Ron Klain served as the chief of staff to vice presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden. In 2014, President Barack Obama tapped him to lead the administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. He successfully oversaw a hellishly complex effort preparing domestically for an outbreak and surging health resources onto another continent to contain the disease.
But Klain is quick to say that the coronavirus is a harder challenge even than Ebola. The economy is in free fall. Entire cities have been told to shelter in place. And there’s no telling how long any of this will last. In this conversation, Klain answers my questions about the disease and how to respond to it, as well as questions many of you submitted. We discuss:
How to change the virus’s reproduction and fatality rates
Why you need to work backward from health system capacity
What it means to “flatten the curve”
Why social distancing will be with us for a long time to come
The difference between “social distancing” and “self-quarantine”
What the Trump administration needed to do earlier, and what they still can do now
The testing debacle
The economic policy necessary to make social distancing possible
Why we need to remember not everyone can work at home
What it would take to surge health care capacity in the US — and how fast we could potentially do it
The strengths and weaknesses of America’s particular health care system in responding to a pandemic like this one
Whether the coronavirus is showing authoritarian systems perform better than liberal(ish) democracies
What Joe Biden is like in a crisis
And much more. I’ve been covering the coronavirus nonstop, and this is one of the clearest, most useful conversations I’ve had. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the clarity of Klain’s analysis will help.
Also: We want to know what kinds of coronavirus conversations you want to hear right now. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions for guests, or just angles. This is going to be a hard time, and we want this podcast to be as much a help as possible.
Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs by Michael Osterholm
The Great Influenza by John Barry
Confused about coronavirus? Here’s a list of the articles, papers, and podcasts we’ve found most useful.
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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