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Think back through the pandemic. Think about the moments that stand out as beacons in the haze — signposts of how it would change all of our lives.

Not all of these moments were clear at the time. China’s decision to shut down cities of millions of people in January was staggering, but to most Americans, this new coronavirus remained an ocean away, not something that would demand our own version of a lockdown.

Other moments form pits in our stomachs when we look back. Perhaps, for you, it’s when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention touted it was developing its own test for SARS-CoV-2 instead of relying on international designs. Or when leaders in New York delayed containment plans as cases built. Or when President Trump embraced the unproven and ultimately fruitless hydroxychloroquine as a miracle drug.

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Then there were moments when the new reality arrived with the subtlety of a sonic boom. Take March 11: Trump halted most travel from Europe. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson announced they had Covid-19. The NBA suspended its season.

Now — with health authorities saying it may not be until at least the end of 2021 before there’s a degree of post-Covid normalcy in our lives — look forward. Imagine the next 15 months and what life will be like.

In this project, STAT describes 30 key moments, possible turning points that could steer the pandemic onto a different course or barometers for how the virus is reshaping our lives, from rituals like Halloween and the Super Bowl, to what school could look like, to just how long we might be incorporating precautions into our routines.

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This road map is informed by insights from more than three dozen experts, including Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates, people on the frontlines at schools and hospitals, as well as STAT reporters. It largely focuses on the U.S.

Perhaps making forecasts during what’s habitually described as “unprecedented” is foolish. “I’m kind of done predicting — none of my predictions worked out for me,” Kelly Wroblewski of the Association of Public Health Laboratories said, with a resigned laugh, about when she thought the testing problems that have dogged us from the earliest days might get resolved. And indeed, some of the events will unfold in different ways and at other times than we’ve charted out.

Yet for all that’s caught us off guard about Covid-19, some factors — like how a virus spilled from animals and swept around the world — are straight out of pandemic playbooks. We can see the coming crossroads.

So many challenges still lie ahead. Flu season. An ongoing child care quandary. A tumultuous election and potential transition of power. Whoever wins, we’ll need them to shepherd a vaccine rollout — a logistical and public relations campaign without (here’s that word again) precedent.

“The virus is not through with us yet,” said family physician and epidemiologist Camara Phyllis Jones of Morehouse School of Medicine. “The virus has only one job. And that’s to replicate itself, and to go from person to person to person — and it doesn’t care which person.”

Throughout the pandemic, what’s maddened U.S. public health experts has been the nation’s inability and unwillingness to take the steps that could reduce illness and death, steps that other countries have used with success. Instead, we’re trying to force the activities — commerce, schools, and festivities — that controlling the virus in the first place would enable but that, in our case, are contributing to infection counts.

“There’s this attitude that public health measures are getting in the way of opening up the country,” Fauci, the country’s most prominent infectious disease expert, told STAT. “It’s exactly the opposite. In a prudent way, the public health measures are the gateway, the vehicle, the pathway to opening the country. That’s the point that gets lost in this that’s so frustrating.”

As Fauci monitors the coronavirus’ trajectory, so do the rest of us, wondering what other hallmarks the pandemic will soon touch — like Thanksgiving feasts. At Adams Turkey Farm in Westford, Vt., they’re anticipating this year selling fewer of their “signature” birds around 24 pounds — “Oh my gosh, they’re beautiful,” said owner Judy Adams — and more smaller birds. The holiday meal will still happen; there just might be fewer people squeezing around the table.

“We’ve weathered different things — certainly not a pandemic — but I just trust in the holiday, I trust in the turkeys,” Adams said. “But if this is the year that we make less money, well, that will be OK, and we will get through this.”

  • Not alot of real content but readable. But even though I am a minority, i tuned out when they began the colour biased smash! Is there nothing some people won’t do to say they got it so bad? Stick to the script, no politics or racism.

  • Part of the problem is that the so-called experts run their mouths, but never say anything. Fauci wants people to wear masks. Has Fauci ever said what result to expect? Has he ever stuck his credibility on the line and told people what the reduction in cases would be with 100% of the population wearing masks correctly?

    Of course not. That says a lot.

  • Brilliant. Journalism is alive and well during these pandemic times. Love this take on preparedness, politics and the future. We will indeed survive thanks to authors, editors and researchers like you.

  • Goodness, the bias is incredible. Can you write a fun article like this without screaming (Hey everyone! Vote for Biden, here’s a link to his plans, ohh yea and our president he is unable to, and I’m quoting you, “use the crisis to lead a new era of scientific discovery”) You add a link to Biden’s plan and then make a totally objective comment on what you think about Trumps ability to further scientific discover. Any proof of that totally out of left field comment?

    This is a stat news website and the title of the article made me think you were going to talking about something statistically interesting, not lectures about your political opinions that clearly look only at one side of the coin. Sure makes me not want to read Stat news… we can call it… just another biased left wing media company.

    These two lines from the article really sum it up:

    But Trump’s pandemic strategy probably wouldn’t change, and he doesn’t seem likely to use the crisis to lead a new era of scientific discovery.

    Biden has a detailed pandemic plan that he hopes can start to pull the country out of the Covid-19 depths.

  • This should be a must-read for all with even only a mild interest in the pandemic.

    Outstanding, bold, relevant, and insightful. Andrew Joseph must have a great crystal ball. My only mild disappointment is he did not say much about economy (second stimulus package, GDP, unemployment rate, or the stock market) and required and inevitable changes in the federal health agencies such as the CDC, FDA, NIH, etc.

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