Seven years ago, a group of U.S. government officials and I were sitting in the White House Situation Room, debating how health emergencies end.
For months, we had worked in West Africa and the West Wing, as Ebola took thousands of lives abroad and spurred deep fears and nasty politics at home.
All along, our team — led by President Barack Obama alongside local partners, international experts and 3,000 American troops on the ground — was driven by science and data: who was infected and how many were dying.
By January 2015, the data had shifted. While Ebola still persisted, case and mortality counts had dropped. The question before us was whether it was a lull or something more permanent. Many scientists, including well-respected government epidemiologists, voiced caution and warned that viruses change often. Though I and many others shared that concern, we believed Africans could ward off another surge with reasonable sanitary practices and other precautions that had become commonplace. By mid-February, Obama announced a withdrawal of U.S. forces and a transition to an “ongoing” response.
It’s time for a similar shift on Covid-19.