Over the past decade, the U.S. government spent nearly $100 billion on preparation for major health crises including pandemics, according to a 2018 paper on such funding — though the coronavirus outbreak still had Washington and states across the country scrambling to muster supplies and respond when it hit.
Numbers from a paper in the academic journal “Health Security” released in late 2018 indicate that the government spent between $10 billion and $12 billion each year from 2010 to 2018 across several agencies on programs that contribute to “biosecurity,” the management of “pandemic influenza and emerging infectious diseases,” and “multiple-hazard and general preparedness” programs that assist in readiness for and response to different types of health threats, including diseases like the coronavirus.
COVID-19 seems to be the kind of problem the U.S. was preparing for, but a debate has raged in Washington over whether the money was spent effectively.
MATT RIDLEY: We know everything–and nothing–about Covid. The lockdowns were imposed in a state of ignorance. It now looks as if many of the early cases were caught in hospitals and doctors’ offices and nursing homes.
If Covid-19 is at least partly a ‘nosocomial’ (hospital-acquired) disease, then the pandemic might burn itself out quicker than expected. The death rate here [in the U.K.] peaked on 8 April, just two weeks after lockdown began, which is surprisingly early given that it is usually at least four weeks after infection that people die if they die. But it makes sense if this was the fading of the initial, hospital–acquired wave. If you look at the per capita numbers for different countries in Europe, they all show a dampening of the rate of growth earlier than you would expect from the lockdowns.
So if it wasn’t the lockdowns that slowed infection . . . .
It is possible that washing your hands, not shaking hands with others, not gathering in large crowds, and wearing a face mask in public, but no more than this, might have been enough, as Sweden seems to suggest. Forcibly shutting schools and shops and aggressively policing sunbathers in parks may have added little in terms of reducing the rate of spread.
But it did give politicians a chance to order everyone around, so there’s that.