The idea has been around for centuries. But it took a high school science fair, George W. Bush, history lessons and some determined researchers to overcome skepticism and make it federal policy.

By Eric Lipton and Jennifer Steinhauer

  • April 22, 2020

WASHINGTON — Fourteen years ago, two federal government doctors, Richard Hatchett and Carter Mecher, met with a colleague at a burger joint in suburban Washington for a final review of a proposal they knew would be treated like a piñata: telling Americans to stay home from work and school the next time the country was hit by a deadly pandemic.

When they presented their plan not long after, it was met with skepticism and a degree of ridicule by senior officials, who like others in the United States had grown accustomed to relying on the pharmaceutical industry, with its ever-growing array of new treatments, to confront evolving health challenges.

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