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Richard Danzig and James Lawler

US Monkeypox Response Repeats the Mistakes Made on Covid

Health officials are again failing to understand that a new epidemic may not take the same course as the last one.

Masked macaque.

Masked macaque.

Photographer: Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

Monkeypox, a relative of smallpox, is spreading at unnerving rates and in unprecedented places, including the US. More than 1,500 cases have been registered in over 30 countries, including in at least 17 US states and the District of Columbia. However, the biggest worry for Americans is not the disease: It’s that our response to it shows how little we have learned from Covid, and how much there is still to do to limit the risks from future pandemics.

An important early governmental failing in the Covid outbreak was the delay in facilitating testing. This blinded medical and public health experts to the proliferation of the virus in the crucial early months. Had interventions that were eventually adopted been implemented just a week or two earlier, they could have saved tens of thousands of lives.