Updated: Jan 4
A Dystopia or a Utopia?
After polishing up my crystal ball this is what I saw in the months and years ahead:
· The world economy is a fraction of the pre-COVID-19 era. People are satisfied with less consumerism. Our values and priorities are once again realigned with who and what is really important in our lives.
· Happiness has shot up on all metrics according to psychology researchers, stress levels have gone down and there is another baby boom on the horizon. Heart disease, cancer and diabetes are on the decline.
· Global green-house gas emissions have been curtailed and global warming is reversing itself. The earth is getting cooler and greener again.
· Less consumerism and travel has reversed the environmental impact of industrialization across the globe. Cities like Los Angeles, Mubai, Shouguang, Beijing no longer experience smog.
· The new Global Surveillance & Response Force identifies regional outbreaks of diseases and implements pandemic prevention protocols. This buys time for effective vaccine development and deployment.
· Society is less mobile by choice and people employ technology more and more to interact across geography, politics, culture and language.
· We rely more on each other and less on government to make informed decisions. Our information is first hand and not vetted by news agencies, special interest groups or governments.
When I looked into my crystal ball I may be an eternal optimist but the future is a reflection of the past. Nothing is new under the sun.
I graduated from dental school in 1984. I was practicing bare-handed dentistry back then. In 1985 the AIDS pandemic became "newsworthy" in America with the death of Rock Hudson and Ryan White.
Here is a headline from 1986:
January 14, "one million Americans have already been infected with the virus and that this number will jump to at least 2 million or 3 million within 5 to 10 years..." – NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, New York Times.
Dr. Fauci would agree that we survived and adapted to the AIDS pandemic and we will survive and more importantly adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. But not without casualties. The AIDS pandemic was predominantly confined to the gay community in the US, COVID-19 respects no such boundaries including geographic, political or socioeconomic.
Adaptation was quick by necessity; I went from bare-handed dentistry to wearing gloves, masks, glasses, gowns and all the PPE we still use today. Back in 1985 there was no treatment for AIDS. If you got AIDS you were probably going to die from it. We didn’t know about the non-progressers back then and HAART therapy wouldn’t be on the scene until 1995. We are still working on a viable vaccine and what we have learned will help us develop one for COVID-19.
There was a lot of controversy when it came to treating HIV positive patients. I told my staff I would not force them to assist me when I treated my “known” HIV positive patients. I also mentioned that many of our patients probably wouldn’t reveal their HIV status and some may not even know if they were positive. My staff rose to the occasion and we worked as a team, everyone knowing the risks. Accidental needle sticks took on new meaning-the implications were terrifying at the time.
A lot of dialog took place. But we got through it, adapted and continue to employ the same infection control standards today.
We are in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and more people will die from this terrible virus. We can apply what we learned from the AIDS pandemic to combat the COVID-19 pandemic: listen to our healthcare professionals like Dr. Fauci, maintain social distancing, practice good infection control at home and out in the community and support the development of a vaccine. Then we need to immunize a world population; no small feat. And finally we all need to continue to work hard and create the utopia we want for our future and the future for our children.