In contrast to the high drama of SARS-CoV-2 virus entering our lives three years ago, the end of the global and national pandemic public health emergency was quiet and without fanfare. Yet it left with many aftereffects. Along with the misinformation of the pandemic, misperception of the end exists.
I am still seeing a few patients a day with COVID-19. This week, a patient commented to me with surprise when diagnosed with COVID-19; she couldn’t understand how she could have it since the pandemic was over. COVID-19, flu, RSV and many other viruses, and strep, are still being passed around, but in declining numbers. The end of the public health emergency doesn’t mean the end of the virus.
A recent survey showed one in 10 adults in the U.S. have long COVID symptoms, which translates to millions. Eighty percent of those report they are unable to function in daily life as they did before having COVID-19. These disabilities create new public health issues.
Beside long COVID, the pandemic leaves in its wake a multitude of issues affecting individuals, families, communities, institutions, government agencies and more. It affected the public’s health with isolation, loneliness, job loss, financial instability, illness and grief. Society was affected in many areas, including culture, arts, media, sports, education, economy, health care, employment and more.
At the recent World Health Assembly in Geneva, WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged reforms to prepare for the next pandemic. A decision was made to accept a major budget hike and draft a pandemic treaty. Ghebreyesus stated, “A commitment from this generation [to a pandemic accord] is important, because it is the generation that experienced how awful a small virus could be.”
Recovery and growth from the consequences of the pandemic are the priority now. Although many think it’s all over, the repercussions will outlive all of us who experienced it.
I had a little girl for a patient this week cuddling her stuffed toy cat. I asked her what its name was. She replied, “Covidkitty.” Her mother and I exchanged a sad smile reflecting on the innocence and irony of a beloved stuffed cat named after a deadly virus.
Take care of yourself and someone else.
Dedicated Westfield Health Department members have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic, as well as Board of Health members Juanita Carnes, FNP-BC, Carrie Hildreth-Fiordalice, and Stan Strzempko, M.D. We keep working to keep you safe.
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