It’s a common phrase nowadays: “I can’t wait for all this to be over.” While most can agree the day Coronavirus leaves the headlines will be a day well celebrated, a less concrete interpretation lies behind the words “I can’t wait for all this to be over.” For some, “over” means the release of the vaccine, for others it signifies the moment Coronavirus cases officially reach zero. Either way, the effects of Coronavirus will likely not be “over” for years to come.
According to Time Magazine, over the course of five weeks, 26 million Americans filed for unemployment due to the virus. At the moment, 14% of the United States falls under the category of unemployed, the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. Although this does not quite match the Great Depression, during which 26% of Americans remained jobless, it does greatly exceed the 2008 recession when 11.1 million Americans lost their job.
While the future of the economy may appear bleak, there remains reinsurance in knowing America has programs such as Social Security to prevent citizens from ever reaching rock bottom in the way families during the Great Depression did. With Roosevelt’s creation of the New Deal, we learned that the effects of a crisis often greatly outlive the crisis itself.
However, not every crisis prompts people to react so radically. In 1918, almost one-third of the world’s population contracted Spanish Flu, killing an estimated 20 to 50 million people. With no explanation or cure at the time, doctors prescribed patients Aspirin to ease the symptoms and public centers and schools shut down to avoid crowding. People wore masks and remained in quarantine if they showed any symptoms. When comparing most crises in American history to current crises, the struggles people faced often fall on different storylines. However, the plot between the Spanish Flu and Coronavirus is chillingly similar.
In an interview with The Harvard Gazette, Olga Jonas, author of the “Pandemic Risk” said, “There have been many books and papers written about the 1918 flu pandemic, and one of the main themes is how quickly it was forgotten, how fast it disappeared from the political discourse. I guess the lesson is to never forget because forgetting doesn’t lead to positive public health outcomes.”
As the population continues to grow, cities continue to crowd and air travel becomes increasingly more accessible, the demand for finding an effective way to prevent future viruses grows.
Maybe you mark the end of the virus by no longer having to wear a mask. Maybe you just look forward to the day you can attend in-person school. Either way, the aftermath of Coronavirus is far from “over.”