Skip to main content
We may receive compensation from affiliate partners for some links on this site. Read our full Disclosure here.

Does a 2017 Johns Hopkins Pandemic Simulation Tell Us How COVID-19 Ends?


Many people have familiarized themselves with Event 201.

The event hosted by Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the World Economic Forum, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation simulated a global pandemic.


About the Event 201 exercise

Event 201 was a 3.5-hour pandemic tabletop exercise that simulated a series of dramatic, scenario-based facilitated discussions, confronting difficult, true-to-life dilemmas associated with response to a hypothetical, but scientifically plausible, pandemic. 15 global business, government, and public health leaders were players in the simulation exercise that highlighted unresolved real-world policy and economic issues that could be solved with sufficient political will, financial investment, and attention now and in the future.

The exercise consisted of pre-recorded news broadcasts, live “staff” briefings, and moderated discussions on specific topics. These issues were carefully designed in a compelling narrative that educated the participants and the audience.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, World Economic Forum, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation jointly propose these recommendations.


In recent years, the world has seen a growing number of epidemic events, amounting to approximately 200 events annually. These events are increasing, and they are disruptive to health, economies, and society. Managing these events already strains global capacity, even absent a pandemic threat. Experts agree that it is only a matter of time before one of these epidemics becomes global—a pandemic with potentially catastrophic consequences. A severe pandemic, which becomes “Event 201,” would require reliable cooperation among several industries, national governments, and key international institutions.

Recent economic studies show that pandemics will be the cause of an average annual economic loss of 0.7% of global GDP—or $570 billion. The players’ responses to the scenario illuminated the need for cooperation among industry, national governments, key international institutions, and civil society, to avoid the catastrophic consequences that could arise from a large-scale pandemic.

Similar to the Center’s 3 previous exercises—Clade X, Dark Winter, and Atlantic Storm—Event 201 aimed to educate senior leaders at the highest level of US and international governments and leaders in global industries.

It is also a tool to inform members of the policy and preparedness communities and the general public. This is distinct from many other forms of simulation exercises that test protocols or technical policies of a specific organization. Exercises similar to Event 201 are a particularly effective way to help policymakers gain a fuller understanding of the urgent challenges they could face in a dynamic, real-world crisis.

Event 201 took place October 18, 2019, at The Pierre Hotel in New York City.

But if you think Event 201 was the only global pandemic simulation, then you’re sadly mistaken.

The global puppeteers have finetuned their pandemic response for years and played out the potential scenarios to control the masses.

While there are multitudes of simulations to analyze, the one I’ll highlight is the 2017 SPARS Pandemic Scenario.

The SPARS Pandemic Scenario comes from the usual suspects, The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Their pandemic scenario reads like a script, and readers can find suspicious similarities to the fictional SPARS Pandemic and the world’s ongoing COVID-19 “Pandemic.”

And this booklet gives us a hint to how our COVID-19 story will conclude.


SPARS Pandemic Scenario

The Center’s SPARS Pandemic exercise narrative comprises a futuristic scenario that illustrates communication dilemmas concerning medical countermeasures (MCMs) that could plausibly emerge in the not-so-distant future. Its purpose is to prompt users, both individually and in discussion with others, to imagine the dynamic and oftentimes conflicted circumstances in which communication around emergency MCM development, distribution, and uptake takes place. While engaged with a rigorous simulated health emergency, scenario readers have the opportunity to mentally “rehearse” responses while also weighing the implications of their actions. At the same time, readers have a chance to consider what potential measures implemented in today’s environment might avert comparable communication dilemmas or classes of dilemmas in the future.

The self-guided exercise scenario for public health communicators and risk communication researchers covers a raft of themes and associated dilemmas in risk communications, rumor control, interagency message coordination and consistency, issue management, proactive and reactive media relations, cultural competency, and ethical concerns. To ensure that the scenario accounts for rapid technological innovation and exceeds the expectations of participants, the Center’s project team gleaned information from subject matter experts, historical accounts of past medical countermeasure crises, contemporary media reports, and scholarly literature in sociology, emergency preparedness, health education, and risk and crisis communication.

The scenario is hypothetical; the infectious pathogen, medical countermeasures, characters, news media excerpts, social media posts, and government agency responses are entirely fictional.

The fictional pandemic booklet was completed in October 2017.

To read the entire simulation, check out The Spars Pandemic PDF.

For clues on how COVID-19 ends, skip to page 59 (recovery).

Here’s an excerpt from page 66 (SPARS Aftermath):

Today, nearly five years since the St. Paul Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus made its global
debut, there remain human cases in 14 countries across Europe, Africa, and Asia. The pandemic
officially ended in August 2028, but the virus persists in domesticated animal reservoirs. WHO experts
hypothesize that small, isolated outbreaks of SPARS were occurring long before the disease emerged
on a global scale in 2025, and they anticipate that future outbreaks will continue to emerge unless
countries maintain widespread vaccination coverage.

As the pandemic tapered off, several influential politicians and agency representatives came under fire
for sensationalizing the severity of the event for perceived political gain. As with many public health
interventions, successful efforts to reduce the impact of the pandemic created the illusion that the event
was not nearly as serious as experts suggested it would be. President Archer’s detractors in the
Republican Party seized the opportunity to publicly disparage the President and his administration’s
response to the pandemic, urging voters to elect “a strong leader with the best interests of the
American people at heart.” A widespread social media movement led primarily by outspoken parents of
affected children, coupled with widespread distrust of “big pharma,” supported the narrative that the
development of SPARS MCMs was unnecessary and driven by a few profit-seeking individuals.
Conspiracy theories also proliferated across social media, suggesting that the virus had been purposely
created and introduced to the population by drug companies or that it had escaped from a government
lab secretly testing bioweapons.

After-action reports, government hearings, and agency reviews following the pandemic were too
numerous to count. Emergency funding appropriated by Congress to fight the disease became available
partway through the course of the pandemic, but federal, state, and local public health agencies
struggled to manage the procedural requirements to spend it. As a result, significant amounts of emergency funds remained unused as the pandemic wound down. As the investigations grew in
intensity, several high-ranking officials at the CDC and FDA were forced to step down and withdraw
from government in order to “spend more time with their families.” Exhausted employees of these
agencies, many of whom worked long hours six or seven days a week throughout the pandemic, simply
wanted to put the whole response behind them. Little desire remained on the part of decision-makers
or those who served in the trenches during the response to rehash the events of the past several years.

The very real possibility of a future SPARS pandemic necessitates continued commitment to
vaccination programs as well as accurate, culturally appropriate, and timely communication from
public health agencies across the planet. While the communication experiences of the SPARS pandemic
of 2025-2028 offer some examples for how this communication can and should occur, they also identify
practices that should be avoided, or at least modified, for responses to future public health emergencies.

If this scenario unfolds, let’s refer back to this document for reference.


Join the conversation!

Please share your thoughts about this article below. We value your opinions, and would love to see you add to the discussion!

Hey, Noah here!

Wondering where we went?

Read this and bookmark our new site!

See you over there!

Thanks for sharing!