Sunday’s New York Times had one of those stunning stories that “everyone” already knew about. The print version headline screamed “Despite Timely Alerts, Trump Was Slow to Act” across five columns. (Headlines that stretch over all six columns are deemed the most important news stories). This article, written by Eric Lipton, Maggie Haberman and other reporters, details how many top officials tried – for two months – to warn the president of the coming pandemic and were, tragically, ignored or told to “stop panicking”.
As usual, Geek Culture was way ahead of the curve.
At last July’s San Diego Comic-Con (officially called Comic-Con International), there was a panel called Art of Infection: Fictional Diseases, Real Life. The intent of this panel was to focus on depictions of infectious diseases in literature, and how the real world would react to such events.
Panelists included Kelley Boston, an epidemiology and infection prevention expert who works for Infection Prevention & Management Associates of Houston, Bobbiejean Garcia, an epidemiologist at Texas State Department of State Health Services, Debesh Das, an infection prevention specialist in the California healthcare system and Tyler Houston, representing arts and culture.
“I like anything medically related and the credentials of the panel were impressive,” revealed Rozanski. “How would today’s epidemiologists handle a science fiction contagion? I knew they would present a fun if not slightly chilling account of what happened in the movie/book vs how the crisis would be handled in reality.” She’s an Ivy League graduate and curious by nature, but she also explained that her husband is a doctor and her older brother had a long career in public health.
And what did they talk about at this panel exactly? “Movie clips were played where the hero took medical action, and they explained how most of those actions could never occur,“ said Rozanski. “Panelists also gave an example of a potential science fiction outbreak of disease and how they, as epidemiologists, would go about identifying and containing the contagion before it could destroy humankind. A tedious and difficult task that took on a more serious tone.”
The line between fact and fiction was always blurred, but now it seems smudged. “I am not worried about zombies taking over the world, although that seems to be a very popular theme in the entertainment world.”
If only senior administrations officials had attended San Diego Comic-Con and attended this panel.
“When asked what they thought was the greatest threat to our world as we know it, their answer was a flu-like virus,” Rozanski added. “Now that, to me, is frightening.”
Editor’s Note: The ironically preciently nature of art exploded recently in comic publishing. There were no fewer than three well done viral pandemic comic series going on when the COVID-19 pandemic spread, and a fourth dropped the week before comics stopped shipping. It is almost like something was in the air.