Two journalists track the history and future of quarantine around the globe, chasing the story of emergency isolation through time and space—from the crumbling lazarettos of the Mediterranean, built to contain the Black Death, to an experimental Ebola unit in London, and from the hallways of the CDC to closed-door simulations where pharmaceutical execs and epidemiologists prepare for the outbreak of a novel coronavirus.
... a big-picture history of medical quarantine ... Until Proven Safe reads like a vivid travel documentary informed by history, politics and science, deftly cutting back and forth among locations and time periods, and carrying us to where we are now. Although the authors started their examination of quarantine years before the coronavirus pandemic, their book serves as an insightful history of the present.
What...makes their book compelling, besides their extensive experience as journalists, is the depth of their research coupled with a firm conviction that quarantine, a mighty yet dangerous weapon, must be used 'more wisely in the future' ... One of the most fascinating chapters in this enlightening book recounts the tireless efforts of the Englishman John Howard, an eccentric social reformer of ample wealth and unfailing courage, whose achievements on behalf of incarcerated criminals and debtors gave way by his late 50s to a newfound concern over conditions within quarantine facilities ... The informality of the authors’ engaging prose, bearing few scholarly trappings save for the source notes, more aptly resembles that of an article in the New Yorker, where, in fact, portions of the book first appeared. Absorbing chapters, for instance, are devoted to modern containment measures and research centers designed with future perils in mind ... If not for the book’s arresting insights, undergirded by archival research and interviews with historians, epidemiologists and public health experts, Until Proven Safe might resemble at times a travelogue of misery ... Still and all, this is an exceptionally powerful book.
... uncanny in its prescience. It also serves as a good reminder for all of us to refrain from feelings of complacency because as this fascinating book shows again and again, it’s foolish to think this will be our last pandemic ... Twilley and Manaugh see things that others don’t. Their insatiable curiosity reveals itself through all of their endeavors.