During the first half of 2020, prognostications regarding the course that the COVID-19 pandemic would take were as diverse as the individuals, countries, and organizations debating what might truly come to pass.

The pandemic has remained front and center on the world stage as economies teeter on the brink, millions are sickened, and thousands continue to die. Even so, the possible outcomes for one of the most challenging times in recent human history remain beyond accurate prediction.

Wildly Differing Views

From the beginning, fringe elements and conspiracy theorists have leveled baseless accusations against governments and scientific agencies; shadowy cabals of global elites; as well as public health experts and epidemiologists. They speak of mind control, vaccines containing microchips, and all manner of plans to subjugate the masses. Far too many citizens believe that the virus is fake and that the media and experts are all in on the secret.

Meanwhile, countless individuals claim that wearing masks and social distancing are infringements on personal liberties, and that no government has the right to force citizens to restrict their movements or mandate certain actions. These voices appear to be growing, and those watching the pandemic’s seemingly inexorable spread worry that a considerable percentage of citizens are not taking the situation seriously and are actively hampering attempts to contain it.

To the detriment of the battle against the virus, certain political leaders continue to use their bully pulpits to propagate conspiracies, disseminate unfounded information, and muddy the waters of the conversation. Mixed messages and political posturing continue to undermine the Herculean efforts of healthcare workers and scientists, and the public is left to wonder who to believe and what to think in the face of a confusing mix of science, pseudoscience, politics, and medicine.

All Hands on Deck

Dominating the headlines for almost half a year, this novel coronavirus has eluded successful treatment regimens and continues to confound the medical and scientific communities. Strange manifestations (e.g., pediatric inflammatory response, the loss of the sense of smell and taste, strokes in otherwise healthy patients, etc.) continue to be examined closely, as does the viral genome.

With some children and young people more susceptible than originally thought, and nursing homes ravaged by the disease, anxiety is the norm, as is isolation from friends, colleagues, family, and the activities we enjoy.

Meanwhile, healthcare facilities, the woefully underfunded public health infrastructure, and scientific organizations around the world are working overtime in an all-hands-on-deck marathon. Nurses, physicians, and other clinical and nonclinical staff are laying their lives on the line at every moment to save the lives of others. And while we bang pots and pans for those clinicians, we mustn’t forget the unsung heroes who cook the food, clean the rooms, manage the physical plant, and otherwise keep a hospital running from behind the scenes.

Outside of the medical realm, we also see grocery store staff, restaurant workers, mail carriers, and others on the front lines, often for wages that cannot adequately feed a family, especially during lean times when some family members may have lost their jobs and possibly their health insurance.

“All hands on deck” may be a weary cliché, yet the image of millions of global citizens doing their utmost to keep life and limb together while contributing to the collective cause is simultaneously both heartening and disheartening. It is heartening to see so many pulling together for the common good, and disheartening to see those who question science, act solely in their own selfish interest, and otherwise throw a wrench in the works of this existential battle. Perhaps “most hands on deck” would be more apropos.

Existential Questions and Opportunities

When a young boy asks his father to explain when life will return to normal and he can have play dates and sleepovers again, what is that forlorn father to say? And when two lovers are separated for endless months in order to keep their elderly parents safe, how can they know when the opportunity for intimacy and connection will return?

Economically, the fallout from the virus is ceaseless and pervasive, and the decimation of entire families’ nest eggs, small businesses, and futures is beyond comprehension.

For many seeking to begin college and experience common rights of passage of early adulthood, all bets are off. And for schoolchildren suffering from lack of socialization, overworked or out-of-work parents are a poor substitute for friends.

The human race is being challenged in an unprecedented manner, and many are stepping up to the plate to meet that challenge head-on. Courage, generosity, selflessness, and kindness are everywhere one cares to look, and heroism is a moment-by-moment occurrence.

We can hold out hope that, at some point in the relatively near future, we will look back on these times and see our successes, our failures, and how we learned from the experience. Ignoring the conspiracy theorists and virus deniers, there are innumerable human beings fighting the good fight alongside their brethren in a pitched battle for that very future.

These are times to be remembered and learned from, and we will all someday do just that. For those of us truly wishing to be on the right side of history, banding together against COVID-19 with minds, hearts, and our common humanity as our common ground is the best bet we have as we continue to face these uncertain times together.