An Unmitigated Disaster
America’s Response to COVID-19
by Robert O. Schneider
January 2022, 222pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-7893-0
$50, £38, 44€, A68
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-7894-7
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

More than 600,000 Americans have died due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Highlighting American cultural and political contexts, this book provides an in-depth assessment of the breadth and magnitude of the United States' errors in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An Unmitigated Disaster chronicles and explains the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency management expert Robert O. Schneider considers the quality of U.S. pandemic planning and preparedness; the quality and effectiveness of national, state, and local response efforts; and the performance of national leaders during this historic public health crisis. The book culminates in an assessment of how a predictable public health threat became an unprecedented health, economic, and security disaster. Schneider convincingly shows that conscious decisions were made by governmental authorities, beginning with the president, to ignore expert information and security intelligence in pursuit of other objectives. In other words, Schneider argues, if the U.S. was ill-prepared for or slow to respond to the crisis, it was because its leaders consciously chose to be ill-prepared or slow to respond. Readers will be fascinated by this behind-the-scenes exposé of a pandemic year.


  • Provides a political analysis and historical documentation of COVID-19 in real time
  • Includes insights from the author's expertise in disaster preparedness, mitigation, and response
  • Demonstrates why the United States stood alone as the only affluent nation to have suffered severe and sustained outbreaks for the entire year in 2020
  • Explains the nature and the degree of U.S. failure to respond to the pandemic
  • Offers the definitive answer to the question "Was the United States prepared for the pandemic?"
Robert O. Schneider, PhD, is a political scientist with expertise in the field of emergency management. He is the author of three books: Emergency Management and Sustainability: Defining a Profession; Managing the Climate Crisis: Assessing Our Risks, Options, and Prospects; and When Science and Politics Collide: The Public Interest at Risk.


"Crises are times when citizens look to their elected officials and leaders for action. This timely and accessible book by Robert O. Schneider provides background on the COVID-19 crisis, failed planning, lack of effective response, and lack of leadership in the United States. The book highlights how the lack of planning, execution, and leadership caused substantial failure in the U.S. response to COVID-19, characterized by high case rates, deaths, and a continued inability to establish a national consensus on how to deal with the pandemic."—Naim Kapucu, Pegasus Professor, School of Public Administration, University of Central Florida

"Professor Schneider speaks for many of us who expected a quick and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic and were dumbfounded by the muddled response of the White House and other agencies.Schneider provides background and context to the mismanaged response and explains what should have happened. An Unmitigated Disaster provides a clear account of the disaster that we are still experiencing."—William L. Waugh, Jr., Professor Emeritus, Georgia State University, and Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Emergency Management

"Dr. Schneider's masterpiece reads both as a soul-wrenching case study of government ineptitude leading to the deaths of over six hundred thousand U.S. citizens and a beacon of hope for how to avoid such mistakes in the future. Written as the COVID-19 pandemic was unfolding, this enthralling book will have you on the edge of your seat as you recall events as seen through the lens of one of the United States' leading emergency management and public administration scholars. I cannot imagine a better manual to help all levels of government avoid such mistakes in the future. This book is destined to become the emergency management case study textbook of the future, and Dr. Schneider is sure to have found his legacy within these pages. One hundred three years from now, this will be the book that scholars reach for when they want to understand how COVID managed to extinguish almost four million lives."—Joe F. West, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Pembroke
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