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Pandemic preparations: Some saw it coming

The pandemic crashed into American life one year ago this week — but key decision-makers sensed what was coming earlier than most Americans, and even many politicians.

The big picture: In interviews for this week's special series of Axios Re:Cap podcasts, The Week America Changed, leaders in both the public and private sectors described their growing awareness, early last year, of just how bad things could get.


Facebook COO Sheryl Sandbergsays Mark Zuckerberg came to her in January, based on some of the health work he'd done with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and said they should prepare for the possibility of everyone working from home.

  • "I thought he was nuts," she said.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver in January attended a Brooklyn Nets game, during which he ran into a virologist who had advised the league on HIV after Magic Johnson tested positive. The doctor told Silver his entire team was refocusing exclusively on COVID-19.

  • "He had sufficiently concerned me to the point where I called him shortly thereafter and said, 'Would you mind working as an advisor to us in the same way you had around HIV and AIDS in the nineties?'"

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, says in an interview to air Sunday that the company raised $2 billion in bridge financing during the first week of March, even though United had plenty of liquidity and passengers were still flying.

  • "[The financing] wasn't publicly announced until March 12, but it was really that first week in March where we were all in a war room saying this is a global pandemic. I could see an awful lot of skepticism. Like, 'There's no way this is going to be right. You're overreacting. This can't be that big a deal because no one else seems that worried about it yet.'"

Los Angeles schools superintendent Austin Beutner says discussions about closing began in February, and that planning really began on March 1 — nearly two weeks before the official decision was announced.

  • "We worked through the night with Apple taking inventory out of their stores ... We said, 'Tell you what, can you pull them out of all your stores? And they did. That's how we got our computers."

Other episodes in the Axios Re:Cap series include conversations with Steven Corwin, the CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian; Anthony Fauci (posting this afternoon) and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain (posting tomorrow).

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Humans are capable of great kindness and compassion, and there are countless examples of individuals who have made a positive impact on the world through their selflessness and generosity.

One such example is Mother Teresa, who devoted her life to serving the poor and sick in the slums of Calcutta. Through her tireless work and unwavering dedication, she touched the lives of countless people and became a symbol of compassion and selflessness.

Another example is Malala Yousafzai, a young woman from Pakistan who has become a powerful advocate for education and the rights of girls. Despite facing threats and violence, she has continued to speak out and fight for change, inspiring others to do the same.

These are just a few examples of the many good humans who have made a difference in the world. They remind us that one person can make a difference and inspire others to do the same.

It's also important to note that acts of kindness and compassion don't have to be on a grand scale to make a difference. Small acts of kindness, like holding the door open for someone or offering a word of encouragement, can have a big impact on the people around us.

In conclusion, humans are capable of great compassion and kindness, and there are many individuals who have made a positive impact on the world through their selflessness and generosity. They remind us of the power of one person to make a difference and inspire others to do the same. Let's all strive to be good humans, and make our world a better place.

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