Avoiding the Worst Outcomes of COVID-19

COVID has cost us dearly. Approximately 132,000 people have died in the USA, with almost 3 million confirmed cases, and our economy is in the tank. As painful as these are, the potentially the worst and longest-lasting cost of COVID is a social recession, because it weakens our social fabric so that we are no longer a country with common ideals but a collection of fractious factions. A social recession is caused by physical distancing, which leads to social distancing, causing us to feel increasingly disconnected from the people in our lives. This is confirmed by a recent (May 21-29) survey by the University of Chicago* in which 50% of respondents said they had sometimes or often felt isolated in the past 4 weeks, more than double the number (23%) in 2018. This results in reduced health, reduced learning on the part of children, and reduced workplace productivity.

Former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, says, “Typically, in moments of stress, we reach out to people. We spend time with people we love. And now we’re being asked not to do that, at least in physical terms.” He cites recent research from Wharton, “If we want our kids to do well, if we want workers to do better in the workplace, if we all want to be more fulfilled and healthy, …human connection is at the center of it all.”

He encourages us “to build our lives around people, and to make the case for creating a people-centered society, … putting ourselves on the path to creating a society that is healthier and stronger, but also more resilient, than before the pandemic began.” The 4-page conversation is at: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/avoiding-a-social-recession-a-conversation-with-vivek-murthy.

I invite your comments and your ideas about how we might do that. We owe it to our children and their children.

*https://www.norc.org/PDFs/COVID%20Response%20Tracking%20Study/NSF_COVID_Topline.pdf

Gary Langenwalter

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