COVID-19 is bad. There’s no way to sugar coat it. The virus has killed thousands, caused vast economic disruption, and left millions suffering from new or exacerbated mental illness.
But the battle against COVID-19 may have some silver linings; and one of them is how much we have learned about infectious disease in general, and about how to deal with and fight it. Here are a few things:
We Should All Own Masks
Don’t throw away those reusable cloth masks after the pandemic. Certainly don’t throw away the pattern if you’ve been making them.
Yes, there will come a day when you won’t have to wear one every time you leave the house, but masks, even cloth masks, reduce the spread of respiratory disease in general.
If you have respiratory symptoms, even if it’s just a common cold, wear a mask when you go out. Consider wearing a mask if you are going into a situation where exposure risk is high, such as to your doctor’s office.
Universal masking is particularly vital for COVID-19 because of the long incubation period and high rate of asymptomatic spread. But strategic masking can keep us all healthy and support the economy.
Education is Vital
Rampant misinformation is one of the things that has made fighting this so hard.
We need to provide age-appropriate public health education to our children…and to their parents. People need to know how viruses spread, how vaccines work, how antibiotics work. Some of us already knew this, but the pandemic has brought it into the mainstream.
Lots of Information is Good and Bad
Know anyone who’s panicked or had an anxiety attack over a new strain of COVID-19?
Tracking new strains is important for tracing how the pandemic moves and what activities should be curtailed. But it can also lead to more worry and concern. Will this variant evade the vaccine? Which rapidly leads some people into “omgwe’reallgonnadie” territory. If we didn’t know about the new strains we wouldn’t be as worried.
Of course, then we wouldn’t be as well equipped to fight them. It’s a two-edged sword.
This is the most tested disease ever, and sometimes that can lead to us thinking things are worse than they are. Or better.
mRNA Vaccines Will Stop Future Pandemics
They’re expensive and difficult to store. But they are also hugely effective and can be produced for a new virus quickly.
Now we know that mRNA vaccines are safe and effective, then next time we need one we’ll get a running start and potentially get a vaccine tested before a disease goes global. This, of course, requires coordination and the willingness to spend money on other countries.
Let’s say we have an outbreak of something new in Ghana. We need to develop the vaccine…and get it to Ghana before it spreads too far. Global health is global.
Which brings me to…
We’re All in This Together
COVID-19 hasn’t united the planet, but it should have. Moving forward, we need to think about unity.
And we need to think about how our actions affect others. For many years, I’ve disinfected my footwear when traveling if I’m going to be around livestock. This is a relatively simple step which can keep bacterial infections from spreading.
Now I’m probably going to do it before and after every trip because the human animal matters too.
When traveling, get all recommended vaccinations, make sure to plan well in advance. Launder your clothes when you get back. Disinfect your shoes. And, just in case, take a mask. Or three.
If we all practice basic hand hygiene and infection control, we should be able to stop the next pandemic before it becomes this.
But we all have to do it.
We have to believe in and support and propagate science, and we have to, well.
Wash our hands.