In Focus | Bioterrorism

For a nation that has invested heavily in recognizing and thwarting bioterrorism, COVID-19 came as a shock, says Donell Harvin, DrPH, senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. We still do not know the origin of the coronavirus and may never know, Harvin tells Tim Frazier, Ph.D., faculty director of Georgetown University’s three graduate programs in Emergency & Disaster Management. But, regardless of its origin, its rapid spread has raised a chilling prospect: “Ostensibly, a malign actor … could launch what could look like a natural disease and potentially get away with it,” Harvin says. The United States has also learned from what Harvin calls “public health hubris,” the belief that the public will follow things like mask and vaccine mandates simply because experts say it is the correct thing to do.

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