Pros and Cons of Working at Home
Some ways the Pandemic changed the world
The year 2020 was defined by the coronavirus pandemic, arguably the worst pandemic the world has seen in 100 years. COVID-19 has caused more than 75 million cases and 1.6 million deaths worldwide as of mid-December. The illness has affected nearly every aspect of life, from work and school to everyday activities like getting groceries, and even our wardrobes.
Here are just some of the ways the ongoing Covid + strains has changed the world and some of these changes will stay with us.
A number of new words and phrases entered the general lexicon in 2020. We were told we need to "social distance," or stay two meters apart, so that we could "flatten the curve," or slow the disease's spread in order to reduce the burden on the healthcare system. People even became familiar with relatively obscure epidemiological terms like the "basic reproduction number" (R0, pronounced R-nought), or the average number of people who catch the virus from a single infected person. And of course the name of the illness itself, COVID-19, is a new term, with the World Health Organization officially naming the disease on Feb. 11.
The must-have fashion item of 2020 was a small piece of cloth to put around your face.
With medical masks in short supply at the beginning of the year, sewing enthusiasts began churning out homemade masks for their communities. Then, clothing companies and retailers got on board, adding masks to their fashion lines. Now, in many parts of the world, you can't leave your house without putting on a mask.
At first, it was unclear whether wearing cloth masks would protect against COVID-19, but as the year went on, numerous studies showed the benefits of wearing masks, for both the wearer and those around them.
Anxiety and depression
The pandemic took a serious toll on people's mental health in 2020. One study published in August by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that levels of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts skyrocketed amid the pandemic.
The study could not determine the reason for the rise in mental health conditions, but factors relating to the pandemic, such as social isolation, school and university closures, unemployment and other financial worries, as well as the threat of the disease itself, may play a role, the authors said.
Drinking alone - you and your screen
Another insidious side effect of the pandemic was increases in alcohol consumption. A study published in October in the journal JAMA Network Open found that alcohol consumption in the United States rose 14% during pandemic shutdowns.
Women in particular reported worrying increases in heavy drinking during the spring of 2020, according to the study.
"In addition to a range of negative physical health associations, excessive alcohol use may lead to or worsen existing mental health problems," the authors concluded.
New trends, normal isn't normal any more
As businesses began to open after initial lockdowns, people needed to adjust to a new normal to reduce the risk of spreading the disease from everyday activities. Businesses implemented universal mask policies. Dining switched to outdoors only. Waiting rooms became a thing of the past. You needed a reservation to go to the gym. And large gatherings and events were banned completely in many areas.
Although there is no way to ensure zero risk of catching COVID-19, officials said taking precautions could reduce the risk of spread. However, as the fall began, many areas went into lockdown again amid surging COVID-19 cases.
Rumors - conspiracy theories
From the idea that drinking bleach can kill the norovirus to a theory that the virus was created in a lab as a bioweapon, the COVID-19 pandemic has generated a flurry of misinformation. Indeed, one study, published Aug. 10 in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, found that the pandemic has hatched more than 2,000 rumors, conspiracy theories and reports of discrimination.
Such false information can have serious consequences — the researchers of the new study found that COVID-19 related rumors were linked to thousands of hospitalizations and hundreds of deaths.
"Health agencies must track misinformation associated with ... COVID-19 in real time, and engage local communities and government stakeholders to debunk misinformation," the authors concluded.
With orders to stay at home as much as possible, many people decided to get a furry friend during quarantine.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a boon for pet adoptions, particularly dog adoptions. Many shelters, breeders and pet stores reported a surge in applications for dogs, with the demand far exceeding supply, according to The Washington Post. Some shelters reported double the number of adoptions compared with the previous year, and needed to resort to waitlists to handle the demand.
Not only is this good news for pets who need homes, but also for their humans, given that many studies show there are mental health benefits to pet ownership, according to NPR.
School closed - Zoombies
Children seem to be largely spared from the most severe effects of COVID-19, but they can still act as spreaders of the disease. So many schools across the U.S. and the world made the decision to close in 2020, and opt for virtual learning instead. Questions around how long to remain closed and how to safely reopen were the subject of much debate. As fall arrived with a number of schools still closed, many children seemed to be falling behind in learning. Statewide polls have found that nearly 9 in 10 parents are worried about their children falling behind at school due to the pandemic closures, according to The Educational Trust.
Coronavirus lockdowns, which slowed the normal hustle and bustle of cities to a near halt, also appeared to dramatically lower emissions of carbon dioxide around the world. A study published May 19 in the journal Nature Climate Change found that daily global carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 17% in early 2020, compared with levels in 2019. That appears to be one of the biggest drops in recorded history. But this temporary drop is far from enough to undo the harmful effects of man-made climate change.
"Although this is likely to lead to the largest cut in emissions since World War II, it will make barely a dent in the ongoing build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," Richard Betts, Head of Climate Impacts Research at the Met Office Hadley Centre in England, said in a statement.
Vaccines and boosters- for and against
Developing a new vaccine normally takes years to decades. But in an unprecedented feat, researchers in the U.S. and several other countries created a coronavirus vaccine — taking it from lab bench to bedside — in just under 12 months. When 2020 began, COVID-19 and the virus that causes it, SARS-CoV-2, were unknown to science. But once the virus was identified, scientists acted quickly to begin developing a vaccine. By mid-March, early trials in humans had begun, and by late summer, the vaccines were ready for more advanced trials with thousands of participants. In December, the United States authorized two COVID-19 vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, after trials showed impressive results. Both vaccines used molecules known as mRNA to stimulate an immune response against the coronavirus, marking the first time that any mRNA vaccine has been authorized for use in people. The vaccines were heralded as an extraordinary scientific advancement, and now at the beginning of 2022 the vaccines have been widely distributed around the world.
There is a lot of controversy about the efficacy of the vaccinations and also what are the long-term effects of the vaccinations.
There are many unanswered questions and speculations about the ongoing 'battle' against the Virus in all its forms, but what is certain that since the outset of the pandemic 2 years ago the world has undergone a number of changes that will remain with humanity - for better or worse - well, that remains to be seen ...
- Vocabulary for Coronavirus
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Acute respiratory stress syndrome (ARDS): a condition in which fluid builds up in the air sacs of the lungs. The fluid prohibits the lungs from getting enough air, leading to a deprivation of oxygen in the bloodstream. The condition is often fatal.
Asymptomatic: presenting no symptoms of disease. In the case of COVID-19, this means absence of fever, dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and body aches, among other less common symptoms. Notably, it is recommended that individuals do not get tested unless they exhibit symptoms because of the risk of false negatives. In other words, most tests will not be accurate unless symptoms are present.
Case fatality rate: the ratio of deaths from COVID-19 to the total number of individuals diagnosed with the disease.
Clinical trial: research experiments on human participants designed to answer questions about new treatments; in the case of COVID-19 and coronaviruses, the safety and efficacy of a potential vaccine.
Community spread: the spread of a contagious disease in a geographic area in which there is no knowledge of how someone contracted the disease. In other words, no known contact can be traced to other infected individuals.
Confirmed positive case: in contrast to a presumptive positive case, this is confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of a positive COVID-19 test in an individual.
Contact tracing: identifying and monitoring people who may have come into contact with an infectious person. In the case of COVID-19, monitoring usually involves self-quarantine as an effort to control the spread of disease.
Contactless: without contact; for example, “contactless delivery” would include leaving purchased items at the entryway of a home rather than handing it directly to a person.
Containment area: a geographical zone with limited access in or out in an effort to contain an outbreak.
Coronavirus: a family of viruses that include SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) as well as other respiratory illnesses. A coronaviruses, also known as a CoV, is typically spread between animals and humans—an event known as zoonotic transfer—and they are named for the term “corona”—Latin for crown—which refers to the shape of the virus when observed microscopically.
COVID-19: COVID-19 stands for novel coronavirus disease 2019, which refers to the year of its initial detection. COVID-19 is the illness related to the current pandemic; the illness is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2).
Epidemic: a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community or geographic area.
Epidemic curve: a graph or chart depicting the progression of an outbreak in a particular population.
Epidemiology: a branch of medicine which deals largely with public health, including the incidence, distribution, analysis and control of diseases.
Essential business: although this definition varies between cities and states based on individual restrictions, essential businesses are those that serve a critical purpose, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, waste collection, health care providers, gas stations, banks, transportation and agriculture services. This contrasts to non-essential businesses, which serve more recreational purposes.
Flattening the curve: an attempt to create a more gradual uptick of cases, rather than a steep rise, in an effort to avoid overburdening the health care system all once. Notably, “flattening the curve” does not necessarily decrease the projected number of cases, but spreads them out over a period of time.
Forehead thermometer: a device that measures body temperature through hovering near or contact with the forehead rather than traditional insertion.
Herd immunity: also known as community immunity, this is the reduction in risk of infection within a population, often because of previous exposure or vaccination.
Hydroxychloroquine: an oral drug used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Its effectiveness in treating patients with COVID-19 disease is still in question.
Immune surveillance: the process of monitoring the immune system’s activities, which may include the detection and destruction of foreign substances, cells or tissues.
Immunosuppressed: an individual who experiences reduced efficacy of the immune system as a result of health conditions not related to COVID-19 disease. People who are immunosuppressed are at greater risk for hospitalization and severe sickness from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Incubation period: the time between when an individual is first exposed to the virus and the appearance of symptoms. A person’s level of contagion before symptoms arise is not known, although most experts believe people are most contagious after they begin exhibiting symptoms.
Index case: the first documented case of an infectious disease.
Index patient: the first person infected with a disease in an epidemic. Interchangeable with the term “patient zero.”
Intensivist: a physician who specializes in treating patients who are in intensive care or in intensive care units.
Lockdown: an emergency measure in which individuals are restricted from certain areas in an attempt to control exposure or transmission of disease. In a lockdown during an epidemic, individuals are encouraged to stay home.
National emergency: a state of emergency resulting from the global threat of the pandemic. On March 13, 2020, President Trump issued a national emergency concerning the COVID-19 outbreak, which allowed for loosened restrictions on tele-health as well as certain requirements for hospitals and health care providers to allow them to respond to the crisis.
Novel coronavirus: a new strain of coronavirus, or nCoV, that has never been detected in humans.
Pandemic: a worldwide spread of an infectious disease, with larger reach than an epidemic. Until COVID-19, the last pandemic was the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009.
Patient zero: the first individual infected with a disease during an epidemic.
Person-to-person transmission: when a virus is spread between people, including physical contact or coughing and sneezing. This is in contrast to when a virus is spread via animals or through contaminated objects or surfaces.
Physical distancing: the practice of maintaining greater space between oneself and others and/or avoiding direct contact with other people.
PPE: personal protective equipment, or PPE, is specialized clothing and equipment used as a safeguard against health hazards including exposure to infectious diseases through physical contact or airborne particles. PPE is designed to protect parts of the body typically exposed in normal attire, including the nose, mouth, eyes, hands and feet. Notably, N95 respirators are considered ideal for health care workers who may be exposed to SARS-CoV-2.
Pre-symptomatic: an infected individual who is not yet displaying symptoms of an illness or disease.
Presumptive positive case: an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 by a local public health lab, but whose results are awaiting confirmation from the CDC.
PUI: person under investigation, or a PUI, is an individual who is suspected of potentially having COVID-19.
Remdesivir: an investigational antiviral drug that is administered intravenously and inhibits viral replication. It is a promising drug for the treatment of COVID-19 disease and was first developed to treat Ebola.
Respirator: a device designed to protect individuals from inhaling something hazardous in the air, in this case, particulate that may be contaminated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
SARS-CoV2: the virus fully defined as “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” causes the disease COVID-19.
Screening: the act of verifying symptoms and potential exposure before testing for the virus.
Self-isolation: the act of separating oneself from others.
Self-quarantine: the act of refraining from any contact with other individuals for a period of time—in the case of COVID-19, two weeks—to observe whether any symptoms of the disease will arise after potential exposure.
Shelter-in-place: typically issued by local government, a shelter-in-place asks residents to remain at home and only leave to perform duties deemed essential in an effort to slow transmission of and exposure to the virus.
Social distancing: the act of remaining physically apart in an effort to stem transmission of COVID-19. Social distancing can include a move to remote work, the cancellation of events and remaining at least six feet away from other individuals.
Spanish flu: also known as the 1918 influenza pandemic, this was the most severe pandemic in recent history according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with an estimated 500 million infections and 50 million deaths worldwide. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of an avian origin.
Super-spreader: a highly contagious individual who can spread an infectious disease to a large number of uninfected people through a network of contacts.
Symptomatic: showing symptoms of COVID-19, which can include a fever, dry cough, shortness of breath and body aches. Health officials believe the risk of transmitting the virus is highest when an individual is symptomatic.
Vaccine: a biological preparation of organisms that provides immunity to a particular infectious disease. Currently, there is no vaccine for COVID-19.
Ventilator: a machine designed to move air in and out of the lungs for a patient who is physically unable to breathe or who is not breathing well. Because COVID-19 can cause severe lower respiratory infection, ventilators are a critical machine for patients with severe disease.
WFH: an abbreviation of “working from home” or “work from home.”