"Every American should read this insightful and gripping account to understand all our Nation accomplished in the midst of the worst pandemic in 100 years and the difference one dedicated leader at United States Public Health Service made for millions of Americans." —Former Vice President Mike Pence
In January 2020, Admiral Brett P. Giroir, MD, was among the first federal leaders tapped to handle the reintegration of US citizens from Wuhan, China, in the earliest days of what became the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, he was one of the few to see what everyone believed were the only Americans exposed to the novel virus at the time. Ultimately, Giroir would be called to serve on the White House Coronavirus Task Force under President Donald Trump.
Rather than an exhaustive and comprehensive history of the pandemic response, this memoir adds to the historical record through personal narrative and by contextualizing several key inflection points. Giroir reflects upon his time on the front lines of the early cruise ship outbreaks and makeshift hospitals to the Situation Room in the White House. He explains the complex backdrop of personalities, policies, and politics that influenced critical decisions as the pandemic developed. In doing so, he also shines a light on the unknown characters who played critical roles in the national COVID response, the personalities and conflicts involved, the intense debates about policies and perceptions, and the decision-making processes that led to our national plan—for better or worse.
Giroir concludes that overcoming a pandemic is not as easy as merely replacing a president or “following the science.” The inescapable fact is that the human species will remain vulnerable to pandemics, even more so in the future because of factors both natural and human influenced. Our ability to respond to future pandemics will depend on the adequacy of our preparation, the capabilities and relationships of individual leaders, and the inevitable politics of the day. For now, an important retrospective of what we did, both right and wrong, is imperative.
About the Author
BRETT P. GIROIR is the former assistant secretary for health in the US Department of Health and Human Services, acting FDA commissioner, and admiral in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. He also served as the US representative to the executive board of the World Health Organization and was a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the national lead for testing and diagnostics under the Trump administration. He resides in College Station, Texas.