Pandemics and Endemics – What Can We Learn?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought something out of all of us. Long days sitting inside, working from home, and wearing masks has been unlike most of what this country has experienced. The uncertainty with catching the virus, the inability to socialize, and the fear that was instilled in each one of us has upended our lives, for better or worse. The COVID-19 crisis is becoming endemic, but not without its consequences.

Learning from the Experience

With the United States recently passing the one million mark in terms of COVID-19 deaths, it would be foolhardy to forget the impact it has had on loved ones. It’s important to remember that those who died are not just statistics, but people that should be remembered. Continuing their memory will ensure we continue to work for a better future that is more equitable. Indeed, the pandemic has highlighted health inequities in the United States, with many racial and ethnic minority groups having been at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.

How do we ensure that we continue the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic? It is not as simple as it seems. Monkeypox – endemic in central and western Africa, has clawed its way around the world to pose a genuine health concern across the globe. Although not as easily transmissible, and yes, there is a vaccine, this has not stopped the heavy reporting on the virus – an indication of its interest and potential danger to the public. How we approach this virus means continuing those same practices that were instilled during the pandemic, such as washing hands frequently, and avoiding close physical contact with people who are sick.

Pandemic Consequences

It is more than that, however. The pandemic has undoubtedly brought us all further apart. Away from each other – whether at home, socially distanced, or without facial recognition, there was never a time in recent history where people were frightened to be close to others on this large a scale. It is the pandemic that made our inhibitions come to light. That hesitancy, driven by fear, as well as a desire for health and safety, drove our survival instincts. We became acutely aware of our own mortality, even for our youngest.

That desire for maintaining our health often conflicted with our desire for social interaction, for togetherness, and for bittersweet memories. Although not a problem like it once was, the pandemic has taught us that we are not immune to misfortune. In particular, society is vulnerable towards the impact of health crises.

Yet, throughout all of this, there is one thing that we have come to learn. Through all the lockdowns, isolation, quarantine, and remoteness, the irony of the experience is that it has brought us all closer together.

Understanding

As a nation, we grew apart, but as people, we came to understand our own struggles even further. Through that understanding, we gained insight towards the struggles of others. We sympathized with friends and family. We sent heartfelt prayers towards people we didn’t know, just from hearing about their story through news. Whether we caught the virus or not, everyone was a victim of the virus.

It is through that association that was evident in each one of us, that we were all going through the same thing. For the first time, we could all connect with each other and most likely had a shared opinion on the experience – that we didn’t like it and wanted it to be over sooner than later.

Through the experience, we matured, and became more reliable people. We all sacrificed something. Whether it was getting together with friends, our health, or losing loved ones, it wasn’t all for naught. More than ever, our health is considered in the decisions we, employers, and the government makes.

Continuing

Although the pandemic tried to bring us apart, it had only brought people closer together. Through a mutual understanding of our limitations and the difficulties we faced, it became more evident as we searched for meaning behind the experience. Our collective identity was a result not of our disengagement with society, but of the connections between our experiences that had led us on a broader search.

In that, we found the answer.

It meant to continue against the odds – and against difficult circumstances. It was that continuity that many people clung to that was our healing. Undoubtedly, we became stronger people. Knowing that nothing is guaranteed, we hung on to those things that brought us enjoyment.

Are we still the same people compared to before the pandemic? Most people would say they are not. The experience of a health crisis led them to question what was important, and in that search, they found that often, it was no longer necessary to thrive. To survive was all that was needed, and in that dichotomy, we became content with the simple things in life.

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