2020 was arguably the worst year for humanity since World War II, and even now the pandemic persists. As of late April 2021, over 3.1 million people have died of Covid-19. In America — the country with the world’s biggest economy — 580,000 have perished, nearly 20% of the global death toll.
While the pandemic is still raging on, there’s reason to be optimistic about the future. The vaccines that have been rolled out have been largely effective. It’s quite possible that when summer arrives, people will be able to attend baseball games, concerts, parties, movie theaters and go on vacations again. We might have taken these things for granted in the past, but when the day comes when a bit of normalcy returns, we will savor it. But then, yeah, we’ll eventually reach a point where we’ll take it for granted again. But in the meantime, here are some things that we’ve learned:
1. Most have been willing to make sacrifices
Sure, there are those entitled Karens and…um…male Karens who blabber on about how masks are “muzzles” and blah blah blah freedom, but most people understand the seriousness of the situation and recognize that social distancing and the minor inconvenience of wearing a mask today will pay dividends in the not-too-distant future. Although super-spreader events made big headlines, there were tens of millions of people who did the responsible thing and put their social lives on hold in order to prevent more hospitalizations and deaths.
2. A deeper appreciation for frontline workers
The pandemic highlights just how essential doctors, nurses, teachers, meat plant workers, grocery store and restaurant employees, police officers, delivery drivers, social workers, and janitors are. They go to work at their own peril to make sure we’re fed, protected and cared for. They also have to put up with screaming Karens who argue about masks or the fact that their Chicken McNuggets took 20 minutes to make due to long queues.
3. Science has saved us yet again
Refusing to believe in science isn’t new. Notable astronomers were excommunicated from the Church centuries ago for proving the Earth rotated around the Sun. But scientific breakthroughs are why lives get saved. We owe a debt of gratitude to the researchers who developed vaccines in record time, allowing us to (hopefully) end the pandemic soon. Of course, there are cynical folks — especially politicians — who will exploit the uncertainty for their own personal ends. The fact is, even the most seasoned virologists will struggle when a new virus is unleashed upon the world. But their knowledge is improving by the day.
4. We are resilient
Confronting Covid-19 wasn’t as easy as many had expected. When the country started going into lockdown in March 2020, there was this assumption that in a matter of weeks everything would resume like normal. It certainly didn’t help to have a president who believed a sunny attitude and wanting to wish the virus away was all that was needed. But in any event, most people did wear masks and avoided large gatherings, and as a result lives were saved. But even as we survived, let’s not forget that we could easily have been one of the unlucky ones who didn’t make it. It’s important to show compassion for those who died and the families that mourn them.
5. There’s a war on truth
Although on the whole the Internet is a good thing, it’s also caused a lot of harm. With just a few clicks, conspiracy-minded people can seek out alternative facts. Of course, this all predates Covid-19, but the fact remains that disinformation is the key reason why we’re still struggling with the pandemic more than a year later. As the saying goes, “You are entitled to your opinion, but not the facts.” However, people still choose to believe in the QAnon conspiracy or the nonsense about the 2020 presidential election being rigged without feeling the need to provide evidence.
6. We are flexible
As mentioned, most of us had this idea that we would only have to put up with the inconveniences of the lockdown for a few weeks. But once it became a long-term reality, we found ways to adapt. We’re socializing through Zoom or having a glass of wine with neighbors while on our respective balconies. Working from home or having kids endure remote learning hasn’t been the greatest thing, but we’re learning how to improve the experience. In fact, some companies are seeing the benefits of having their staff work from home rather than in an office that requires hefty rental fees. Even when Covid-19 is behind us, our worklives will never be the same.
7. We should be grateful this happened now and not in the 1980s
The ability to order groceries online, easily find out the location of the nearest vaccine clinic, remote working and learning, connect with friends and family through social media, and binge on streaming services to keep us sane are all things we take for granted, but without the internet none of this would have been possible. Of course, this isn’t to say we aren’t eager to return to the cinemas, church or dining out. All of the movies that have been released in the past year would have been far more enjoyable to watch at the movie theater rather than on our laptops.
8. Unfortunately we are likely to not learn all of the lessons
Sadly, history has a way of repeating itself, and even if the world gets Covid-19 under control, insisting that the pandemic is a hoax or refusing to accept scientific truth increases the odds that we’ll have to do this all over again someday — and perhaps sooner than we would like.