Waiting for Things to Red Line

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“It is kind of like waiting for things to red line then pulling it back,” said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta during Tuesday morning’s keynote when talking about America’s response to COVID-19 and how hospital data is a major part of the equation. “These pandemics, they happen… They are in the history books,” he said. But, when you are faced with one, or the start of one, it is hard to process at that point, he explained. Are you going to err on the side of safety, maybe pump the brakes a little as you approach a blind turn? Or are you going to accelerate? 

These questions and many more were addressed by Gupta during his keynote, which covered some technical and scientific angles of the COVID response and future preparations, as well as philosophical ones.   

From a technical and scientific perspective, he lauded the vaccines. “As far as their achievement, it is really worth celebrating.” The innovation and science that went into them has “forever escalated the pace of medical progress.” Now there is the challenge of getting people to trust these new therapeutics, this resistance to science, he said.   

As Gupta believes COVID-19 was not a black swan event, it is going to be necessary to learn how to symbiotically “dance” with the types of pathogens that caused it, as we are increasingly coming into contact with new kinds. The interplay between pathogens and humans is just going to grow, and every now and then, it will cause problems, he said. Hopefully, though, we are able to pandemic-proof ourselves and be more proactive. “We were proactive,” he said about America’s significant pandemic preparedness plan that was in place prior to COVID, “but then we let that wither away.”  

Moving forward, there are certain “choke points” we can anticipate better, especially when it comes to the health care supply chain. “The lack of sourcing diversity in the terms of raw ingredients for medicine,” was brought to light, he said. Also, how do you start to reward risk mitigation, quantify it and incentivize people in some way?  

“Supply chains are the circulatory system for global commerce,” pointed out mediator Mitch McDonald of Agile Business Media, so pandemic response capabilities are directly tied to the ability to understand and adjust it, as needs arise. Which is where “betting on uncertainty” comes into play. How certain are you and what are you willing to bet? Gupta mentioned “The Biggest Bluff” as a really interesting read along those lines. We are all constantly making decisions in life without knowing all the details, and the pandemic response was no exception. “As much as I can objectify subjective things, the better,” said Gupta. “You have to be mindful that life is going to take you in weird directions sometimes,” he added. You just never know. If aliens from outer space were to witness our actions, they would be mystified. We create foods that are unhealthy, then we eat them, and they make us sick, then we spend $4 trillion on health care to treat problems caused by these foods, he said. 


But, his biggest takeaway from his experiences the past 24 months? “I’ve seen people at their best and I’ve seen people at their worst,” he said. “And you see people rise to the challenge… We saw incredible stories of people risking their own lives to help each other out,” he added. “The only way we survived and thrived as a species was not individualism but reciprocal altruism.” In short, “It feels good to do good. That is our greatest hope more than anything else.” 



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