The responses of policy makers, individuals, and businesses to COVID-19 contrast with typical responses to environmental issues. In most countries, governments have been willing to act decisively to implement costly restrictions on work and personal life, to a degree that has never been observed for an environmental issue. A number of possible lessons for environmental economists are identified. In addition to valuing natural environments, people also place a high value on social interactions. These two values may interact. Adaptation can substantially reduce the cost of restrictive policies and should be considered when policy proposals are being evaluated. Preparation for an emergency can substantially reduce its costs by allowing a more rapid response. The development of new technologies can play a key role in reducing externalities. As well, the effectiveness of policies that deliver public goods can be enhanced by credible leaders who provide clear, compelling, and consistent information, emphasizing both the private and public benefits of compliance.