Coronavirus Advice From America’s Foremost Ebola Doctor
Dr. Bruce Ribner, who successfully treated multiple Americans with Ebola in 2014, offers perspective on Covid-19
There’s little denying that the United States was ill-prepared for the coronavirus pandemic. Testing capacity is still staggeringly slow, health workers don’t have enough protective equipment, and there are not enough ventilators. But the United States is not without scientists and medical professionals who think ahead.
During the 2013–2016 Ebola outbreak, I had the opportunity to visit and interview Dr. Bruce Ribner, medical director of the Serious Communicable Diseases Unit at Emory University Hospital. In 2014 he led the treatment of multiple people in the United States who contracted Ebola, in large part because Emory had a state-of-the-art isolation unit that was built specifically for the treatment of highly contagious infections. The unit was something Ribner had advocated for for more than a decade before the Ebola pandemic. He knew it was only a matter of time before a new, highly contagious disease spread around the world, and that the United States would need a place to treat people.
“It is certainly possible to overreact to a potential epidemic, but we seem to be a long way from overreacting to the current epidemic.”
“Over the last several years, there were people questioning whether what I was doing was really something that had value,” Ribner told me in a November 2014 profile for TIME, adding that he felt like Noah building an ark for a storm no one thought was coming. Then the Ebola outbreak happened, and it was clear that his preparation paid off, and saved American’s lives.
The novel coronavirus is a different kind of beast. It spreads more effectively than Ebola, and there are tens of thousands of people in the U.S. already infected. Still, it’s helpful to talk to someone who expects the worst about what’s to come. Here’s what Ribner has to say about Covid-19.
Elemental: In your opinion, what should Americans expect in the coming weeks in terms of spread and containment measures?
Ribner: In the next few weeks we…