Bladine: How will COVID change the world?

We see the physical manifestations of a two-year pandemic: masks, quarantines, social and civic separation, empty offices, canceled events, to name a few. What remains to be learned is how our shared exposure to ravages of the COVID-19 virus will change who we are and what we do.

Will people experience a new form of post-traumatic stress, or suffer more serious variations of post-traumatic stress disorder? Will it alter how we interact with each other and the world around us? Will there be evolving changes — for better or worse — among children of the pandemic?

Historian Keith Wailoo, speaking last year to NPR, warned of thinking the pandemic will end on a certain date. “In fact,” he said, “what’s more likely … is that the pandemic will have a very, very long tail, and it will end unevenly.”

In Yamhill County from mid-October through December, COVID-19 cases averaged about 175 per week. That was down 60-plus percent from September, and people talked about an end in sight. Then, January brought a four-week stretch averaging about 1,350 cases weekly — a less deadly variation, perhaps, but stunningly more contagious.

Last week, the county case count dropped to 400, and Oregonians joined a nationwide call to eliminate mask and other government mandates. While Americans and others clash over government controls, Wailoo reminded us that “You need coordinating activity … given the fact that we’re likely to be needing booster shots and grappling with variants, there will be a continual need and role for governments.”

There are opportunities for positive change, as contemplated by Boston University professor of epidemiology Sandro Galea:

“The COVID-19 pandemic was a momentous global failure, highlighting above all else the limitations of the social forces that produce our health. Far more people died than needed to because our weak social and economic systems had predisposed us to poor health to begin with … It means that we need to take a long, hard look at the social and economic systems that underlie how we live, work and play … COVID-19 should give us the reasons — finally — not to rest until we have restructured our world so that there are no health haves and health have-nots.”

Meanwhile, here’s one small COVID-19 irony: After a lifetime of annual head colds, and years of travel to Washington for head-clearing pseudoephedrine, Oregon approved over-the-counter access to that miracle drug.

But thanks to masks, I haven’t had a head cold in 24 months!

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.


Don Dix

Wouldn't it be beneficial if the 'actual' origin of the virus, including specific details, was revealed? That might change everything virus related, and particularly treatment and prevention.

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