Mark Finazzo, who was working in a Columbus beer brewery at the time of the pandemic, lost his job to lockdown measures. He was left with months of isolation, anxiety, and helplessness. All he could do was watch the coronavirus outbreak on the television news.
Today, Mr. Finazzo, a 35-year-old, is in his first semester of Ohio State University. He is getting his second bachelor’s degree, this one in microbiology, hoping to become a research scientist — like the people striving to create a vaccine he watched and read about as he sat on his couch in the pandemic’s earliest, darkest days.
“When I saw footage of hospital tents being erected in Central Park, it was like, ‘Wow, life is fragile and precious,’” Mr. Finazzo said, referring to the field hospitals New York City mustered in the spring of 2020. “‘I should probably do something to help out besides make a delicious poison that we like to drink.’”
The virus’s toll cannot be overstated: It has stolen over 800,000 American lives, and millions globally. It has destroyed lives, altered children’s lives, and left a lasting emotional mark. Many feel a familiar sense of foreboding at the beginning of yet another year with Covid-19 in our midst, its latest variant on the rise.
Yet, there has been remarkable resilience in the valley under the virus’ shadow. It is evident in the lightning-fast creation and distribution of vaccines that have largely eliminated Covid-19. Recent findings suggest that these methods may prove to be effective in fighting H.I.V. AIDS. It’s in every pivot made by a canny businessman that saved a company, and every government agency that promoted innovative change in chaotic times.
It is people like Mr. Finazzo that have not shatterned despite seismic social shifts. They have shifted as well.
“The experience of the pandemic has shown we are more resilient than conventional wisdom would suggest,” said George A. Bonanno, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University Teachers College and author of “The End of Trauma,” a book about the psychology of human resilience.
Many people continue to struggle with grief, trauma, and the key to resilience in the face of disaster are threefold, Dr. Bonanno explained. First, identify the root cause of the distress, and then brainstorm a solution. Finally, remain flexible to find a new remedy if that doesn’t work.
“I see time and time again that people are resilient,” he said. “The pandemic has shown this in spades.”
The onslaught caused by the sick has left many medical professionals and stretched out hospitals. But it has also revolutionized some parts of the field, said Dr. Rita A. Manfredi, a clinical professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and a co-author of “The silver linings of COVID-19: Uplifting effects of the pandemic” in “Academic Emergency Medicine,” a medical journal.
Dr. Manfredi gave one example: Telemedicine, which officials expanded permissions for during pandemic, made it easier to get care for many people. It is likely to be here for the long-term.
“In any big tragedy, there is always a positive side,” Dr. Manfredi said. “The negative side is obvious, but there is always a positive side.”
The coronavirus vaccine itself, made under wartime conditions, may go on to fight other intractable diseases: A study published in December successfully used the same mRNA technology used by the coronavirus vaccine to reduce the infection risk of an H.I.V.-like virus in rhesus macaques — perhaps a glimmer of hope in the fight against AIDS.
“This is a promising new finding,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and co-author of the study, said in an interview.
“We are infinitely better off now than we were in 2020,” Dr. Fauci continued. “If this were 2020 and we had this kind of a surge of Omicron superimposed upon a Delta surge we would likely have had to shut down the entire country, because we would have no other tools to prevent the spread. Now, we feel we can continue to function as a society.”
He added: “Things will get better. It is not going to go on forever.”
For some people with disabilities, cultural shifts the pandemic forced, like flexible and remote work — for which they long advocated — have already improved their lives: The employment rate for disabled people is currently at an all-time high, though still profoundly below that of people without disabilities, according to the nonprofit Kessler Foundation, which tracks data that relates to people with disabilities.
Jon Novick, a patient with achondroplastic dwarfism, finds office environments to be difficult. Mr. Novick (30) said that his small stature does not allow for standard-issue desks or chairs. Because of his physique, he must get business-professional attire customized, often at an extra expense. He got a new job in the fall at a Manhattan-based creative agency. However, he is now able to work from his Astoria, Queens apartment.
“I am living in a world that is not quite built for me,” Mr. Novick said. “My perfect office is my home.”
The benefit comes alongside frustration for many disabled people like him, that it took a pandemic to make something their community has long pushed for — and was frequently denied — into a norm.
“People with disabilities can contribute so much to the work force; we can contribute even more when the playing field is level,” Mr. Novick said.
Changed habits forced entire metropolises to change: To give residents of hard-hit New York City space to mingle at a social distance, in May 2020 the city’s Department of Transportation began temporarily closing streets to cars at over 250 locations. There have been criticisms that street closures cause traffic jams and take away parking spaces. But for many, the open streets, as they are known, were a welcome new use for the city’s thousands of miles of pavement when they were cooped up at home. The program is now permanent.
Tressi Collon, a former New York Police Department sergeant oversees programming at the open street. She hosts community suppers al fresco and offers free lectures from neighboring academics on topics like gentrification. “We were intentional that in the midst of this pandemic that something good will come out of it,” Ms. Colon said. “That was the key.”
In many industries, necessity forced norms and practices to change, often for a better. In the fashion industry, where resale was once synonymous for unwanted or used clothing and unsold merchandise sometimes burned out, the clogging in supply chains and growing concern about sustainability led to some designers reusing fabrics that had been left behind on storeroom shelves.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Information
The global surge. The coronavirus is spreading faster than ever at the start of 2022, but the last days of 2021 brought the encouraging news that the Omicron variant produces less severe illness than earlier waves. Governments are now focusing more on spreading vaccinations than limiting its spread.
Burberry, for instance, which was in trouble in 2018 when it was revealed that it had incinerated $37 million worth of unsold product, has partnered with a luxury rental platform and resale site to approve older garments and accessories sourced directly from customers. This allows them to either sell them on the secondhand market, or to keep them out of landfills. Marine Serre, a French designer who is a champion of upcycling, transformed old tabletop linens, toweling, cutlery, and cutlery into elegant suits and jewelry for her spring 2022 collection. It was a hit at Paris Fashion Week.
Book sales rose during the pandemic’s first year of lockdown, but today, even with schools open and more options for entertainment, reading habits seem to have stuck: From January to November 2021, sales of consumer books increased 13 percent over the same period the year before, according to the Association of American Publishers. According to the American Booksellers Association, there were at least 172 new independent bookstores opening in 2021.
When Jason Innocent was furloughed from his job as a restaurant kitchen manager, he began to read for pleasure for the first time in his adult life, powering through “1984,” “Macbeth,” “A Raisin in the Sun” and more. Now back at work, he kept the habit — plus practicing new words he reads. A few days prior to the New Year’s Eve, Mr. Innocent, 26, waited in line in Manhattan for a coronavirus screening. He was studying vocabulary.
“A lot of people, the pandemic made them upset, but I took a bad situation and turned it into a positive,” Mr. Innocent said, flicking through his vocabulary list. “Even if another shutdown happened, I’m going to find a way to survive.”
After seeing a segment on television about new technology to sterilize N95 Masks to combat a shortage, Mr. Finazzo applied for a job at the company. His satisfaction in helping others cemented his interest in a career as a scientist.
“I was thinking to myself: Would I want to goAnd tell my kids or grandkids that I survived the Covid pandemic of 2020 by sitting alone in my apartment getting drunk?” Mr. Finazzo said. “Or did I want to go and utilize this opportunity to be able to help people?”
Vanessa Friedman and Elizabeth A. HarrisContributed reporting
Source: NY Times