NEW YORK (77 WABC) — John M. Barry’s 2004 best seller “The Great Pandemic” about the deadly 1918 influenza outbreak is getting renewed interest.
So when Barry speaks out against the Trump administration, he brings not only expertise on pandemics, but his time in Washington helping President George W. Bush prepare for the next public health crisis.
“The idea that they would not move forward and take charge is just crazy,” Barry said. “There was no planning scenario where people anticipated a White House as passive as this one has been. It’s crazy.
“It is incomprehensible. Trump has said federal government is a backup, but I always thought leadership is getting in front. We’ve had the reverse. It’s very unfortunate and I think as a result of that, people will die and have died who would otherwise survived,” Barry said.
But the accomplished author does give the president points for his often-cited travel ban from China.
“I think that did have some role in slowing the developmental of the pandemic,” Barry said. “That’s the one thing that he might get some credit for. It was a little helpful, but it wasn’t a game changer.”
While many, including Governor Cuomo, have referenced the 1918 pandemic and its devastating second wave as what could be approaching, Barry said it’s an unfair comparison.
“Influenza mutates much more rapidly than this virus does,” Barry said.
But he said COVID-19 is much more contagious.
One area where is there is relevance, Barry said after the second wave a century ago, “almost every city in the country, although not New York, oddly enough, did issue closing orders.
He said that was because businesses reopened too soon initially. As we start to see cities reopen in varying degrees and some people are skipping the social distancing altogether, there is concern for spikes in cases.