What do you think is the best thing that could happen out of the COVID-19 pandemic?
I think it’s Connection.
How ironic, as the current best solution to mitigating illness and death is physical (not really social) separation.
Connection won’t come easily, though. Today I felt all kinds of yuck: Conflicted. Unsettled. Angry, Cynical, Fearful, Guilty, Annoyed, Confined, Enraged. Not exactly connecting emotions. The people going about their usual routines, disregarding distancing guidelines, and claiming it as their right to ‘live free’ agitate me the most. When they get sick, and after they have infected numerous others, some gravely, my colleagues and I will care for them the same as for those who followed the guidelines and acted unselfishly for the greater good. We will put ourselves in harm’s way, and more of us will pay with our lives for their false freedom. Because when your ‘right’ to ‘live free’ puts others’ lives at risk, that is not freedom. That is negligence.
That said, I’ve not lost all hope. Through Facebook, Zoom, email and snail mail, I am now better connected with some folks than before, and I’m grateful. They have helped me consider and envision the best possible New Normal on the other side of COVID-19. I share my wish list below, as well as links to my favorite articles from the past week.
Also, join me this Wednesday, April 8, at 6pm Chicago time for an Instagram live chat. Owners Tim and Victoria at Ethos Training Systems will host a fireside-style session on COVID-19. You can join by finding me, chenger91, or Ethos, at the time above. Please know that I do this public event as a friend of Ethos, and not as a representative of my employer or any medical professional society. I claim no expertise in infectious disease or epidemiology; I’m just one doctor doing my best to share relevant information and practical advice.
To Create Our Best Post-COVID Future, Let Us:
Continue to connect earnestly with people near and far.
Advance toward universal healthcare in some form, and shore up our social safety nets.
Reclaim our collective mindset—temper extreme individualism with more altruism and empathy.
Slow down—maintain more flexible work schedules, better childcare options. Generate less pollution, decrease unnecessary production and consumption.
Live more mindfully and in the present: Enjoy the good more and dwell less on the bad. Increase both awareness and appreciation of all that is well in life.
Hold rigorous science and medicine far above opinion and ideology.
Practice Learning, Flexibility, Agility, and Resilience, in all domains, large and small, individually and as a collective.
Recognize our shared humanity, maintain that recognition, and act consistently from that recognition—bake it into our cultural norms henceforth.
Pieces that helped me the past week:
An excellent review of the evolution of and rationale for universal masking: https://www.vox.com/2020/3/31/21198132/coronavirus-covid-face-masks-n95-respirator-ppe-shortage?fbclid=IwAR237JXMUy94AcI_4uigdP3ZZUfoNd1c_4tyRDi-A8u2BYm7YZmSJ0f3ii8
A summary of current knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, written accessibly and with practical recommendations, by my teacher and colleague, Dr. Alex Lickerman: https://imaginemd.net/blog/coronavirus-april-2020-part-5/?fbclid=IwAR20m7QfOSUlZlAZuTaytKDaw210j_wWuqd6xgGBeTbIHAEfZeASfDnYTac
From Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper: But today is Palm Sunday, and Easter Sunday is a week away. This week is the beginning of Holy Week, a time of spiritual renewal and rebirth. So, I’m taking that as a sign that we aren’t meant to go back to what was. We are meant to go forward both individually and collectively. Each of us will come out of this time a different person, a changed human being. How could we not?
What a double tragedy it would be if we went back to the way we were. To a time when we didn’t care for our planet. To a time when we were so mean to one another. To a time when we were so divided in every way. To a time when we didn’t know our neighbors. To a time when so many only cared about themselves and saw others as the “other.”
A diagram shared on social media of our human responses to the crisis (I don’t know who created it—if you do, please give credit in the comments and tell them thank you). I think it’s normal that we should find ourselves doing things in each of the nested circles every day. We can exercise compassion for ourselves and others at the same time:
Finally, a poem, also from Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, shared by her niece, who died with her 8 year-old son the very same day:
Things will likely feel worse for at least a few weeks before they feel better, my friends. Hold tight to those you love and who love you. Count your blessings. Take perspective. Consider deeply our inextricable and undeniable interconnectedness. Be kind.