It was late January, and there were just six known cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. A leading infectious disease specialist who previously had battled Ebola and SARS had an alarming message for a group of money managers: It was about to get a lot worse.
“In the 20 or 30 years I’ve been involved in emerging infections,” Jeremy Farrar told the managers on the January 31 call, “I’ve never seen anything that has been as fast or as rapidly moving and dynamic as this has been.”
The director of the Wellcome Trust, a U.K. health foundation, followed that up with an estimate on a February call that deaths in the U.S. related to the spread of the new coronavirus could reach between 500,000 to 1 million within a year assuming there were no lockdowns or other restrictions.
The calls held for managers of Wellcome’s $33 billion endowment served as one of the earliest known warnings to investors about the coming impact of a disease for which humanity had no immunity. The information spread like a kind of samizdat among certain quarters of Wall Street, and beyond. Those who took heed of the predictions from Dr. Farrar, an adviser to the U.K. and German governments on the virus, spread the word to friends and family and took steps to try to protect their investments from the virus’ fallout…