A hundred years of innovation in communication has dramatically changed our ability to quickly exchange vital data. Back in 1918, early phone lines were still being laid, and in many places the telegraph was the only way to communicate. Public information came mainly from daily newspapers or was spread by word of mouth. It was difficult to share information about the new disease, its most common symptoms and the populations at greatest risk – or alert people about what was coming their way. There were no coordinated pandemic response plans in place.
By contrast, the world has been able to track this epidemic in real time, and scientists have quickly identified those most at risk of adverse outcomes: seniors and those with compromised immunity or preexisting conditions such as asthma, diabetes, lung disease or serious heart conditions. Armed with knowledge, countries that tested extensively, implemented effective contact tracing and enacted strong national lockdown and social distancing policies have “flattened the curve” of infections and deaths.