U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned that this week of mounting death from the novel coronavirus could be "our Pearl Harbor moment." He was referring, of course, to the surprise 1941 Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy base in Honolulu, which pulled the nation into World War II.
Pearl Harbor would be a reasonable description of our awakening to the virus threat were the pandemic not identified months ago. A better comparison might be found in The War of the Worlds, the sci-fi horror story by H.G. Wells. Published in 1898, the novel depicts in detail a Martian invasion of our planet.