Seven months after the first patients were hospitalized in China battling infection doctors had never seen before, the world’s scientists and citizens have reached an unsettling crossroads.

Countless hours of treatment and research, trial and error now make it possible to take the much closer measure of the new coronavirus and the lethal disease it has unleashed. But to take advantage of that intelligence, we must confront our persistent vulnerability: The virus leaves no choice.

“It’s like we’re in a battle with something that we can’t see, that we don’t know, and we don’t know where it’s coming from,” said Vivian Castro, a nurse supervisor at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers, just north of New York City, which struggled with its caseload this spring.

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