Review, Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak

By John Ruberry

“While we can’t predict where the next influenza pandemic is going to come from,” Dennis Carroll, the director of the emerging threats unit of US Agency for International Development, says in the third episode of the new six episode Netflix documentary series Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak, “there are certain places that you want to pay particular attention to–and China is one of those, that’s the place where we’ve seen the emergence of virtually all of the deadly influenza viruses over the last half-century.”

Carroll says this while images of a Vietnamese wet market, where live chickens are sold and slaughtered, are shown.

“We know that viruses move from wildlife into livestock into people,” he says early in that same episode.

I’m writing this from home in Illinois, where I am living under Governor JB Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order because of the COVID-19 coronoavirus outbreak. While the origin of this disease is still being debated it is likely, according to experts, that it did first infect humans at a wet market.

I saw Pandemic last week on my Netflix welcome screen and at first I looked away and said to myself, “If I want to know about pandemics I can switch on the local news–or cable news.” And I was concerned that this was, to use the legendary chant from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a “bring out your dead” series. And it starts that way, with Carroll, at a mass grave in western Pennsylvania, one that is marked by a single crucifix. The site contains the remains of victims of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Yes, not only can it happen here–but it has happened here.

And the “not-if-but-when” pandemic has arrived, only it’s coronavirus instead of influenza.

The focus of Pandemic is on the scientists, the aid workers, and the doctors on the front lines of disease prevention and cures. People like Jake Glanville and Sarah Ives, the scientists who are working with pigs in Guatemala to develop an all-strains flu virus, as well as Dr. Dinesh Vijay, who treats flu patients at a crowded hospital in Jaipur, India. But disease isn’t just an urban phenomenon. In Pandemic, we meet Holly Goracke, the sole doctor at tiny Jefferson County Hospital in rural Oklahoma, who works 72-hour shifts. And we also become acquainted with Dr.Syra Madad, the director of the special pathogens program of New York City Health and Hospitals.

Along the way we are introduced to anti-vaccination activists in Oregon, health care workers at an Arizona border detention center, and World Health Organization disease fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who not only face the risk of contracting the extremely deadly Ebola virus, but also getting murdered by gangs.

Surprisingly, religion is viewed favorably in this scientific docuseries. Madad, Goracke, and Vijay all rely on faith to strengthen them as they battle disease.

Not surprisingly there are a few knocks in Pandemic over lack of funding from the Trump administration. Including from Madad. But she’s not infallible. In January, in a CNBC interview shortly after the debut of Pandemic, Madad praised China’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, although she did parse her statement with, “It’s too early to tell.” I wager she’d like to take that praise back.

If you are suffering from anxiety over coronavirus, you may want to stay away from Pandemic. The same goes if you are an anti-vaxxer–you’ll just get POd. Also, I suggest if you decide to view Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak then take it in just one episode at a time. At times the series is emotionally exhausting.

Pandemic is rated TV-14, Netflix says, because of foul language and smoking. And there are some disturbing scenes.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Corona/Wuhan Virus a Great Way to Illustrate the Difference between Having Faith and Putting God to the Test

Autloc: Tlotoxl was humiliated. He will not forget, nor will he forgive.

Barbara: I did as he commanded.

Autloc: But not as he expected.

Barbara: What did he want? A miracle?

Autloc: We all awaited it.

Barbara: Why should I use divine powers when human ability will suffice?

Autloc: Yetaxa has spoken.

Dr. Who The Aztecs 1964

There’s an old joke about a man in a flood zone who can’t swim but is not worried because he has faith that God will save him. A police man comes by in his truck to get him out of his house before the water comes but he refuses saying “God will save me.”

Then the water rises and he has to go to the 2nd floor of his house and some emergency workers come by in a small fishing boat to evacuate him but he refuses saying “God will save me.”

The the water rises so high that he is perched on his roof and a Helicopter comes by and lowers a man with a winch to get him to safety but he refuses again insisting: “God will save me”.

He drowns and finds himself before St. Peter and is very confused: “I don’t understand why I’m here? I thought that God would save me?”

St. Peter replies: “I don’t understand why you’re here either, why didn’t you use the truck, boat or helicopter we sent you?”

The moral of the joke is of course that there is a difference between faith in God and expecting him to perform a conjuring trick at your insistence.

This is one of the traps that is in play during the Corona / Wuhan virus. There are plenty of devout Christians. People who go to mass daily, receive the sacraments regularly, visit the blessed sacrament who might be tempted to ignore the public restrictions that have been imposed for the safety of the general public. In fact there will be a fair amount of mocking of faithful Christians who follow said restrictions by those who disbelieve or hate Christianity saying that this proves such people don’t actually believe in God prodding them to do just that.

But this form of temptation is one that is specifically illustrated in scripture as is the proper response to it

Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'”

Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'”

Matthew 4:6-8

The promise of Christianity is eternal life, but not eternal earthly life. Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter and the son of the widow of Nain were all raised from the dead by Christ but all eventually died again. While Christ came to earth to serve he is not our manservant here to do our will, we are here to do God’s.

When we put God to the test we reverse our relationship with him, instead of the loving sons and daughters that he helps guide to the right path we become Veruca Salt who wants it now!

Don’t let yourself be tempted this way, particularly in this current crisis, because the drop it can help lead you to will prove a lot worse than what’s at the bottom of a garbage chute