Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live, Nicholas Christakis 2020
Nicholas Christakis is an MD, MPH, PhD sociologist who is a professor at Yale (though two of his degrees are from Harvard, so he’s OK) who writes widely about ecology and health. COVID is in his sweet spot and he boldly wrote this book about the pandemic which was published in August when events were still rapidly unfolding and unclear.
The title refers to Apollo’s launching a plague at the Greeks in order to defend his city of Troy during the Trojan War. Christakis makes the point that human history and even evolution have been influenced at every stage by pandemics, plagues, etc.
There is lots of good science and epidemiology in this 367 page book, and there are also some important predictions as follows:
1) This too shall pass as have all past pandemics with the end largely determined by social framing of the situation as Trump has tried to lie about for months rather than some specific biological measure.
2) A vaccine will hasten the end but natural herd immunity as the disease spreads would accomplish the same thing though with many more deaths.
3) The “immediate pandemic period” characterized by an ‘acutely changed world’ with mask wearing and social distancing and elevated mortality rates will last through 2022.
4) The “intermediate pandemic period” characterized by recovery from the clinical, psychological, social and economic shock and the adjustments it has required will last through 2024.
5) The “post-pandemic period” will begin late in 2024 and will be characterized by a gradual return to normal albeit with some permanent changes, e.g. no more flying cross country for a one hour meeting, much less if any handshaking, etc.
This is a good book though perhaps more than one needs to read about COVID these days. My one disappointment in the book is that he really pulls his punches when it comes to describing the despicable actions of trump and his lackeys. For example, he uses the phrase “lack of honest leadership” when I would have said that trump, pence, etc were liars and should be imprisoned for the hundreds of thousands of deaths that would have been avoided had they been honest and responsible.