How to prepare for next pandemic

Scientists, public health experts and health advocates talk about mistakes, missed chances, oversights — and how to prepare for a future pandemic.

Prepare for unimaginable

We must overcome our collective failure of imagination. We spent decades planning for a pandemic that would resemble the viruses we already knew. We need to prepare for a much broader range of threats. Lauren Ancel Meyers, epidemiologist at the University of Texas at Austin

Put science first

Inaccurate information and indecisive action on the part of the U.S. government led the country to catastrophic failure. The government must put science and data above all else. Akiko Iwasaki, Yale professor of immunobiology

A global community

We really do need to have a larger conversation … about working together as a global community for future outbreaks. The nationalization of responses, I think, has been incredibly harmful. Angela Rasmussen, virologist at Georgetown University

Invest in the numbers

We really needed accurate data to be able to forecast — that lets us drive the intervention that drives the impact. There are pretty sophisticated data systems for banking, media, et cetera, and we haven't made those leaps in public health. Anne Schuchat, CDC deputy director

Address race, class gap

In the past, people would say, "Yeah, yeah, poverty, poverty, poverty," but they didn't grasp the concept. The virus has really brought it to the forefront, with racial and ethnic minorities getting so much more affected. … The health of the country really depends on addressing those social determinants of health. Dr. Pablo Rodriguez, member of the government committee that guides COVID vaccine distribution in Rhode Island

Let teenagers be teenagers

Kids who saw other kids socially and had at least a hybrid school experience have done better than those who could not. Marsha Levy-Warren, adolescent psychologist

Figure out treatment priority

Figure out how to allocate vaccines early and deploy them to states so they can put them into action right away. Saad Omer, director of the Yale Institute For Global Health

Stop mixed messaging

We need a strong, coordinated science-based federal response. … Having this patchwork of different public health guidance … sent a message that we didn't really know what's going on — or what was going to work. Linsey Marr, expert at Virginia Tech

Don't be ageist

We knew older adults and those with underlying health conditions were most at risk, and yet we chose to ignore the fact that we could mitigate some of that risk. Katie Smith Sloan, president of Leadingage

Communities must prepare

We need to have ongoing community capacity to deal with crisis. We can't just rely on government and institutions. The Rev. Paul T. Abernathy, Neighborhood Resilience Project, Pittsburgh

See who we are

Many people had an awakening to the people who keep society going forward, and whom we take largely for granted. If you are a person who thinks that you have a right not to wear a mask, that philosophy cascades: I couldn't give a darn about the cashier in the supermarket or the train driver because I don't care about anyone. This pandemic has shown us who we are. … It's hard to imagine there are that many people in our country who really don't care about others. … That you could tolerate 500,000 deaths in less than a year is incomprehensible to me, that we are a nation that is so callous. Dr. Reed Tuckson, co-founder of the Black Coalition Against COVID-19

New York Times