The world has faced pandemics before, but this one is different.
First, the virus is easily transmitted, both on surfaces and airborne. I remember the 1980s and the fear we all had of HIV/AIDS, but transmission required more intimate exposure than an airborne virus. Still, we were frightened, and that fear led to alienation and mass hysteria. We got our information from the news on television, radio, and newspapers. We spread the fear through whispers.
Second, we have social media and access to news 24 hours a day. There are people who play on those fears to scam us and there are people who use those fears for personal and political ends. As much as we try to turn it off, for me at least, I am drawn to know what is the latest information available. Maybe there is something that will save us.
Third, there is the added stress of how this pandemic is affecting the world’s economy. We are literally afraid for our lives but we are also afraid for what happens if we live through this epidemic. How will we go on if our jobs are gone? Will we lose our homes? Will we lose our futures?
Fourth, we have come to feel secure in the medical technology that is available to save us. Respirators did not exist during the 1918 Influenza Epidemic or any of the many Cholera epidemics that have devastated populations in the past. But in spite of having the technology, we don’t have what we need. We don’t have enough respirators, protective masks and gloves, hospital beds, medical staff, etc. And we know there isn’t enough.
Fifth, we are preparing for this and in our preparations we are becoming desperate. I don’t think we as humans have ever prepared for a pandemic in such a massive way, but the preparation is coming at the eleventh hour. The preparations are hurting the most vulnerable who were unaware they needed to prepare until it was too late.
But in spite of all those ways in which this pandemic is different from all that came before, it is also somehow bringing us all together. In spite of being isolated from each other, we are still constantly communicating with each other. We can use this opportunity to come together against a common enemy. We can learn the lessons that are hidden in this challenging time and take them with us into our lives. We can be better prepared for the next pandemic by working together internationally and recognizing that we are one world. So instead of feeling anxious and fearful, act. Do something to help someone else. Do something to lighten someone else’s burden. Do something that will show the future generations that we handled this in the best way possible.
By Theresa Dodaro
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