Larry Brilliant Says We’ll Beat Covid—After We Go Through Hell

Do we need to do a deep cleaning of the White House?

Are you asking that since the White House was ground zero for a disease-ridden outbreak, does it have to have a deep clean? Well, it has to be made safe. Not just coming in with Clorox, it’s not a deep clean like that. But what are the air-filtration systems, are they adequate? How about the toilets, when you flush them do you create an aerosol? Still, most transmission occurs by droplets, human to human. The best thing you can do to make the White House safe is to remove the people who are spreading the disease.

Each time I’ve talked to you, you’ve been very frank about the seriousness of the crisis but optimistic we’ll get out of it. But how do we enter this holiday period, when the calvary is not here yet?

Every time you and I have talked, I’ve said it’s going to be years. And every time we talk, you hope that somehow it had changed to be months. It is going to be fewer years today than it was when the first 10 cases started. So I think there is more evidence that we will be OK than evidence that we won’t be OK. I’m worried about the bunny rabbits and the minks, of course, but I’m not worried that we won’t get a vaccine at all. I’m not worried that we won’t ever find a treatment. We never had a treatment for smallpox. This could have gone that way. We don’t have a vaccine against HIV/AIDS. It could have gone that way. And we are getting rid of Trump! I wish I could say that’s not a political statement. When I get on CNN and I criticize Trump, I criticize him only in my lane. He has been terrible for this pandemic. And you need to have a leader who’s going to be good for the pandemic to make an epidemiologist happy.

So you are saying we should not be gathering to see our loved ones this season.

My recommendation is to have two Thanksgivings in 2021. Or make the entire year a year of Thanksgiving. And I mean it. We are going to have a Zoom Thanksgiving, we’re going to have a Zoom Christmas, a Zoom Hanukkah, a Zoom New Year’s. As of today, I’m even wavering if I can go out into the wilderness, which is what I’d love to be able to do for a week. Not because I’m worried about being in the wilderness, but you’ve got to get there.

The sad thing is that there’s a couple hundred thousand people who are alive now who are going to die from this before Thanksgiving 2021.

That is the saddest thing, but it’s not the only sad thing because millions of people who have it will have a shorter life expectancy in the long run, comorbidities, other diseases, other knock-on consequences of this long haul effect. I’m hard-pressed to find a disease that has done more damage than this one. It is already the second or third leading killer in the United States this year after only heart disease and cancer.

That is as dark as I’ve heard you speak.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. I see a period of time when we’re going to see refrigerator trucks in front of hospitals and not have a place in the morgue for the bodies that are going to show up. Deaths lag cases by three to six weeks. If we are going to hit 160,000 cases a day and you’ve got a 2 percent death rate of cases, you’re looking at 3,000 deaths a day. And if we’re at 67,000 people in the hospital today and we are approaching capacity, where are you going to put the bodies? Where are you going to put patients? This is going to get worse. Thanksgiving is going to be an accelerator and Christmas is going to be an accelerator. And how are we going to feel as a nation when we go into the holiday season? People are going to feel really bad. So it’s hard for me to say to you that there is an optimistic side to this thing when I know the next couple of months are going to have really dark days. But we have cut several months—years—off the period of time that this virus will affect us, despite godawful governance. We do have the tools coming on board. It’s not Pollyanna. The cavalry really is coming.

Larry, I hope when the cavalry arrives we will be fully vaccinated and be able to have a drink together.

I actually think we will be able to do that. There will be pockets of the United States doing that in the early summer. Instead of next year in Jerusalem, let’s say next year in Barrington.

Make Barrington great again.

I love that. Get Barrington its reputation back.

More From WIRED on Covid-19

Leave a Reply