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COVID19: New Term in Our Lexicons

I had never heard of the Chinese city of Wuhan until very recently. A city of 11+ million is suddenly in news because of the SARS-CoV2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Wuhan is where the outbreak is believed to have started - likely as a zoonotic transmission from bats to humans.

It seems the disease is spreading rapidly, and could soon become an epidemic, if not a pandemic of global proportions. WHO has already issued a global health warning and the US has declared a public health emergency. Based on what I am hearing, our school and most other schools in the US may switch to virtual mode in the next week or two. That’s a bummer - because schools are never the same if not in person. However, the needs of the time are rather different. We first need to stay safe and make sure we can contain the spread of the virus as far as feasible.

We first need to follow basic safely precautions. Then we need national and international containment strategies. We also need proper testing. Lastly, we need scientists to come out with effective vaccines. All of this is easier said than done. But then again, if we all do our bit, we can keep this virus at bay.

The last time the world saw a pandemic was during WWI, when influenza caused by H1N1 A virus broke out in 1918. Back then, while soldiers returning from the battlefields may have brought the virus home; but transmissibility at a global level was relatively minimal. It took about 2-3 years for the virus to mutate and evolve and become much deadly. By 1920-21, the ill-effects of the virus had mellowed down to pre-pandemic levels.

I wonder what could be a comparative timeline today, if this were to become a global healthcare emergency. Given how connected the world today is, and the constant cross- order movement - the transmissibility rates of e virus is likely to be exponentially greater than the one the world faced a century or so ago. But on the other hand, science has come a long way in these hundred years. I am hopeful that the researchers working round the clock will come up with effective vaccines against COVID19, within a short timeframe. Maybe we can also fast track clinical trials so that such vaccines can be rolled out globally.

I also wonder what toll will a pandemic like this take on our country and the world at large. What happens to our frontline workers, who will have to be at their jobs in person? Will learning curves in schools shift when we move to a virtual mode? What happens to businesses that are dependent on in-person footfall? Will the disease spread and be tackled as expeditiously in all parts of the globe? Our country needs inclusive policy responses that can act swiftly to help protect our most vulnerable.

I promise to keep tracking the progress of the virus and our responses - through this blog - over the coming months. I also plan to write on other topics that affect our nation, through the lens of the Hyphenated American. I come from a diverse background. So naturally my lens will be multi plural - I will be looking at topics from a viewpoint that is as diverse, as it is inclusive. Because I believe the only way to build upon our democracy and bring about meaningful change is through greater political efficacy. And political efficacy grows when we infuse diversity, equity and inclusiveness in our government and in our approach to solving any problem that confronts us. Including COVID19.

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