In April 1998, President Bill Clinton read a Richard Preston novel, “The Cobra Event,” about a biological attack on the U.S. using a lethal virus that spreads like the common cold.“It scared the bejesus out of him,” recalls Kenneth Bernard, a now retired U.S. Public Health Service official who was then representing the U.S. in Geneva at the World Health Organization.Clinton set the wheels of government in motion, and the result was the-first ever federal government effort to marshal resources in preparation for a pandemic, including the creation of the National Emergency Medical Stockpile, which stowed vaccines and medical gear in secret locations around the country. Bernard was appointed as the first-ever official on the National Security Council whose sole job was to focus on health threats.The interest in germs as a national security concern didn’t last.Instead, it kicked off a boom and bust cycle of pandemic preparedness that persisted into the Trump administration. By many accounts, Trump fell on the bust side of the equation when he fired his top biosecurity adviser, allowed the disbanding of his global health unit, and initially downplayed the coronavirus as it spread across the world.The result was a perfect storm: A U.S. government


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