This suggests that travel restrictions weren’t justified later in the pandemic except in highly connected countries, or in regions with low transmission that wanted to keep the virus out, says co-author Mark Jit, an infectious-disease modeller at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Preventing travel from high-prevalence countries would be sufficient to reduce exposure in many regions, says Jit.
“Countries shouldn’t instinctively say that, just because there is a pandemic, we should have travel restrictions.” Hoffman says that observational studies are now needed to tease out the effectiveness of countries completely shutting their borders. “There is a good chance that a whole lot of what we are doing is causing more harm than good.”
There are several reasons for that. People still seem to see the pandemic purely as a natural disaster, not as one worsened by policy failures. And natural disasters—like wars—tend to boost incumbent support. Many Americans have no point of comparison for such a global crisis, and even those who do are largely looking to European countries that, as their second wave hits, have failed nearly as much as the United States. The numerous examples of successful control of the virus, from Australia to China to Nigeria, are almost all in the Asia-Pacific region and Africa, and simply aren’t on the radar of Western voters.
Those pushing herd immunity want people to think that it could be the route out of the Covid crisis, when, in fact, it’s more likely to prolong the nightmare. Just think for a second what such a strategy would actually look like. We would end up in a situation like that currently being faced in parts of Belgium — hospitals are under such pressure that drugs are being rationed and doctors have been issued with guidance on who is eligible for treatment. All this is before we consider what effect it would have on NHS staff who would also become unwell and unable to tend to the sick.
How do we take care of people who care for us?
Chang, one of Breen’s Central Park West mourners, had been working with her for several years when she brought up clinician burnout. An emergency physician with a doctorate in psychology, Chang regularly worked under Breen’s direction at the Allen Hospital. He also studies how stress plays out in hospital environments. Breen theorized that if groups of doctors, nurses, and technicians at the Allen worked together in consistent teams—instead of different permutations of coworkers for different cases—their well-being would improve. “Her personal belief was that we’re stronger together,” said Chang. When Breen implemented the team-based care plan in the ER, she worked with Chang and two other colleagues to study the outcome. Breen’s intuition was correct: Working together reduced burnout.
For many, the pandemic is merely an annoyance. But some groups face a particular risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd), the symptoms of which include nightmares, flashbacks and feelings of guilt, anxiety or isolation. The most vulnerable are those who have been very ill, or lost relatives, as well as victims of previous traumas (such as refugees), and those with front-line jobs, such as doctors and nurses. In Spain nearly a sixth of those infected are health-care workers, and most of them show signs of ptsd. In Bangladesh, where the incomes of poor people briefly fell by 80% when lockdowns were tight, 86% of people in one poll reported covid-19-related stress.
Unemployment is particularly high for performing artists, of whom 27.4 percent report being unemployed, roughly twice the fraction of non-performing artists (14.5 percent) and higher even than those working in retail (18 percent). By contrast, at 11.4 percent, the unemployment rate for architects, librarians, and archivists is about the same as for the rest of the economy. The difference is likely due, at least in part, to the fact that performing artists are much more likely to be self-employed. But it also may be that performing artists have more trouble earning money by working from home, whereas designers, writers, and even visual artists may be able to continue working, publishing, or selling their art remotely.
“The skyscrapers and office buildings in the city centers that used to be our most valued real estate have become places people avoid out of fear of infection,” Bloom said. “I don’t see people growing comfortable with packed subway trains and elevators, and firms aren’t going to want to open and close every time there’s a wave.” “It’s the fear of the virus that keeps people at home,” said Sven Smit, senior partner at McKinsey & Company and co-chair of the McKinsey Global Institute. He added that while it was too early to be certain the shift would stick, “the tendency [for longer-term change] is there.”
Notes from a quarantined writer.
I admire those who are stable enough to keep reading essays. From now on, I vow to read only fiction. For me, the well of individual experience has run dry, the mountain been mined, the carcass picked clean. The only one to tell me the truth — about the twin agonies of bodily sickness and mental obsession, and the need to get worse before I got better — was Nathan Zuckerman. Not only does the limitation of the physical being cause depression, but the tension within the mind can make the body sicker.
The remoteness of the risk is always the hardest part to get our heads around. Our past moments of calm or our current nightmare, like the last coin flip or turn of the roulette wheel, tell us nothing about when the next one might arrive. One in 500 years isn’t a prophesy, just a probability. If anything, as Wolfe pointed out when I first met him over a decade ago, global warming, urbanization, and destruction of species habitats are only accelerating the speed at which the next pandemic may arrive.
In The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, Olivia Laing tells the stories of a number of artists who led isolated lives and found meaning in their work even if their relationships couldn’t fulfill them. While she focuses specifically on visual artists in New York over the last seventy years, their methods of using their loneliness and transmitting it into their art carry wide resonance. These particular artists tapped into sentiments many of us will experience at least once in our lives. They found beauty in loneliness and showed it to be something worth considering, not just something to run from.