By Lena Thakor a member of the GHS class of 2021, third in a series chronicling student experiences with remote learning during the closure of Greenwich Schools, instituted March 12 to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Nothing will ever be the same.
That’s what I think to myself when I hear people around me rambling on about how everything is going to go back to normal. In the flip of a switch we will re-integrate back into society and congregate at restaurants and stores and movie theaters the way we used to. Never mind the incalculable number of deaths to COVID-19 seen around the world, not to mention the US, where the death toll still rapidly climbs, ascending past a number incomprehensible at the time the nation shut down: 100,000.
COVID-19 has revealed just how vulnerable our society is to pathogens. In the midst of this pandemic, it is alarming to think that just a couple months ago world citizens hopped on planes and jetted off to popular locations without having their temperature checked or their tray table copiously wiped down. Back then, people were just people, and not vectors of pathogens. Now, we must think of them as both because the question of the arrival of the next viral pandemic is not if, but when, and we need to be ready.
This necessity warrants us to be wary of every breath we take, every surface we touch, every pedestrian we pass. Our world only a couple of months ago was defined by touch. The language of humans: handshakes, hugs, pats on the back. But now our country is devoid of touch. What will become of touch now? That is one of the lingering questions posed by the virus. Another one of the multitudes of uncertainties that has arisen from this pandemic.
One thing is clear: we didn’t act as quickly as we should have. Columbia University disease modelers estimate that if we’d have shut down the country a mere two weeks before we did, on March 1, 83% of the deaths caused by COVID-19 could’ve been prevented. 83 percent. By May 3rd, 65,307 deaths caused by COVID-19 had been reported, but the disease modelers estimate that if the country had been shut down just 2 weeks earlier, the death toll would’ve been 11,253. These numbers represent the difference between night and day.
In addition, the arrival of multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) changes the game. MIS-C seems to be a pediatric post-infectious immune response to COVID-19.
The symptoms of MIS-C are similar to those of Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome: inflammation in blood vessels and dilated arteries, and seem to be much more serious than the symptoms experienced by children upon initial exposure to the virus.
Most of the individuals afflicted test positive for COVID-19 anti-bodies, suggesting the syndrome is linked to COVID-19.
As of May 22, 2020, New York reported 122 individuals afflicted with this condition and 6 deaths due to the syndrome. Despite its similarities to toxic shock and Kawasaki disease, MIS-C is in some ways still cryptic to researchers and scientists. For instance, the New York Times reported that individuals with MIS-C are far more likely to need life support and/or intensive care than individuals with Kawasaki disease; a puzzling fact.
MIS-C is still a relatively rare syndrome, but it necessitates consideration by lawmakers on when local businesses and schools should be opened up again. The onset of MIS-C reveals that young people are more susceptible to COVID-19 than previously thought, and this surely should warrant a pause to think about how to proceed in re-opening states.
After surpassing a grim marker, 100,000 deaths caused by COVID-19, and learning the details of a menacing new pediatric syndrome, we must not think about the could haves or would haves, and rather fixate on the glimmers of hope.
Hope comes in the form of businesses and individuals vowing to prevent another pandemic through their words and actions.
Sit-in restaurants are switching to take-out and vowing to never come back. Airlines are filling up airplanes to less than 50% occupancy and loading the back of the plane before the front.
Life will not return to “normal” because this pandemic has altered the meaning of “normal.” But is that entirely a bad thing? We have learned to take advantage of a beautiful day, drive less, and spend more time with our loved ones.
In a society that is constantly accelerating, we are being granted a rare moment to pause, reflect and appreciate. As the pandemic appears to fade, we must vow not to lose sight of these values.