By Danita Johnson Hughes
A funny thing happened on the way to work recently. I put on my face mask (color coordinated, of course), drove through traffic that seemed just as busy and congested as ever, passed under electronic signs urging people to, “STAY HOME! ESSENTIAL TRIPS ONLY! SLOW DOWN!”, grabbed a cup of coffee from a masked barista, got my temperature checked by a masked (but smiling, I could tell) medical assistant, and maintained proper social distancing all the way to my office.
What’s funny about that, you say? The fact that I did all that without as much as a second thought.
COVID-19 may have infected millions worldwide, including 28,705 Hoosiers and 534 Gary residents, but it has also given us a new normal. It is amazing, though perhaps predictable, how fast we’ve all gotten used to social separation, curbside pickup, single-ply tissue (not on my planet!), Zoom conferencing, no sports, and scrubbing in like brain surgeons.
It may not be funny, however, it is unbelievable how quickly we humans adapt to trying circumstances, like pandemics, and acclimate to new customs that were unimaginable only two months ago.
Throughout history, the world has faced many calamities, including a few far worse than COVID-19. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 infected 500 million people, about a third of the world’s population at the time. It killed upwards of 50 million including 675,000 Americans. World War I claimed 16 million lives. Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, landslides, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, heat waves, droughts, and other natural disasters kill around 90,000 people and affect close to 160 million EVERY YEAR!
Through each plague, each pestilence, each natural or man-made disaster, human beings find a way to survive. Scientists discover new vaccines, doctors develop new life-saving procedures, engineers design new protective equipment and safety gear (N95, anybody?), and each triumphant generation takes its place in history.
As we speak, scientists at research labs, global health organizations, pharmacological companies, colleges and universities, and quasi-governmental institutions, are feverishly working on vaccines and cures for the novel coronavirus. Medical experts and government officials estimate up to a year or more before they’re successful. Fortunately for us, they won’t stop trying until they are.
Here at Edgewater Health we’re doing our level best to battle COVID-19 and protect our community from its ravages. We’re wearing masks and checking temperatures and testing patients and disinfecting common areas and providing telehealth services to folks too afraid to venture out from their own homes.
Each and every day throughout this pandemic, we stand on the front lines and do whatever is necessary to triumph over the calamity of our lifetime. Occasionally we do extraordinary things and some may even call us heroes. At the end of the day, we’re just doing our jobs and taking our place in history in the process.
When COVID-19 dissipates and this global health crisis finally fades into history, how will you be remembered? Will you be the conscientious citizen who consistently obeyed executive orders to stay at home? Will you be the Good Samaritan who checked on seniors and did their grocery shopping when needed? Will you be the parent who faithfully guided their child through social isolation, boredom, and distance learning? Will you be the dependable “essential” who came to work every day and did the job no matter what? Will you be one of the countless, nameless, faceless (or face masked) heroes who helped America and the world defeat COVID-19? When all is said and done, how will history remember you?
Fortunately, only you can answer that.
Danita Johnson Hughes, Ph.D., is president and CEO of Edgewater Health. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.