The coronavirus is not the first pandemic that I have been of an age to understand its significance. I had forgotten about the H1N1 virus (swine flu).  We got through it without the panic and massive shutdowns that are now occurring.  Rush Limbaugh, on his March 12 radio program, agreed with me, noting, “How many of you even remember the swine flu 2009, 2010? I don’t remember it. I mean, I remember we had it. But I don’t remember any panic about it. I don’t remember a thing about the swine flu.”

I believe that the panic by some is caused by a lack of faith in the competence of the president in particular, and the federal government in general. People are scared of the unknown.  They want to know who has the virus.  Until there is widespread testing, people will be on edge. People don’t trust the government to tell them the truth.  How we got to this stage in our country is for another time.

In April 2009, the first pandemic in 40 years was the H1N1 virus, which originated with pigs in the United States. Unlike the coronavirus, with the swine flu the United States did not have the “luxury” of being able to address the situation while it was overseas in Asia.  The coronavirus was first reported in December 2019 in China. Moreover, the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the U.S. on January 20 of this year, and yet, as of Wednesday, March 11, only 11,079 specimens had been tested in the U.S. The response back then makes the current response by Trump and his administration even more troubling. Not surprisingly, Trump claims that he is doing a better job than Obama did. The information concerning the 2009 timeline found on the CDC website indicates otherwise.

April 15, 2009 - First human infection with new influenza H1N1 virus detected in California.

April 17, 2009 - Second human infection with the new influenza H1N1 virus detected in California about 130 miles away from first infection, with no known connection to previous patient.

April 21, 2009 - CDC publicly reported the first two U.S. infections with the new H1N1 virus. CDC began working to develop a candidate vaccine virus.

April 22, 2009 - CDC activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC)

April 24, 2009 - CDC uploaded complete gene sequences of new H1N1 2009 virus to a publicly accessible international influenza database.

April 26, 2009 - the United States government declared 2009 H1N1 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and CDC began releasing 25 percent of antiviral drugs needed to treat this new influenza virus from the federal stockpile.

April 27, 2009 - WHO Director General raised the level of influenza pandemic alert from Phase 3 to Phase 4, based on data showing person-to-person spread and the ability of the virus to cause community-level outbreaks.

April 28, 2009 - The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new CDC test to detect 2009 H1N1 infections. CDC issued the first CDC Interim Guidance on Closing Schools and Childcare Facilities, recommending a seven-day dismissal in affected schools and childcare facilities with laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza H1N1 virus.

April 29, 2009 - WHO raised the level of influenza pandemic alert from Phase 4 to Phase 5, signaling that a pandemic was imminent, and requested all countries to immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans and be on high alert for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia.

May 1, 2009 - Domestic and global shipments of new CDC test to detect 2009 H1N1 began. Within the next four months, more than 1 million tests were shipped to 120 domestic and 250 international laboratories in 140 countries.

CDC updated the CDC Interim Guidance on Closing Schools and Childcare Facilities, recommending that affected communities with lab-confirmed cases of influenza H1N1 should consider adopting school dismissal and childcare closing measures, including closing for up to 14 days depending on the extent and severity of influenza illness.

By May 18, 2009, 40 states had been validated to conduct their own 2009 H1N1 testing, with eight states having multiple laboratories able to do their own testing.

October 5, 2009 - First doses of H1N1 vaccine were given in the U.S.

November 23, 2009 - No school closures throughout United States; first time since 8/25/2009.

December 18, 2009 - First 100 million doses of 2009 H1N1 vaccine were available for ordering.

Rush Limbaugh argued that the reason why the swine flu is not remembered is that the fear of the disease was overblown just like the current coronavirus. He is incorrect. The swine flu was serious; it infected and killed many people. “From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, CDC estimated there were 60.8 million cases (range: 43.3-89.3 million), 274,304 hospitalizations (range: 195,086-402,719), and 12,469 deaths (range: 8,868-18,306) in the United States due to the (H1N1) pdm09 virus.” However, back then, the government response was so good that it calmed people and addressed the problem. If Obama had fouled up, it is guaranteed that Rush Limbaugh, a fierce critic of Obama, would have remembered.

Hopefully, the current administration has finally gotten its act together and the president will let the professionals do their job without undercutting them.

Warren S. Hecht is a local attorney. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.