Health Affairs January 26, 2022
Joshua T. Cohen, Natalia Olchanski, Daniel A. Ollendorf, Peter J. Neumann

History is replete with stories of poor decisions—catastrophes that leaders might have averted, and great opportunities that people somehow missed. In 1876, William Orton, president of Western Union, declined to acquire Alexander Graham Bell’s patent for the telephone for $100,000 (around $2.5 million in today’s money), referring to the invention as “an electrical toy.” In the mid-2000s, financial markets ignored the possibility that millions of home mortgages in the United States might default at about the same time. Despite the introduction of the SARS, MERS, and the H1N1 viruses in recent decades, and the spread of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan and then Europe in January and February 2020, preparations for COVID-19 in the United States remained incomplete in March of that year.

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