“A lot of the men in my unit started getting sick and never got better. And we just didn’t know. I mean, all I want is to help build a group big enough that we might finally understand more about what’s happening to us.”
In the pandemic’s wake, we witnessed the explosion of viral social media content such as Plandemic, an alternate exaggerated narrative which sought to perpetuate the types of claims one would expect from the title. These kinds of conspiracy theories have always existed in many different shapes and forms; however, COVID-19 struck at a time when society was suffering from a pre-existing condition of deep mistrust.
“The United States reports first death from COVID-19 in Washington State.” It was the end of February as I glanced over this news alert. For the past month, my inbox was flooded with emails regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. I saw my patients as usual throughout the day, albeit washing my hands and using hand sanitizers more often.
The nurses noticed the behavior first — how he answered for her, his arms on her shoulders, and, on the day of discharge, his refusal to leave her room to retrieve her medications. The labor & delivery floor was already in full swing when her nurse came over.
In the first two months of 2020, I watched with alarm as a cordon sanitaire descended on Wuhan. I lived there as an anthropologist completing my research on Chinese medicine in 2017. Friends from Wuhan — most of them doctors — were suddenly describing scenes out of a dystopian nightmare.
Has social distancing paradoxically made us closer? Can disease be tragically beautiful? I pondered these questions as I reminisced over the past few weeks working on one of the medicine floors in my hospital, grappling with these thoughts almost every moment as I have witnessed the world respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is difficult to put into words the level of frustration and despair that I have felt over the last few days watching the schizophrenic national response to this COVID-19 crisis and its detrimental effects on the work conditions of my colleagues. As an internal medicine physician working in Utah, it feels like it is the calm before the storm as emergency room and urgent care volumes are down as people try to socially distance to correct the spread of this virus. Other areas of the country are not so lucky.
The other day at work, there were a few employees that were unnecessarily spreading panic on a message board by comparing the novel coronavirus COVID-19 to the infections mentioned in Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs and Steel — one commenter wrote that “every once in a while in history an infection comes along like this.”
Softly and subtly, the rustling of the leaves quickens and a cool breeze sweeps across the town. A child rocks gently on a swing and a father stands in the bazaar bartering for the best value for vegetables for dinner. His wife is hospitalized with hemorrhagic dengue; shivering with fevers that rise and fall as do her blood counts.