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Most weeks, deciding what to put on our cover is the subject of great internal debate. This week, it was simple. TIME reports on the people who shape the world, and the cover often features the most influential among them: heads of state, titans of industry, icons of culture.

Yet today, even the most powerful people in our society are at the mercy of a virus that knows no rank and no title. Though some in politics and business have risen to the occasion, and some countries—like Taiwan and South Korea—have managed to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, many governments around the globe have been on their heels, ignoring years of warnings about the threat of pandemic and then wasting precious time in fighting this virus’s spread. Meanwhile, the kinds of international collaboration that have helped lead the world through previous crises are virtually absent.

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