by Molly Studebaker-Reed
The pandemic, the plague, COVID, corona, COVID-19, the ‘rona; no matter what you call it, it’s been over a year of following the CDC guidelines and waiting. People are waiting for the new normal, hoping to recognize when it finally comes. The government seems to be attempting to assist, according to an interview with physical anthropologist Mary Studebaker-Reed. When questioned about her opinions on the financial aid act put into place as a response to the pandemic, she explained, “I believe that on one hand, it restores faith in the government that it is actually possible to pass legislature that is beneficial, and on the other hand it reinforces the idea that the legislators are out of touch with the realities of daily life in America and are uncomprehending of the immense difficulties of making a living on minimum wage” (Studebaker-Reed). With the increasing cost of living, this response makes sense. It seems that the government is providing too little too late. On the other hand, with the national debt at what it is, the multi-trillion-dollar project to give such a small amount to each family is not beneficial to anyone. The CARES act isn’t the only thing that the media has been buzzing about. One of the most widely discussed topics throughout this pandemic has been the mortality rate. Trying to get a feel for how much the public knows offhand about the mortality rates, the topic was brought up in the interview. The response was quite shocking. When asked which country she thought had suffered the highest mortality rate, Studebaker-Reed said, “I genuinely don’t know.” She went on to explain that since the beginning of the pandemic, the media coverage has been incredibly difficult to follow. Wishing to elaborate on this, the next question was asked. ‘The highest mortality rate reached so far in the pandemic was 23.83% in France on April 11th, 2020 (COVID-19 Data Explorer). The mortality rate in the US at that time was 4.74%. Does this statistic surprise you based on people’s actions and media coverage at the time?’
“I had no idea [it] was so high in France at the time. However, I feel that those early days of the pandemic, we were behaving more responsibly in public than we are now. I believe that as the pandemic went on people grew frustrated with the necessary public safety guidelines and in some ways people- it was almost like they put on blinders and pretended like nothing was going on for the sake of getting back to a normal life. On that same note, I recognize that we finally have vaccines, which is wonderful, but I hope that people continue to behave appropriately until the threat has truly passed,” Studebaker-Reed said.
The perspective gave an important reminder that the time for ‘normal’ is not yet upon us. The guidelines are slowly relaxing, but keeping our distance must remain a priority during this stretch. The more pressing revelation of this quote was the fact that while we are all aware of the pandemic and the safety guidelines, we are not all aware of severity in other parts of the world. We seem to have shrouded the eyes of the people in a layer of confusion, misinformation, and disillusion. Some citizens have refused to relax any of their restrictions, becoming somewhat obsessive about their safety, while others waltz around as though nothing out of the ordinary is going on. As Studebaker-Reed said, it seems as though people are forsaking knowledge to live under the illusion of a normal life. It seems that none of us, from the individual citizens to the government were truly prepared for this type of event. This begs the question, how prepared were our hospitals? If the government itself was unable to prepare for something of this magnitude, then surely our first and last line of defense in a pandemic would be more equipped to handle something of this scale… right?
Well sadly, according to our sources, no (Hospital Capacity and Operations in the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic- Planning for the Nth Patient). The hospitals nationwide were run into the ground, overrun with not only their everyday patients but an influx of extremely ill COVID patients and anyone with a stuffy nose. Unsure of what to do, many people experiencing any symptom panicked and rushed to the ERs and hospitals, leading to more people than could even fit in the Emergency Room waiting areas. Compared to other countries, our hospitals’ preparedness levels were in the words of Studebaker-Reed, “Less [prepared]… because I don’t think that you can really prepare for something like this. And … my point is that if people had been listening to the frontline hospital workers doctors and scientists that we might not have been inundated, but they were ignored until it was too late.” That said, there was very little we could do, since a pandemic of this scale coming up was never on our radar. The final question we asked encompassed that which this entire interview was about- what was the most stressful part of the pandemic for you? Her response was quick- moving cross country during the pandemic. She had to move near the beginning of the pandemic, only a few months into the panic. She said that the move was already going to be stressful, but that the guidelines, the risk of getting sick, and the quarantines all added to the stress so much more than she’d imagined they would. That’s quite fitting. Everything affected us more than we could have ever anticipated, not only on a financial level or health. Everything was affected by the events that took place in 2020-2021. Our entertainment and media, our interactions, our culture, greetings, jobs, and friends were all altered drastically by the onset of the pandemic. Be it for better or worse, this has been a year of change.
CDC COVID Data Tracker. (n.d.). Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#ed-visits
Joseph J. Cavallo, M. (2020, March 17). Hospital capacity and operations in THE Coronavirus DISEASE 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic-planning for the Nth Patient. Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2763353
Kellie Moss Follow @KMossGH on Twitter, A. (2020, November 06). The coronavirus Aid, relief, and economic SECURITY ACT: Summary of key health provisions. Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://www.kff.org/global-health-policy/issue-brief/the-coronavirus-aid-relief-and-economic-security-act-summary-of-key-health-provisions/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwrsGCBhD1ARIsALILBYpxkcW7pHGjizw67DYK8Gby7tWriGFmY2b7-rtveMuPJal13frt8vYaAjOPEALw_wcB
Ritchie, R. (n.d.). Coronavirus (covid-19) deaths – statistics and research. Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://ourworldindata.org/covid-deaths