• Dr. Larry Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped the World Health Organization eradicate smallpox, sat down with USA Today for a coronavirus update.
  • He says the US has a “bad and rocky ride” ahead of it relative to the coronavirus, but that in the long-term it’s “not all doom and gloom.”
  • Read on for his explanation of what needs to happen next to address the coronavirus pandemic in the US.

Dr. Larry Brilliant is an epidemiologist from California, who’s served as the doctor for the Grateful Dead, an advisor on the 2011 feature film Contagion and who was, perhaps most famously, part of the World Health Organization team that helped eradicate smallpox back in the 1970s. All of which is to say, this is a doctor who’s given a new interview — to the USA Today editorial board — that more than lives up to the adjective inherent in his name, and which also can easily serve as the only coronavirus update you need today.

It’s easy to get spooked by the inexorable rise in numbers related to the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in the US, something that the team at Johns Hopkins University keeps everyone abreast of daily. For example, the university’s latest data shows that there have been more than 4.7 million cases of the COVID-19 virus that have been identified in the US thus far (along with more than 156,000 deaths). “We will still be chasing the virus four years from now,” Brilliant warned in his sit-down with the editorial board. “But it won’t be like (today). It will be like the smallpox eradication program. The polio eradication program. Having yellow fever in some countries and not in others.”

Among the reasons he thinks the US is in for “a bad and rocky ride” in the short term are challenges that include the reopening of schools in some places, as well as get-togethers over Labor Day, the fall and winter flu season, as well as in-person election lines for the November presidential race.

However, it’s “not all doom-and-gloom.” Brilliant says that we should expect the coronavirus to keep spreading until it hits a wall, and that wall will likely end up being the combination of vaccines along with the immunity that’s been developed by people who now have antibodies that prevent them from getting the virus in the future. Even more promising, Brilliant insists that a coordinated strategy that includes much more widespread mandating of face masks, plus greater adherence to social distancing, hand-washing, and doing more to limit crowds in indoor places like bars and restaurants would obviate the need for a new national shutdown of some kind. The latter being something that would lead to “political and emotional and economic hell if we close everything down in the same way we did before.”

Check out the full results of Brilliant’s conversation with the USA Today editorial board here. The whole thing is definitely worth a read.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.