Covid’s Future, Trauma’s Long Shadow and California’s Lessons

03.09.2021 - By The Ezra Klein Show

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Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’s pioneering work on how childhood trauma shapes adult outcomes led to her being named the first surgeon general of California. That was in 2019. And then, of course, the novel coronavirus hit. The job of California’s surgeon general in 2020 was not what it was in 2019. But in some ways, Burke Harris’s expertise was more necessary than ever.

This conversation is about the growing evidence that difficult experiences we face as children reverberate in our lives decades later. It’s profound research that should reshape how we think about social insurance, public morality and criminal justice. But it’s also a conversation about what the coronavirus has done to children — whether this year will be a trauma that marks a generation, and remakes their lives. How has it changed socialization for toddlers — like my 2-year-old son? What has it meant for children who can’t go to school, who watched their parents lose work or who had family members die alone in a hospital? How do we help them? How do we even understand what they’ve gone through, particularly when they can’t tell us?

We also discuss the lessons California learned from the early difficulties in its vaccine rollout (“simplicity saves lives,” Burke Harris says), why we need to be investing a lot more in mental health therapeutics, the debate over universal child allowances, how to address racial and income disparities in vaccine distribution, the drivers of vaccine hesitancy in Black and brown communities, what a safe path to post-pandemic reopening would look like, why Covid-19 cases have been declining across the country, and much more.

This is one of those conversations that will leave you looking at vast swaths of public policy differently. Don’t miss it.


The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris
“Roadmap for Resilience: The California Surgeon General’s Report on Adverse Childhood Experiences, Toxic Stress, and Health”
“Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study”
“The prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) in the lives of juvenile offenders”
“Adverse childhood experiences and the risk of premature mortality”


Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky
The Emotional Life of the Toddler by Alicia Lieberman
The Woman Behind the New Deal by Kirstin Downey
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

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