Covid-19 Revolution

Pritam K. Rohila

Just as the previous revolutions in human history, COVID-19 is producing sudden, dramatic and far-reaching changes in how people live and work.

Like some shady characters from an old western movie or the monks of the nonviolence-centered Jain faith, we have to keep out faces covered. While the former did it to evade recognition and the latter do so to prevent inadvertently inhaling flying insects, we do it to save us from being infected with coronavirus. 

We cannot hug our visitors, nor shake hands with them. Rather we have to treat them like untouchables and keep at least six feet away from them. Except for occasional trips for medical appointments and grocery shopping, we have been confined to our home, since March 15.

The tiny and invisible coronavirus has invaded the world and affected the lives of people in more than 200 countries and territories. Just like war casualties, every day there are announcements in the news media about the  number of new cases and deaths related to coronavirus. Worst still, at some places, it has brought even the well-equipped and well-trained military personnel to their knees. But this is a war we did not choose to enter.

China, where COVID-19 first appeared, on November 17, 2019, the number of new cases is now dwindling. But it is rising in s0me other countries of the world.

According to John Hopkins University, as of July 22, there were more than 15 million (15,033,861) confirmed cases worldwide and close to 620,000 (618,994) death from COVID-19. With 1,193,678 confirmed cases, India has become  the third country after USA and Brazil to have more than one million cases.

Also on July 22, the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported close to four million (3,966,500) COVID-19 cases and more than 142,900 deaths in the United States, so far. And on the same day, New York Times reported that the United States has more per capita cases than in any other major industrial nation, and the only high-income country where the virus is spreading so rapidly.

In the United States, Emergency Rooms are overflowing with patients. Hospitals are running out of personal protective equipment and other essential supplies. And their personnel are exhausted.

In some urban area, there are very long lines of people waiting to be tested for the virus. Then people have to anxiously await results for long time. Even testing supplies are limited, Any vaccine may not be available before early next year.

Some urban areas are locked down, requiring people to stay at home. Professional sports have been suspended. Many cultural activities as interpersonal conversations moved online. Millions of people became unemployed and billions in sales are lost. Many shops, restaurant and other businesses are closed. Economy is in shambles.

Many industries are affected. With travel heavily curtailed, airlines are going out of business. Cruise liners are idled.

Eviction protection programs, which were created in response to the pandemic, are scheduled to expire by the end of September. Therefore, 19 million to 23 million Americans are at risk of losing their homes, according to the Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project in Denver.

Minorities and low-income people are affected more adversely by the pandemic and its repercussions.

School districts around the country are struggling with the question of when and how to start schools in ways that are safe for children as well as teachers and at a cost the districts can afford.

COVID-19 (short for Corona Virus Disease 2019) is one of several varieties of viruses, which are called coronaviruses, because of the crown-like coronas (or spikes) they have, when viewed under a microscope. Some coronaviruses have been circulating for years and may cause symptoms like the common cold. But others like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) can be quite deadly.

Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which can cause COVID-19, was discovered in December 2019. Believed to have spread to humans from animals, one can have SARS-CoV-2 without developing any symptoms.

COVID-19 symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath and even diarrhea. But some people can have clotting in the lungs, multi-organ failure and die.

Children may have changes in skin color, including blue lips or face. But some children, who are infected with coronavirus may have no symptoms at all and inadvertently spread the virus to others.

Testing for COVID-19 isn't clear-cut as with some other diseases. Also negative test result does not always mean that one is not infected by the virus. The swab may not catch the virus, or the amount of virus may not be enough.

Two types of tests available currently are viral tests and antibody tests. For viral tests samples are taken from the respiratory system with a swab inserted inside one’s nose. It helps determine whether one is currently infected with the COVID-19.  Results of viral tests can be available within one hour. But if sent to a lab for analysis, getting results may take several days. 

Antibody tests detect the proteins developed by the individual’s body to help fight off infections.  But they do not tell if the individual currently has an active COVID-19 infection.

Some of the tests for coronavirus are unable to distinguish between a previous exposure from a less harmful coronavirus and the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Therefore, it is important to use all means possible to prevent being infected by it and infecting others.

Coughing, sneezing and even talking or laughing release virus-laden secretions into the air. People coming into contact with these secretions may also then become infected. Therefore, preventive measures like staying at least six-feet away from others, wearing a mask that covers one’s nose and mouth, and frequent hand-washing are important. Large gatherings, where physical distancing is not possible, should be avoided.

If and when someone does get infected, quarantine or isolation for 14 days is essential, to prevent others from being infected.

Coronavirus is a fierce and unrelenting adversary, which can result in heavy loss of life and have significant effect on the activities and wellbeing of people. It must be attacked with all possible means, if it cannot be avoided.

Hopefully we will not experience COVID-19 pandemic, or anything else like it, in our lifetime!

Dr. Pritam Kumar Rohila is a retired neuropsychologist and an active peacemaker, who enjoys writing, traveling, photography and gardening. He is associated with Association for Communal Harmony.

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Jul 30, 2020

Dr. Pritam Kumar Rohila

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