A man shows discarded face masks that washed up on the beach of Soko Island in Hong Kong. Reuters
Jacob M. Appel, Tribune News Service
When I deliver lectures on pandemic ethics over Zoom — part of my job as a bioethicist — one of the questions I am asked with increasing frequency is whether I believe there will be any silver linings to COVID-19. I usually respond with dark humour, a quip that I am grateful my barber now wears an N95 mask, so I can avoid small talk while he cuts my hair. Answering this question more seriously, in a manner that respects the deaths of half a million Americans, proves challenging: I do not wish to sound like a benighted Pollyanna who praises World War II for giving us the Slinky.
One does not need to be clairvoyant to recognize that the current pandemic may lead to significant changes — some for the better — in the way that we live and work. For example, the mRNA technology ramped up for COVID-19 vaccines may also prove beneficial in treating autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. The era of the transcontinental business trip is probably over, which may not please airlines, but is a relief for anyone who has ever spent 10 hours in transit to deliver a 30-minute presentation on the opposite coast. In the loss column, chalk up “snow days” and self-service buffet tables.
But what if we are asking the wrong question? Rather than reflecting on how the COVID-19 pandemic will change society, we might want to reflect on how it might change us. Will a year of social isolation and economic distress make us better or worse human beings? When we return to the proverbial “new normal,” will we enter the world with appreciation for the fragility of life and the welfare of our neighbours? Will we donate more blood? Increase our charitable donations? Look in on our elderly neighbours with greater frequency? Or will our tribal instincts have rendered us more selfish and suspicious — a nation of xenophobic hermits who emerge periodically to brawl over toilet paper?
According to social scientists, minor changes in surroundings or experience can have significant impacts on human judgment and behaviour. Locating polling places inside schools, for instance, makes voters more likely to support education funding. People opt for worse financial decisions when they are hungry. Even the time of day and the weather matters. Needless to say, the scope of the current crisis is bound to have an impact many magnitudes greater.
One does not need to be an expert, of course, to recognise the impact of significant historical events of the behaviour of those who live through them. Generational cohorts give birth to generational stereotypes, some true. My own grandfather, an adolescent of the Great Depression, tore napkins in half into his 80s to save pennies. Increasingly, data show that historic calamities shape not only the behaviour of survivors — but also their offspring. Researchers at Milan’s Bocconi University have analysed survey data to show that the 1918 flu pandemic increased distrust among the children of survivors. Evidence from major earthquakes suggests that a poor government response to disaster exacerbates a decline in interpersonal trust.
Social science, of course, is not destiny. Our civil institutions and political leaders can still unite us — but history suggests their challenge will be harder going forward. The first step is asking the right question. To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy: Rather than wonder how the pandemic will generate technological and lifestyle windfalls for ourselves, we must ask what lessons from the pandemic we can harness to help others. Whether we are better or worse for COVID-19 is, at least in part, a verdict within our control.
We’re all facing a whole lot more unknowns than ever before. If all of that has taken a toll on your mental health, you’re not alone.
As per a Mayo Clinic expert, wearing masks is not a foolproof way of protecting yourself from the disease. Washing hands thoroughly and frequently, in addition to resisting touching your face will shield you better.
Abu Dhabi Police have distributed face masks and personal protective supplies among residents of a number of areas in the capital, including Musaffah, Al Mafraq and Al Shawamekh in addition to Al Ain City, as part of the "For Your Safety" Campaign.
Cloth masks, particularly those with several layers of cotton cloth, can reduce transmission of Covid-19 by blocking up to 99 per cent of infectious particles, say researchers.
California’s Orange County health officer resigned last week after protests at her house over her mask mandate. Fresno, Riverside and San Bernardino counties softened theirs after push-back. President Donald Trump has famously shunned the coronavirus face covering. And Santa Clara County resisted mask orders for weeks before joining other Bay Area counties in requiring them.
Adventures in space give both, those taking part in them and those following them a frisson of thrill unmatched perhaps in any other field. In both cases, it shoots up the adrenalin and trigger waves of delight that keep overwhelming the senses. The excitement could be equal to, or perhaps
Enrique Yglesias left Cuba two years ago for a better life. From Uruguay, he trekked to Guyana, across the Amazonian jungle and Central America to Mexico and the US border, where he asked for asylum. He just arrived in Cutler Bay in South Miami-Dade after his release from detention, so he
You’d have to say that, with the benefit of hindsight, it does seem kind of obvious. The more we breathe on each other, the easier it is for nasty things to spread. I’m sure we knew this, didn’t we? Strange, then, that it took a pandemic and 127,000 deaths in the UK for us to do something about it.
China is shoring up ties with autocratic partners like Russia and Iran, as well as economically dependent regional countries, while using sanctions and threats to try to fracture the alliances the United States is building against it. Worryingly for Beijing, diplomats and analysts say, the Biden administration