I Am Palmer – Covid-19: Anticipating a Pandemic
I am an Associate Professor at UTHealth School of Public Health and an American Public Health Association Executive Board Member. Many decades ago, when I was in graduate school studying viruses and epidemiology, we speculated about the next pandemic. Even then we felt it could happen at any time. We thought maybe H1N1 flu was the big one, and, although widespread, it was not that lethal.
Then, one hundred years after the last terrible pandemic, the inevitable happened. My time since this novel virus first appeared has been spent in a variety of activities-many media interviews (over 100 so far!) and webinars about SARS-CoV-2, assisting local health departments in their responses, helping develop a reopening plan for the city of San Antonio, writing essays promoting public health, planning COVID-19 research activities, on top of all the end of semester activities for the two courses I'm teaching. I also served as an expert witness for the ACLU in a vote by mail case. We won the case and maybe out of everything I've helped with, this was the most important. The premise of the case was that there is a high likelihood the virus will be around in July, posing a transmission risk at the polling place for a runoff election. Because the virus infects through the nose and throat, everyone is at risk and, therefore, has a "disability" under the law, triggering a vote-by-mail ballot request.
In short, I've been busy and so not had time to really sit and absorb what is happening. In all my preparedness training, we talked about physical distancing and effects on society and yet we didn't anticipate all the consequences. On a personal level, I'm a little envious of those who have time to read and catch up on projects, although Ric and I did clean out the garage and pantry. This pandemic was not a surprise. When it happened, yes, but not that it happened. It will happen again. And yet we weren't prepared and that makes me angry, not at God but at human folly. My hopes are that we come out of this understanding and addressing the inequities in our society and that we increase funding to public health so we are better prepared next time.
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