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APOLLO'S ARROW by Nicholas A. Christakis Kirkus Star


The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live

by Nicholas A. Christakis

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-316-62821-1
Publisher: Little, Brown Spark

An authoritative analysis of the Covid-19 pandemic, from its beginning to its hoped-for end.

Sociologist and physician Christakis, who directs the Human Nature Lab at Yale, offers a cogent, deeply informative overview of the coronavirus pandemic, taking into consideration the biology of the pathogen and the social, economic, psychological, and political impacts of the virus on society. Drawing on scientific, medical, and sociological research, he assesses the transmission of the virus, responses worldwide, and prognosis for the pandemic’s end. In addition, he places Covid-19 in the context of past epidemics: plague in ancient Athens, the Black Death in medieval Europe, polio epidemics in 1916 and the 1950s, influenza in 1918, and HIV in the 1980s. “It’s very important to emphasize that, as bad as COVID-19 is,” writes the author, “it’s not remotely as bad as epidemics of bubonic plague, cholera, or smallpox that have killed much larger fractions of the population and that have had much larger and longer-lasting effects.” Nevertheless, he underscores the disastrous effect of inadequate responses, especially from the Trump administration: a “botched” rollout of early tests, lack of coherent national strategy, and repeated “denial and lies.” It’s inarguable, he writes, that “the lack of scientific literacy, capacity for nuance, and honest leadership hurt us.” Christakis emphasizes the importance of wearing masks and enforcing social distancing, two interventions that slow the spread of the virus, which is essential while treatments and vaccines are being developed. While acknowledging “colossal uncertainty” about the future of the pandemic, he predicts that at least until 2022, Americans will live in a changed world. It will be necessary to wear masks, abstain from shaking hands, avoid crowds, and receive medical care online rather than in person. Hopefully, he writes, “one of the unexpected impacts…may be that a society that feels besieged by the threat of the virus will increasingly treat scientific information, and not just scientists, seriously.”

A welcome assessment of the reality of the epidemic that has changed our lives.