tacit rule last observed by the Reagan administration: the only serious threat to the American way of life came from other nation-states." The result was a woefully disjointed response that "got pushed down in the system, onto local health officers," most of whom were unprepared for the challenge and lacked the means to do much about it. An urgent, highly readable contribution to the literature of what might be called the politics of disease. Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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