The world is in the grip of a crisis that stands unprecedented in living memory. The COVID-19 pandemic is urgent, global in scale, and massive in impacts. Following Harold D. Lasswell’s goal for the policy sciences to offer insights into unfolding phenomena, this commentary draws on the lessons of the policy sciences literature to understand the dynamics related to COVID-19. We explore the ways in which scientific and technical expertise, emotions, and narratives influence policy decisions and shape relationships among citizens, organizations, and governments. We discuss varied processes of adaptation and change, including learning, surges in policy responses, alterations in networks (locally and globally), implementing policies across transboundary issues, and assessing policy success and failure. We conclude by identifying understudied aspects of the policy sciences that deserve attention in the pandemic’s aftermath.