Physician and former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb asks: Has America’s COVID-19 catastrophe taught us anything?
In Uncontrolled Spread, he shows how the coronavirus and its variants were able to trounce America’s pandemic preparations, and he outlines the steps that must be taken to protect against the next outbreak. As the pandemic unfolded, Gottlieb was in regular contact with all the key players in Congress, the Trump administration, and the drug and diagnostic industries. He provides an inside account of how level after level of American government crumbled as the COVID-19 crisis advanced.
A system-wide failure across government institutions left the nation blind to the threat, and unable to mount an effective response. We’d prepared for the wrong virus. We failed to identify the contagion early enough and became overly reliant on costly and sometimes divisive tactics that couldn’t fully slow the spread. We never considered asymptomatic transmission and we assumed people would follow public health guidance. Key bureaucracies like the CDC were hidebound and outmatched. Weak political leadership aggravated these woes. We didn’t view a public health disaster as a threat to our national security.
Many of the woes sprung from the CDC, which has very little real-time reporting capability to inform us of Covid’s twists and turns or assess our defenses. The agency lacked an operational capacity and mindset to mobilize the kind of national response that was needed. To guard against future pandemic risks, we must remake the CDC and properly equip it to better confront crises. We must also get our intelligence services more engaged in the global public health mission, to gather information and uncover emerging risks before they hit our shores so we can head them off. For this role, our clandestine agencies have tools and capabilities that the CDC lacks.
Uncontrolled Spread argues we must fix our systems and prepare for a deadlier coronavirus variant, a flu pandemic, or whatever else nature -- or those wishing us harm -- may threaten us with. Gottlieb outlines policies and investments that are essential to prepare the United States and the world for future threats.
About the Author
Dr. Scott Gottlieb served as the twenty-third commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration and is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is a regular contributor to the business news channel CNBC and a partner at the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates. Dr. Gottlieb serves on the board of directors of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. and the genomic sequencing company Illumina, Inc. Fortune magazine has recognized him as one of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders,” and Time magazine has named him one of its “50 People Transforming Healthcare.” A graduate of Wesleyan University and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Gottlieb is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine. He lives with his family in Westport, Connecticut.
“In Uncontrolled Spread, one thing is certain: Scott Gottlieb is in total control. Throughout the pandemic, my friend Scott consistently provided remarkable insights and clarity that advanced our collective knowledge. Through his medical acumen, decades of experience and insider access as former FDA commissioner, he was able to paint a clear portrait of what was happening, even as it was still blurry to everyone else. Uncontrolled Spread will make you anxious, and it should. It is an intense ride through the pandemic with chilling details of what really happened. It is also sprinkled with notes of true wisdom that may help all of us better prepare for the future.” — Sanjay Gupta, M.D., chief medical correspondent, CNN
“Uncontrolled Spread is everything you’d hope: a smart and insightful account of what happened and, currently, the best guide to what needs to be done to avoid a future pandemic." — The Wall Street Journal
“Throughout the pandemic, no one — and I mean no one — has provided a clearer and more correct picture of what was happening to our country than Dr. Gottlieb. All the while he was sought out to provide more advice to decision-makers on all sides of the aisle than anyone. In Uncontrolled Spread, he is doing perhaps the ultimate service in telling the story to us in a gripping, no holds barred, yet highly constructive fashion. This book will be one of the bibles of this era.” — Andy Slavitt, former White House senior advisor for the COVID-19 response
“This is the book for anyone who wants to really understand the true story of how the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in our country. In Uncontrolled Spread, Dr. Scott Gottlieb provides a gripping and rich narrative of the worst public health and economic crisis of our lifetime. His book is extremely well-researched and enriched by firsthand exchanges with key leaders in government, academia, and the private sector. It offers unique perspectives from the vantage point of one of the most experienced public health leaders in America. Importantly, it provides a lucid assessment of what we need to do to avert a repeat catastrophe.” — Luciana Borio, M.D., former director for Medical and Biodefense Preparedness, National Security Council
“Dr. Gottlieb not only served as a trusted advisor to the NYSE and many of the companies listed on our Exchange throughout the pandemic but also consistently delivered expert analysis and pragmatic advice to all Americans. Now, with Uncontrolled Spread, he is stepping up again to share the many lessons learned from this challenging chapter in our country’s history.” — Stacey Cunningham, President, New York Stock Exchange
“At a time when many of our leading public health experts were blinded by the fog of viral war, Scott Gottlieb was always one step ahead -- warning of the pandemic danger and the urgent steps needed to protect the country. When public health bureaucrats were searching for people with symptoms, he was warning of asymptomatic spread. When public health officials were focused on a doomed effort to screen infected travelers, he was pushing for widespread testing at home. When government scientists still believed the virus wasn't spreading here, he was pushing for a whole-of-government mobilization to stop it. If we had listened to Scott Gottlieb, 2020 might have been a very different year. We must listen to him now, before the next pandemic arrives. Uncontrolled Spread is a must read for anyone who wants to understand why we failed to stop the worst pandemic in modern history -- and why it could happen again if we don't act now.” — Marc Thiessen, Washington Post columnist and bestselling author
“In Uncontrolled Spread, Dr. Scott Gottlieb provides us a detailed account of the COVID-19 pandemic and of the U.S. response....The book is a 'must read' for anyone interested in learning how to prepare for the next pandemic. For starters let’s begin by investing the necessary resources in public health and shield it from partisan politics.” — Carlos del Rio, M.D., infectious disease specialist and professor of global health and epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University
“Gottlieb has written a contemporary tragedy in multiple parts. Decision making should be based on the data, but we did not muster the forces to obtain the data. Nor did we coordinate a response. Instead of ‘never again’ it will be ‘again and again,’ until we learn from our failures, and promote our successes. This thoughtful and detailed account of how the United States dealt with the pandemic has so much to teach us, from ordinary citizens to policymakers at the highest levels. When will we ever learn?”
— Francis Arnold, Ph.D, inventor, bioengineer, Nobel Laureate
"I believe Uncontrolled Spread will be the most authoritative book on the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. out of the many books that will be written." — Martin Makary M.D., M.P.H., Editor-in-Chief, MedPage Today
“In his narrative of the most severe pandemic in a century, Gottlieb lets us know what he has seen, what may well come next and what we can do before the next pandemic arrives. The book is informative and well paced.” — The Guardian
"I have known Scott for many years… and can verify that when he was FDA Commissioner, he was a force against useless bureaucracy... He is a reformer, and this book reveals his laser focus on trying to stay ahead the pandemic from the beginning." — Marc Siegel, M.D., RealClearHealth
"The past two years should lead to a wholesale transformation of the CDC, and Gottlieb offers a lot of ideas about what that should involve." — National Review