Silver Linings

Each week, the faculty and students in my program at UVM hold a seminar, often to review a current paper in the medical literature.  The program is in the College of Medicine, so topics often center around clinical trials.  Not exactly running related, but it’s a great group of smart people and I’ve learned a lot about the research process, which can apply to running as well.

Last week, we discussed an article in the New York Times examining whether the number of deaths from Covid-19 are being accurately reported.  Probably not, and several reasons were given.  First, there is often a delay in reporting, sometimes up to several weeks.  But that sorts itself out eventually.  A second bigger issue is how the death certificate is read. There are usually four lines on a death cert, with the top line considered the primary cause.  Presumably this is the line used for reporting the Covid deaths we see in the news.  However, with older people having several health issues, Covid-19 may have merely been the final straw.  The attending physician has to make a determination about the primary cause, and likely there are inconsistencies around the country.  Also, there may not have been testing for Covid-19 post-mortem, thus it doesn’t show up anywhere on the death cert.  A third issue are deaths of those with other life-ending conditions who missed out on care at the hospital or PCP’s office due to lack of access. There’s no way to count that but it’s out there.  

Regardless of whether the official or “real” count is 90,000, 150,000, or more, a looming concern is the fallout from all of this, something akin to PTSD, leaving some in a state of fear and suspicion. This may limit what people will do, how much they travel, etc.  Others will find themselves in a financial hole that may take years to recover from.  Optimism can turn to pessimism and then depression.  (As if there is not already enough to be depressed about on the current national and world scene!)      

With that as ominous background, I wanted to convey what was offered as we went around the room (via Zoom of course!) to hear what people saw as lessons learned and potential upside from navigating the pandemic, i.e., silver linings.  Here’s what I was able to jot down, in no particular order:

  1. “I will never take my friends for granted again.  And will treasure the time we can spend together, in person.”
  2. Greater appreciation for health care workers.  They have been pushed to the front lines and are vital in the effort to control the virus, but have always been there for us.
  3. Greater appreciation for service workers of all stripes: grocery store stockers and clerks, pharmacists and techs, gas station attendants, postal workers, FedEx/UPS drivers, taxi and Uber operators, food preparers and deliverers, trash haulers, etc.  Collectively these people enable us to pick and choose when and where we go.
  4. Realization we don’t need as much stuff as we have.  It’s eye-opening how little we actually need.
  5. The use of telehealth has moved forward exponentially (meaning insurance now covers it).  Prior to Covid-19 it was at a standstill.
  6. Carbon emissions are way down and that is already affecting the atmosphere.  It shows how quickly the natural world responds. We CAN retool our carbon footprint, if we put our minds to it.
  7. Education can be delivered in novel ways using the most current technology.  In Vermont, that has also highlighted the need for broadband in rural areas.
  8. Working some from home may have benefits, such as more time with the family.
  9. Greater understanding that we live in an interdependent world.  Unfortunately, it seems an opportunity is being lost for the U.S. to show global leadership.
  10. In Vermont, perhaps as well as anywhere, teamwork in state leadership is evident.  Political squabbles have been put on hold and everyone has grabbed an oar and is pulling hard.
  11. We’ve discovered things walking and biking around our neighborhood that we never knew were there.  It’s actually a pretty special place!

We’ve got a ways to go to get out of the woods.  And we know it won’t happen all at once.  School is out for the year but plans for in-person classes at UVM next fall are taking shape.   Businesses are opening up in stages.  The expectation is outdoor recreation options (golf, tennis, etc.) will open up in the next couple weeks.  Perhaps with restrictions indoor fitness facilities during the next month.  That will be welcomed — I see and feel my muscle tone evaporating!  Eventually, road races with some new guidelines will return, maybe by August or September.  

This is certainly a time in our lives we won’t forget.  Much like 9-11.  Though not sure there is much upside to gather from that.  But from Covid-19, there is upside to consider and that is probably worth keeping in our sights.

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