In the ironically titled COVID BYTES, noted physician and public healthcare expert LaMar Hasbrouck offers a look back at the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic with a selection of his year-long LinkedIn posts, “CoronaWatch: Doc Talk with Dr.LaMar,” aimed at healthcare professionals and the general public alike.
Hasbrouck reports the pandemic’s arc in journal form, offering brief commentaries and recaps of what’s happening at the time. They move from COVID testing, racial disparities, herd immunity and financial bailouts to questionable therapies, super-spreading events and more. The posts are based on his extensive experience working at the CDC, on WHO global health initiatives and as executive director for the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
Beginning February 27, 2020, he explains the difference between the annual flu and the novel coronavirus. As with each post, he adds: Case count: 82,130 (U.S. 60); Deaths: 2,796 (U.S. 0). March 24, he notes the exponential rise in cases, even as Trump predicts the end of the virus by Easter. April 9, the author discusses how unequal medical treatment and more pre-existing conditions are worsening COVID issues for minorities. By February 23, 2021, with worldwide deaths at 2.4 million, he asks if COVID’s devastation will be a wake–up call to collectively take care of one another. The narrative stops before the spread of the Delta variant.
Reading these posts, written clearly and largely free of jargon, brings back the horror and frustration of the year, including President Trump’s continual denials of reality (Hasbrouck is critical of Trump throughout; one post is titled “Presidential Pomposity”). The book offers intelligent documentation of what we saw unfolding day to day. This will undoubtedly prove valuable in years to come.
However, with the events still fresh in our minds, current readers may wish the doctor had something new to offer. The problem with a book written in real time is that readers are denied insights that come from looking back with accrued knowledge.
Nonetheless, those interested in re-tracing the steps that led to where we are now will appreciate Hasbrouck’s informed revisiting of those desperate months.