Wall Street in New York City, March 2020
Wang Ying Xinhua / eyevine / Red​ux

After wasting nearly three months watching the pandemic crisis from afar, Americans awoke to a new reality in the last two weeks: no one is spared. The world is engaged in a momentous battle against an invisible enemy.

Unchecked, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, will overwhelm any health-care system, leaving vast numbers of people with no proper treatment and a grim prognosis. The numbers are almost beyond comprehension. According to a recent and widely circulated report from the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team, the demand for critical-care beds could exceed maximum capacity 30 times over in both the United Kingdom and the United States. That same study estimates the loss of life at 2.2 million for the United States alone.

Most countries were caught largely unprepared. Some, including the United States, were even outright complacent. The time will come to draw the proper lessons.

Right now, the

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  • PIERRE-OLIVIER GOURINCHAS is a Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a Visiting Professor at Princeton University
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