Donald McNeil Jr. has been a reporter at The New York Times since 1976 and has covered global health since the 1990s, when he was a correspondent in South Africa and it was becoming the world’s biggest H.I.V. hot spot.
I’ve covered pretty much every pandemic or potential pandemic: AIDS, Ebola, SARS, MERS, H5N1 bird flu, H1N1 swine flu, Zika, dengue. And diseases like polio, tuberculosis, malaria, Guinea worm, yellow fever and measles that were once pandemics but are now confined mostly to poor countries.
Now I am trying to envision what the novel coronavirus will look like in the months or years ahead, based on interviews with experts. They might be doctors who fought other diseases, historians who studied earlier pandemics, or people with insights into human behavior under stress.
There aren’t a lot of rules on how to do this.
I became really worried on the night of Jan. 30, when China’s lab-confirmed case count went to 10,000 from 500 in a week, with 200 dead. It took time to convince others. I came into the office the next day raving that this was The Big One.
These days, I no longer feel like a lone crazy man whistling in the wind. Everyone — even President Trump —…
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