When will this COVID life end?
Everyone, world-wide, has had their lifestyle turned upside down. But now we have had actions put into place, people are getting vaccinated, curves are flattening and hospitals in many areas are looking like they are past their peek(s). Without getting into the science of measures to take to end or reduce the spread of the disease, let’s look at the reality of when this will end. If we look at history, it will not be any time soon and there will be changes as we enter into a post-COVID19 world. Let’s look at two events that changed the world and the impact they had.
The first would be the events of 9/11. However unlikely it was that these events happened in the first place, it remained extremely unlikely that they would occur again. That did not stop people from changing their flying habits. Many people refused to fly. The airline industry had a record high number of passengers in the August preceding 9/11. It took nearly three years for numbers to regain that level. Even though people returned to flying, what that looked like changed. People accepted the new changes in check-in to feel safe.
Another event that we can look at is AIDS. AIDS likely spread to humans before 1931, had its first case in 1968 and by the 80’s reached epidemic proportions. There was a lot of misinformation during the early years. This led to a lot of fear and mishandling of how to prevent and treat this spreading disease. By 1985, a poll found that 50% of respondents favored quarantining people with AIDS. Two years prior the CDC had already stated that it could not be transmitted through casual contact. In fact, four years after the CDC’s statement, the public still maintained irrational fears and were shocked when this picture of Princess Diana was published.
Diana shakes hands with an unidentified AIDS patient on April 19, 1987. John Redman/AP
The public’s negative response lasted for years. The United States had a travel ban for 23 years for visitors and immigrants with HIV. Yes, it wasn’t until 11 years ago that it was lifted.
This level of misinformation that was common early on after 9/11 and AIDS, was not only seen during the COVID outbreak, but is a regular problem for almost any incident that occurs. One of the greatest impacts of misinformation in recent years is the fraudulent case study on the relationships between vaccines and autism published in The Lancet in 1998. Several studies refuted the published article, 10 of the 12 co-authors made a short retraction and in 2010 it was finally completely retracted (Rao & Andrade, 2011). The damage had already been done. A large number of people began and continue to make decisions based on this misinformation.
Besides, the health risks and social stigma of AIDS, it’s impact on the global economy continues to be studied. It has even reversed decades of development in some of the hardest-hit regions. It is difficult to estimate the cost that AIDS has had but we can look at SARS as another recent example for a little more concrete data. SARS had claimed 321 lives with a cost between US$40 billion and US$140 billion. The cost of COVID is unknown and will probably never be completely understood. Even so, individuals, businesses and governments have all felt the impact on their lives.
A problem almost everyone has had in trying to attack this problem is that we think that it happens in a bubble; that our decisions will have no other impact other than what we can do to stop COVID-19. This is a very complex issue and will not have a simple solution(s). One of my favorite scenes on dealing with complex issues and the multitude of possibilities and unexpected outcomes is from Jurassic Park(1993) and can be seen here - https://youtu.be/n-mpifTiPV4?t=23
Here are some of the larger impacts we have seen-
HIV, TB, Malaria
When we make decisions on how to deal with COVID, the impact is greater than just the impact on COVID. The world gathered vast resources to fight this pandemic. Those resources had to come from somewhere. One of the greatest impacts this had was to the fights against HIV, TB and malaria. “Deaths over a 5-year period could increase by 10%, 20%, and 36%, respectively, and that although the loss of life-years from this knock-on impact will probably be less than the direct impact of COVID-19, in high-burden countries, it could be of the same order of magnitude.”
“Despite the Centers for Disease Control’s halt on evictions until March 31, local lawyers say many eviction cases are still happening. Prior to the pandemic we were facing an eviction crisis it made it worse. We are seeing cases continue.”
Globally, such measures resulted in limited access to sexual and reproductive health care including safe abortion, contraception, and treatment for sexual violence. A tragic consequence of these restrictions is that an unknown number of people living with their abusers were suddenly trapped, with no access to treatment and no way to escape.
“I think we should be very concerned about the risk of a lost generation of students,” said former education secretary John B. King Jr.
In a new survey of more than 100 school districts in Virginia, 40 ranked students as failing due to remote learning.
“People can hope, but I don’t think anyone can realistically say when travel will come anywhere near where it was before,” Noy said. “We are going to see some radical changes.”
Digital devices can interfere with everything from sleep to creativity
“children who spent more than two hours a day on screen-time activities scored lower on language and thinking tests, and some children with more than seven hours a day of screen time experienced thinning of the brain’s cortex, the area of the brain related to critical thinking and reasoning.”
"When we started to see the uptick in children taking their lives, we knew it wasn’t just the COVID numbers we need to look at anymore," Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara told The Times.
The 1.56 billion face masks that will likely enter our oceans in 2020 are just the tip of the iceberg,” says Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, Director of Research for OceansAsia, and lead author of the report. “The 4,680 to 6,240 metric tonnes of face masks are just a small fraction of the estimated 8 to 12 million metric tonnes of plastic that enter our oceans each year.” Plastic consumption, which has been steadily rising for years, increased significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These are just some of impacts that COVID and our response to the pandemic have had. We can learn that:
People will change their normal habits – most likely permanently.
Stigmas will persist – for a lengthy time. In the age of COVID, both camps have them.
Misinformation will be present. Actions will still be taken.
The costs are more than just someone’s health.
More factors are impacted than just the spread of a disease and the health risks involved.
The impoverished are impacted to a greater extent.
The impact will be felt for years, if not permanently.
With that being said, when we ask when it will go away, it becomes a question of risk. What risk(s) are we willing to take? Many on both sides of this issue are adamant on this.
If we do this, the risk is too great.
If we don’t do this, the risk is too great.
We already do a great deal of risk-taking in our daily lives. One of that greatest that we take we have made mundane and don’t think twice about it.
That is driving a car.
Road sign in Kenya. There is much truth here.
There is an average of six million accidents per year with approximately half of those resulting in an injury and a third will suffer serious, life-altering injuries. Road traffic is the single largest source of noise pollution. Some studies have indicated that stress and anxiety caused by excessive time spent in vehicles actually lowers our job and life satisfaction and can increase depression risk. Long commutes are also correlated with more sick days and hospital visits and is shown to lower tolerance and empathy of others within your immediate vicinity.
We have accepted all of the potential dangers for not only ourselves, but for our loved ones and even complete strangers. We rarely think of the repercussions of our daily driving commutes. This is because on various levels, we have accepted the risks involved and still go about our daily lives, without hesitation. Is it that simple of a comparison to make? For some it is. But for all of us, those are decisions we will have to make. That is what we as individuals and groups have to assess and put into practice.
So, when will COVID’s impact end? Much of that is up to you.
P.S. some additional information that is fitting is from Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner. He offers these thoughts on the rationale with implementing measures to limit the spread of disease:
1. Disease spread, unlike storms or some other natural disasters, is unpredictable
2. The most devastating impact is often financial
3. A virus is more nimble than your disaster plan
4. If hospitals are your only battleground, then you have lost
5. The experts will be wrong(often)
6. Your advice will have to sound certain when the facts and science are not
7. In the absence of advice, your community will react
Rao, T. S., & Andrade, C. (2011). The MMR vaccine and autism: Sensation, refutation, retraction, and fraud.
Indian journal of psychiatry, 53(2), 95–96. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5545.82529
Pollak, Andrew N. (2018). Critical Care Transport, 751