Remember where you were and what you were doing on March 26, 2020, years from now, despite reaching new dire milestone almost daily, this date may be marked as historic. The first positive case in the US occurred on January 21st, roughly a month later on February 26th, 55 more were added. Exactly a month after that on March 26, with 81,836 positive tests and 1,186 deaths, US surpassed China in number of confirmed Covid 19 cases. While the first positive case in Canada was recorded on January 25, 2020.
If you were told when you were set to celebrate Christmas, December 2019, that in a mere quarter, three months, 90 days, that you will do your part to contribute to humanity by simply staying home, you would be in disbelief. In addition, you are asked to do this for an indefinite but hopefully, really hopefully foreseeable future, you would have mixed reactions from bemusement, sarcasm to being completely baffled. Yet, here we are.
Pandemics are fluid phenomena and can change directions rapidly. Right now, this very moment, there is nothing more important worldwide than the global pandemic of Covid 19. At the time of writing, state of Louisiana has the highest rate of confirmed coronavirus cases per capital. Just couple of weeks after the state’s first positive case and not many days after Mardi Gras in New Orleans on February 25th, 2020. This rate is higher than many other reported hot spots including Italy, Spain, New York, Iran, and California.
Covid 19, previously known as the 2019 novel coronavirus, is named for the disease it causes, coronavirus disease. Viruses and the diseases they cause usually have different names. The human immunodeficiency virus, better known as HIV, causes a breakdown of the immune system resulting in an acquired immune deficiency syndrome better know as AIDS. We often know the name of a disease but not necessarily the virus causing the disease, like the virus Rubeola that causes Measles.
Viruses are named by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, ICTV, based on their genetic sequences to expedite research and development of therapeutic treatments, diagnostic testing, medication and vaccines. Diseases are named by the World Health Organization, WHO, to facilitate discussions on remedies, treatments, contagion, severity and preventions. The Covid 19 is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the severe acute respiratory syndrome, better known as SARS and was named as the SARS-CoV-2 but due to the negative connotation of SARS, Covid 19 was adopted.
There are so many moving parts to this global pandemic that it’s difficult to contemplate what stage we are currently at, the beginning, middle, certainly not at the end of this incomprehensible situation yet. The spread of this virus initially getting traction from Wuhan, capital of Hubei province in China, was somewhat alarming but certainly it would be contained before too long and it’s continents away. Did we ever get this wrong.
As a result, social distancing is the consequence and the unintended buzz word with unrivalled global acceptance, at least that is the hope. Although a topic for another time, this is actually something Generation Z and Millennials have already widely and unwittingly identified with through social media. It also may be one of the dominant reasons why loneliness and mental health issues are so prevalent. Ironically, not accounting for the many very unfortunate sickness and deaths brought about by this novel virus, social distancing is actually bringing many families together literally and figuratively speaking.
The ubiquitous closing of borders, home made protective masks for health care providers, $2.2 trillion stimulus package, the Louvre closed to the public, empty streets in major cities worldwide are all untenable concepts. Coming across a stranger a mere few yards away and worried like you have been exposed to the plague, any one of these would have made alarming global headlines, let alone all of them and much much more combined as our new reality.
We are put in a position to question everything in our old normal with this global health and now spilled over to a global economic crisis as well. From our health care system, impact on the vulnerable population, automation, working and learning remotely, our lifestyle choices, the need for human interaction and so much more. What if we don’t flatten the curve sufficiently? What is the aftermath of Covid 19?
For now, based on what we know, we are thankful that although this virus has a very high infection rate but it’s blessedly not matched by an equal fatality rate. If it originated from bats and made the leap to humans, it is probably because of human’s encroachment to their habitats and not the other way round. Swine flu originated from birds, HIV from chimpanzees, Zika originated from mosquitoes, now Covid 19 from bats.
Based on the world’s interconnectedness, as we maneuver through this unimaginable crisis, already one of the obvious lesson emerges, this will not be the last global pandemic by any stretch of the imagination. To wish for that would be like wishing that man will no longer excavate, mine, dig, explore, and impede into the habitat zones meant for other organisms that co-exist with us on this planet. So what will we learn from this crisis?
Will there be temporary or permanent behaviour changes as we are made aware, then inflicted, now battle this microcosmic enemy? Unfortunately, some behaviour will never change even in times of crisis, like price gauging and now Covid 19 cyber scams that’s already starting to take place. In addition, what are the future fallouts from these unprecedented full scale measures implemented at every level of government globally? How will the world react next time to the mere mention of a breakout post Covid 19?
Alternatively, can this be all about our health care system and health care readiness that vastly vary from one country to another. This is made no more apparent than the unfathomable deaths of 51 physicians at the time of writing in Italy, amid this Covid 19 war. In a mere few months, what was once perceived as invaluable personal possessions, have been replaced by premium commodities like hospital beds, gloves, face masks, gowns and other essential life saving equipment. This is the new reality as health care providers struggle and risk everything to fight this battle with insufficient and improper protective gears.
As researcher, pharmaceuticals, and scientists all race to find therapeutic treatments, medication, and vaccines to combat Covid 19, we will have to live in this unfamiliar and unknown new normal. As recent satellite images show an unexpected clearer image of planet earth from a decline in pollution level as human activities virtually grinds to a halt, this maybe the only slither of silver lining for now. Unintended consequences will undoubtedly arise in this behemoth war waged by Covid 19, as we for now live in this current alternative universe and any of the expected and unexpected consequences of social distancing.