Marcel and Josephine Patterson Memorial Lecture in the Medical Humanities
How to Hide a Plague: How Elite Capture and Individualism Made Covid Normal
Justin M. Feldman, ScD
François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health & Human Rights
Thursday, September 22, 2022
12:00 - 1:00pm
The US has experienced among the highest cumulative mortality rates from Covid-19 in the Global North. This lecture will argue that the failures of the US pandemic response were mainly driven by economic elites who used their influence to undermine public health protections. The initial phase of the Covid response was collective, including a massive temporary expansion of the welfare state, but this approach threatened the power of the capitalist class. In response, there was an abandonment of economic interventions followed by a wholesale reframing of the virus as an issue of personal responsibility and individual choice. This lecture will explore how the exertion of elite influence went far beyond lobbying politicians, extending to government bureaucracies and civil society institutions such as news media and schools of public health. This process of constructing a new, deadlier normal holds lessons that can be transferred to climate change and other collective crises of the 21st century.