You can always tell a true Covid-19 expert because they freely admit they don’t have all the answers. And you can tell the best Covid-19 journalists because they talk to as many experts as possible and synthesize the information to paint as clear a picture as possible. No one does this better than the NYT’s Don McNeil Jr, who has been preparing for this moment for much of his career. His articles are the opposite of the daily press briefings that endanger lives, soil discourse, and make us all feel sick. So here are several excerpts from McNeil’s latest piece: Coronavirus in American: The Year Ahead.

+ Liberate This: “If we scrupulously protect ourselves and our loved ones, more of us will live. If we underestimate the virus, it will find us.” (Translation: Stop gathering public groups to fight each other, and start following best practices to fight the virus.)

+ The Economy: “Most experts believed that once the crisis was over, the nation and its economy would revive quickly. But there would be no escaping a period of intense pain.”

+ The Opening: “The gains to date were achieved only by shutting down the country, a situation that cannot continue indefinitely. The White House’s ‘phased’ plan for reopening will surely raise the death toll no matter how carefully it is executed … ‘If Americans pour back out in force, all will appear quiet for perhaps three weeks. Then the emergency rooms will get busy again.'”

+ The Lethality: “We do not know exactly how transmissible or lethal the virus is. But refrigerated trucks parked outside hospitals tell us all we need to know: It is far worse than a bad flu season.” (It can be argued that the virus is the leading cause of death in the US right now. But it’s plateauing in some areas. What comes next is partly dependent on our behavior and partly dependent on things we can’t yet predict about the virus.)

+ The Vaccine: “Dr. Fauci has repeatedly said that any effort to make a vaccine will take at least a year to 18 months. All the experts familiar with vaccine production agreed that even that timeline was optimistic. Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccinologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, noted that the record is four years, for the mumps vaccine.”

+ The Treatment: It might come sooner than a vaccine. “But even if one were invented, production would have to ramp up until it was as ubiquitous as aspirin, so 300 million Americans could take it daily.”

+ The Divide: “It will be a frightening schism. Those with antibodies will be able to travel and work, and the rest will be discriminated against.” (And those already discriminated against, will likely find themselves doubly so, especially in an election year featuring the current incumbent.)

+ The Network: “China has used the pandemic to extend its global influence, and says it has sent medical gear and equipment to nearly 120 countries. A major recipient is the United States … ‘This is not a world in which ‘America First’ is a viable strategy.'”