Two and a half years later, and where are we in the COVID-19 pandemic? What lessons have we learned? Depending on who you ask, one can make the argument that as humans we have not come that far. Though we presently have a choice of therapeutics with antiviral meds and IV treatments to prevent severe COVID outcomes, hospitalizations, or even deaths, we have discounted other non-invasive mitigation strategies that helped to slow the spread. Remember that message, “Help slow the spread”? It's as if the world decided to force herd immunity as a mitigation strategy, and forgo leveraging methods such as masking, and social distancing. Where does this leave our most vulnerable in the population?
Many argue global warming and climate change do not exist. Many still ignored the many warning signs of this long overdue pandemic even though we had many premonitions with the Zika and West Nile viruses, Avian flu, and the resurgence of measles that plagued states like New York and California prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, we are now battling Monkeypox which has been around some regions in Africa and other parts of the world. Nothing was done until it recently re-surged and impacted well developed and rich nations.
This selfish behavior has now put the entire world at risk. This same selfish behavior and unwillingness to truly examine the impact the COVID-19 virus has had is unfathomable. People are still dying from this virus and other treatable or preventable diseases daily. The devastating impact this pandemic has brought is undeniable. Mental illness, homelessness, an epidemic of unexplained violence, and economic loss, are all just some indicators that the pandemic is far from over. We have lost control of cases and although the number of deaths have decreased, people are still dying needlessly. Vulnerable people with many underlying health conditions, people with mental disabilities, elderly, and those immunocompromised are all at risk, yet most modern countries are doing nothing to slow the spread or address these populations. Instead, everyone has irresponsibly dropped mask mandates, or no longer require anyone to be vaccinated. Additionally, our leaders refuse to put funds into developing longer lasting vaccines, and have incorrectly shortened quarantine time if someone tests positive. This all has been done to prioritize the economy over health and safety. The end of vaccine enforcement, testing requirements by certain countries as well as for international travel, or to do recreational activities can all be seen as reckless by some in the medical community and World Health Organization. The dropping of these mitigation techniques are senseless, and cruel to those in the previously mentioned subgroups.
People of color and those in marginalized communities have suffered significantly during the pandemic. People of color, including Blacks, Hispanics, and Indigenous people make up a large portion of those impacted by death, particularly during the early period of the pandemic. These groups are less likely to be up to date with vaccines and are instead more likely to have public facing jobs that require them to take crowded transportation, therefore leading to impact with Long COVID. These same groups and other marginalized communities are already victims of a system that disproportionately generates unhealthy outcomes for them, and have systemic racism built into the healthcare system. The early rallying cry during this pandemic was to improve the disparities that the pandemic highlighted, yet two years later we have done nothing but further drive that narrative by setting up those same groups to again experience the most negative outcomes. Doing away with all mitigation techniques and safety protocols has provided a false sense of security. This level of recklessness is being driven solely by economic needs, without looking at the long term implications. Once again the unfair fall out will impact those with lower economic stance who cannot afford to stay home, have less than adequate healthcare, and have, or are predisposed to having underlying health conditions.
No one can say what the future of this pandemic is. The lesson we all expected to learn is how to do things better, and how to avoid another pandemic. Unfortunately, many are still arguing and drawing lines in the sand. We as a global society are losing sight of facts based on science. There is hope in current and ongoing studies, and in groups such as Survivor Corp that is a one stop safe haven for those impacted by Long COVID. Long COVID is a further complication for some who have battled the virus, yet still exhibit symptoms, or changes to their health due to the virus. This is another matter that scientists and physicians are still trying to understand. Additional funding and support is lacking for research, and once again, those in communities of color and marginalized communities often do not have access to these research studies and facilities designed to treat Long COVID. These groups are often not educated about their options for treatment and services for Long COVID.
So, what lessons have we really learned, and what will we do as survivors to educate ourselves, families, friends, and peers? Will we take the time to self-evaluate ways to do better and to demand better from our healthcare officials, or will we fall victim to again being unprepared for the next health emergency or pandemic?
To learn more about resources for Long COVID, you can reach out to a medical professional, your local health department, or your local hospital. You can also visit the Survivor Corps website at surviorcorps.com or the Center for Disease Control website at cdc.gov.