What questions about COVID-19 must still be answered?

There are important technical and practical questions about Covid-19 that only evolutionary biologists and virologists, can answer, but I list only questions that lay people can answer. The first questions relate to events that happened before we heard of Covid-19 but which seem very significant now:

  1. Why did the President fire the entire US Pandemic Response Team in May, 2018? “When President Trump took office in 2017, the White House’s National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense survived the transition intact. Its mission was the same as when I was asked to lead the office, established after the Ebola epidemic of 2014: to do everything possible within the vast powers and resources of the U.S. government to prepare for the next disease outbreak and prevent it from becoming an epidemic or pandemic. One year later, I was mystified when the White House dissolved the office, leaving the country less prepared for pandemics like covid-19… Our job was to be the smoke alarm — keeping watch to get ahead of emergencies, sounding a warning at the earliest sign of fire — all with the goal of avoiding a six-alarm blaze.” [Washington Post, March 13, 2020]
  2. Why did this 2019 simulation not cause America to prepare for such an outbreak? “From last January to August, America’s Health and Human Services ran a simulation, code-named “Crimson Contagion,” that imagined an influenza pandemic: the outbreak of the respiratory virus began in China and was quickly spread around the world by air travelers, who ran high fevers. In the US, it was first detected in Chicago, and 47 days later, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic but, by then, 110 million Americans were ill, 7.7 million hospitalized and 586,000 dead.” [New York Times].
  3. Why did CDC Director Robert Redfield not reveal the dates or locations of Americans whom he testified, on March 11, 2020, were diagnosed as dying from influenza but later tested posthumously as positive for Covid-19?
  4. Why will the CDC not reveal when was patient zero was detected in the US? Finding patient zero allows us to determine the time of initial infection and then to estimate the scope of transmission and scale of the epidemic. It also helps find the intermediate host: the animals that patient zero had contact with. The first thing China’s CDC told us was, “Patient zero appears to be associated with the Wuhan wet market in early- to mid-December.”
  5. Why will the CDC not reveal the earliest positive test confirmed by tissue sample? Epidemiologists, pathologists and public health authorities need this basic information.
  6. Why will the CDC not identify the US hospitals where they were first detected? Location, location, location!
  7. Why were US health authorities forbidden to test for Covid-19 until March after WHO issued a Coronavirus Alert on January 1?
  8. Why were tests still so few? Tiny South Korea tested more people in one day than we tested in a month. Why?
  9. Why did the CDC classify its coronavirus deliberations? China–which is supposed to be secretive, blurted this out on the first day. What reason do we have for making such vital information a secret? And why are HHS Coronavirus meetings held in Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facilities, which are usually reserved for intelligence and military operations? This sounds like paranoia.
  10. Why did we blame China for the outbreak before we investigated the source of the virus?

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