“We are as vulnerable to a pandemic today as we were at the beginning of 2020.” — Philip Zelikow

Our national leaders have drifted into treating the pandemic as though it were an unavoidable natural catastrophe, repeating a depressing cycle of panic followed by neglect. So a remarkable group of practitioners and scholars from many backgrounds came together determined to discover and learn lessons from this latest world war.

Lessons from the Covid War is plain-spoken and clear sighted. It cuts through the enormous jumble of information to make some sense of it all and answer: What just happened to us, and why? And crucially, how, next time, could we do better? Because there will be a next time.

The Covid war showed Americans that their wondrous scientific knowledge had run far ahead of their organized ability to apply it in practice. Improvising to fight this war, many Americans displayed ingenuity and dedication. But they struggled with systems that made success difficult and failure easy.

This book shows how Americans can come together, learn hard truths, build on what worked, and prepare for global emergencies to come.

A joint effort from:

Danielle Allen John M. Barry John Bridgeland Michael Callahan Nicholas A. Christakis Doug Criscitello Charity Dean Victor Dzau Gary Edson Ezekiel Emanuel Ruth Faden Baruch Fischhoff Margaret “Peggy” Hamburg Melissa Harvey Richard Hatchett David Heymann Kendall Hoyt Andrew Kilianski James Lawler Alexander J. Lazar James Le Duc Marc Lipsitch Anup Malani Monique K. Mansoura Mark McClellan Carter Mecher Michael Osterholm David A. Relman Robert Rodriguez Carl Schramm Emily Silverman Kristin Urquiza Rajeev Venkayya Philip Zelikow


The director of the 9/11 Commission sought a congressional probe. Lawmakers never called, so he and a group of experts offered their own assessment.

Three years into the pandemic, America has reached — at best — an uneasy stalemate with covid: more than 1 million deaths, an exhausted health-care workforce, and a backlash that weakened public health officials’ power to fight the next outbreak.

And while most people have moved on, the virus remains on pace to be a top-10 cause of death again this year.

Breaking through this miasma comes “Lessons From the Covid War: An Investigative Report,” from 34 experts promising a “dispassionate guide” to the increasingly overheated arguments about the pandemic. The brisk analysis, published by PublicAffairs on Tuesday, explores America’s myriad failures responding to the current outbreak and what it must do to prepare for the next one.

One quality that separates this book from dozens of other pandemic works is its unusual origin: Its authors first assembled two years ago, anticipating that Congress or the president would empower a 9/11-style commission to probe the virus response.

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