“It stands out as a remarkable achievement by any measure,” Dr. DiMaggio said. “It was a public health triumph.”
Dr. Weinstein resigned from his post in November 1947, seven months after the smallpox outbreak. He left behind a blueprint for containing an infectious disease in a large, dense city.
But this time, with the coronavirus pandemic, New York faces a logistical hurdle. Experts in infectious disease point to a hollowing out of the public health infrastructure — not just in the city, but across the country. Yet, they believe the biggest obstacle is not distribution but the public’s distrust of government, science and the media.
“We’re coming out of a train wreck of messaging,” Dr. Redlener said. “We’ve learned that politics is poison to a public health initiative, especially during a crisis. Honesty and straightforward, clear messaging are absolutely critical.”
In 1947, Dr. Weinstein was the only voice with a megaphone. He spoke and people listened.
“Back then, there was a much simpler media landscape,” Ms. Sherman said as she laid out the Ad Council’s campaign, which is due to kick off early next year. “In today’s environment, we’re dealing with a highly, highly fragmented media. We’ll be relying on micro-influencers who are the trusted voices.”
So, as the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in New York City began this past week, a major question remains: Can the city come close to what it accomplished 73 years ago?
Dr. Redlener, who serves as an adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio on emergency response, said he believes that New York will meet the challenge again. But he added, “It’s almost inconceivable that we’re going to be able to do something similar as rapidly and as effectively.”