The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers numerous definitions for the word “crisis.” One such definition is “the turning point, for better or for worse, in an acute disease or fever.” Another is “an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending.”
We are at such a moment now. The world is facing an invisible enemy that is highly contagious, can be transmitted by persons who are not experiencing symptoms, and can be potentially deadly. If we, as a global society, do not make some key decisive changes, those changes will be thrust upon us.
The economic devastation caused by the COVID 19 virus is unprecedented, with U.S. Labor Department data showing that approximately 23 million Americans are receiving unemployment. The challenge we all face is to resume some sort of normal life while protecting our health and each other. On one hand, we have observed some of the public ignoring commonly recommended safe practices, such as social distancing, limiting public gatherings, wearing protective facemasks, and others. Conversely, we have seen healthcare workers and essential workers heroically rise to the occasion and go beyond the call of duty.
If one looks back at the 1918 Spanish Flu, we can see how our current pandemic may play out. Following the 1918 pandemic, significant changes were made for the betterment of society, including improved medical understanding of pathogenic diseases, better sanitation, and new norms for personal hygiene. We now need to look at our current situation and determine what improvements we will want to see moving forward.
In the short term, we must adhere to required protective measures that have been shown to limit the spread of the disease. Of note have been the multiple studies that show the benefits of everyone wearing a protective face covering or mask. The possible solution that offers the best hope for a return to “normal” would be the development of a vaccine that provides effective protection against this pathogen.
Beyond the immediate measures we all must take; we need to visualize the world we want to see. This will hopefully include greater care and respect for each other, the importance of relationships with family, friends and loved ones, appreciation for heroic healthcare and essential workers, and the importance of personal hygiene. The COVID 19 virus has presented us with a serious challenge. We must now look to and develop the opportunities it has also created.