Lessons Learned: What the Pandemic has Taught Us


An epidemiologist offers some insights on what we need to take into a potential next pandemic including infrastructure investment and more effectively communicating messages to the public.

After 3 years of the pandemic, it is a good time to review what we have learned collectively. Time and some distance from the acute phase of the pandemic offers investigators and those who have studied the virus the ability to evaluate it and its consequences with a longer-term perspective including what we could have done better and how we can apply these lessons for the future.

Back in early 2020, physicians and other providers were on the frontlines of the pandemic. Many of us remember the videos and pictures of these essential medical personnel coming home from a shift and having to remove clothes and sanitize themselves before coming in to be with their families. They carried risks to both themselves and their loved ones in a time when no one knew the true transmissibility of the virus, and/or how to treat COVID-19.

“They really were heroes providing the best possible care under very trying circumstances,” Michael Stevens, MD, MPH, FACP, FIDSA, FSHEA, System Healthcare epidemiologist, WVU Health System Professor of Internal Medicine, West Virginia University, explains of those early days.

Stevens presented a scientific session, Preparing for the Next Pandemic: Lessons Learned From COVID-19, at this week’s ACP conference being held in San Diego.

Although he says COVID-19 care evolved and the work done there was vital in saving lives, he is concerned if we were to face another pandemic. “From a high level, we are not in a great position for another respiratory viral pandemic,” Stevens said. “We certainly have a much better perspective on how we performed and what we would need to do as a country, as a world, to respond better…in the end we need to strengthen our ability to detect these new pathogens when they emerge and we need to strengthen our ability to respond in real time in a coordinated fashion when they threaten us.”

Stevens also says the public health messaging is another vital element that needs to be communicated more effectively. "We have to do something to communicate these messages in the most optimal way that is understandable to the general public.”

Contagion spoke to Stevens at the conference and he provided some insights not only on the past, but considerations for the next potential pandemic.

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