8 Lessons We Can Learn From the COVID-19 Pandemic


Rear view of a family standing on a hill in autumn day, symbolizing hope for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic

Note: Information in this article was accurate at the time of original publication. Because information about COVID-19 changes rapidly, we encourage you to visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and your state and local government for the latest information.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we know it—and it may have changed us individually as well, from our morning routines to our life goals and priorities. Many say the world has changed forever. But this coming year, if the vaccines drive down infections and variants are kept at bay, life could return to some form of normal. At that point, what will we glean from the past year? Are there silver linings or lessons learned?

“Humanity's memory is short, and what is not ever-present fades quickly,” says Manisha Juthani, MD , a Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist. The bubonic plague, for example, ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages—resurfacing again and again—but once it was under control, people started to forget about it, she says. “So, I would say one major lesson from a public health or infectious disease perspective is that it’s important to remember and recognize our history. This is a period we must remember.”

We asked our Yale Medicine experts to weigh in on what they think are lessons worth remembering, including those that might help us survive a future virus or nurture a resilience that could help with life in general.

Lesson 1: Masks are useful tools

What happened: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed its masking guidance for those who have been fully vaccinated. But when the pandemic began, it necessitated a global effort to ensure that everyone practiced behaviors to keep themselves healthy and safe—and keep others healthy as well. This included the widespread wearing of masks indoors and outside.

What we’ve learned: Not everyone practiced preventive measures such as mask wearing, maintaining a 6-foot distance, and washing hands frequently. But, Dr. Juthani says, “I do think many people have learned a whole lot about respiratory pathogens and viruses, and how they spread from one person to another, and that sort of old-school common sense—you know, if you don’t feel well—whether it’s COVID-19 or not—you don’t go to the party. You stay home.”

Masks are a case in point. They are a key COVID-19 prevention strategy because they provide a barrier that can keep respiratory droplets from spreading. Mask-wearing became more common across East Asia after the 2003 SARS outbreak in that part of the world. “There are many East Asian cultures where the practice is still that if you have a cold or a runny nose, you put on a mask,” Dr. Juthani says.

She hopes attitudes in the U.S. will shift in that direction after COVID-19. “I have heard from a number of people who are amazed that we've had no flu this year—and they know masks are one of the reasons,” she says. “They’ve told me, ‘When the winter comes around, if I'm going out to the grocery store, I may just put on a mask.’”

Lesson 2: Telehealth might become the new normal

What happened: Doctors and patients who have used telehealth (technology that allows them to conduct medical care remotely), found it can work well for certain appointments, ranging from cardiology check-ups to therapy for a mental health condition. Many patients who needed a medical test have also discovered it may be possible to substitute a home version.

What we’ve learned: While there are still problems for which you need to see a doctor in person, the pandemic introduced a new urgency to what had been a gradual switchover to platforms like Zoom for remote patient visits. 

More doctors also encouraged patients to track their blood pressure at home , and to use at-home equipment for such purposes as diagnosing sleep apnea and even testing for colon cancer . Doctors also can fine-tune cochlear implants remotely .

“It happened very quickly,” says Sharon Stoll, DO, a neurologist. One group that has benefitted is patients who live far away, sometimes in other parts of the country—or even the world, she says. “I always like to see my patients at least twice a year. Now, we can see each other in person once a year, and if issues come up, we can schedule a telehealth visit in-between,” Dr. Stoll says. “This way I may hear about an issue before it becomes a problem, because my patients have easier access to me, and I have easier access to them.”

Meanwhile, insurers are becoming more likely to cover telehealth, Dr. Stoll adds. “That is a silver lining that will hopefully continue.”

Lesson 3: Vaccines are powerful tools

What happened: Given the recent positive results from vaccine trials, once again vaccines are proving to be powerful for preventing disease.

What we’ve learned: Vaccines really are worth getting, says Dr. Stoll, who had COVID-19 and experienced lingering symptoms, including chronic headaches . “I have lots of conversations—and sometimes arguments—with people about vaccines,” she says. Some don’t like the idea of side effects. “I had vaccine side effects and I’ve had COVID-19 side effects, and I say nothing compares to the actual illness. Unfortunately, I speak from experience.”

Dr. Juthani hopes the COVID-19 vaccine spotlight will motivate people to keep up with all of their vaccines, including childhood and adult vaccines for such diseases as measles , chicken pox, shingles , and other viruses. She says people have told her they got the flu vaccine this year after skipping it in previous years. (The CDC has reported distributing an exceptionally high number of doses this past season.)  

But, she cautions that a vaccine is not a magic bullet—and points out that scientists can’t always produce one that works. “As advanced as science is, there have been multiple failed efforts to develop a vaccine against the HIV virus,” she says. “This time, we were lucky that we were able build on the strengths that we've learned from many other vaccine development strategies to develop multiple vaccines for COVID-19 .” 

Lesson 4: Everyone is not treated equally, especially in a pandemic

What happened: COVID-19 magnified disparities that have long been an issue for a variety of people.

What we’ve learned: Racial and ethnic minority groups especially have had disproportionately higher rates of hospitalization for COVID-19 than non-Hispanic white people in every age group, and many other groups faced higher levels of risk or stress. These groups ranged from working mothers who also have primary responsibility for children, to people who have essential jobs, to those who live in rural areas where there is less access to health care.

“One thing that has been recognized is that when people were told to work from home, you needed to have a job that you could do in your house on a computer,” says Dr. Juthani. “Many people who were well off were able do that, but they still needed to have food, which requires grocery store workers and truck drivers. Nursing home residents still needed certified nursing assistants coming to work every day to care for them and to bathe them.”  

As far as racial inequities, Dr. Juthani cites President Biden’s appointment of Yale Medicine’s Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS , as inaugural chair of a federal COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. “Hopefully the new focus is a first step,” Dr. Juthani says.

Lesson 5: We need to take mental health seriously

What happened: There was a rise in reported mental health problems that have been described as “a second pandemic,” highlighting mental health as an issue that needs to be addressed.

What we’ve learned: Arman Fesharaki-Zadeh, MD, PhD , a behavioral neurologist and neuropsychiatrist, believes the number of mental health disorders that were on the rise before the pandemic is surging as people grapple with such matters as juggling work and childcare, job loss, isolation, and losing a loved one to COVID-19.

The CDC reports that the percentage of adults who reported symptoms of anxiety of depression in the past 7 days increased from 36.4 to 41.5 % from August 2020 to February 2021. Other reports show that having COVID-19 may contribute, too, with its lingering or long COVID symptoms, which can include “foggy mind,” anxiety , depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder .

 “We’re seeing these problems in our clinical setting very, very often,” Dr. Fesharaki-Zadeh says. “By virtue of necessity, we can no longer ignore this. We're seeing these folks, and we have to take them seriously.”

Lesson 6: We have the capacity for resilience

What happened: While everyone’s situation is different­­ (and some people have experienced tremendous difficulties), many have seen that it’s possible to be resilient in a crisis.

What we’ve learned: People have practiced self-care in a multitude of ways during the pandemic as they were forced to adjust to new work schedules, change their gym routines, and cut back on socializing. Many started seeking out new strategies to counter the stress.

“I absolutely believe in the concept of resilience, because we have this effective reservoir inherent in all of us—be it the product of evolution, or our ancestors going through catastrophes, including wars, famines, and plagues,” Dr. Fesharaki-Zadeh says. “I think inherently, we have the means to deal with crisis. The fact that you and I are speaking right now is the result of our ancestors surviving hardship. I think resilience is part of our psyche. It's part of our DNA, essentially.”

Dr. Fesharaki-Zadeh believes that even small changes are highly effective tools for creating resilience. The changes he suggests may sound like the same old advice: exercise more, eat healthy food, cut back on alcohol, start a meditation practice, keep up with friends and family. “But this is evidence-based advice—there has been research behind every one of these measures,” he says.

But we have to also be practical, he notes. “If you feel overwhelmed by doing too many things, you can set a modest goal with one new habit—it could be getting organized around your sleep. Once you’ve succeeded, move on to another one. Then you’re building momentum.”

Lesson 7: Community is essential—and technology is too

What happened: People who were part of a community during the pandemic realized the importance of human connection, and those who didn’t have that kind of support realized they need it.

What we’ve learned: Many of us have become aware of how much we need other people—many have managed to maintain their social connections, even if they had to use technology to keep in touch, Dr. Juthani says. “There's no doubt that it's not enough, but even that type of community has helped people.”

Even people who aren’t necessarily friends or family are important. Dr. Juthani recalled how she encouraged her mail carrier to sign up for the vaccine, soon learning that the woman’s mother and husband hadn’t gotten it either. “They are all vaccinated now,” Dr. Juthani says. “So, even by word of mouth, community is a way to make things happen.”

It’s important to note that some people are naturally introverted and may have enjoyed having more solitude when they were forced to stay at home—and they should feel comfortable with that, Dr. Fesharaki-Zadeh says. “I think one has to keep temperamental tendencies like this in mind.”

But loneliness has been found to suppress the immune system and be a precursor to some diseases, he adds. “Even for introverted folks, the smallest circle is preferable to no circle at all,” he says.

Lesson 8: Sometimes you need a dose of humility

What happened: Scientists and nonscientists alike learned that a virus can be more powerful than they are. This was evident in the way knowledge about the virus changed over time in the past year as scientific investigation of it evolved.

What we’ve learned: “As infectious disease doctors, we were resident experts at the beginning of the pandemic because we understand pathogens in general, and based on what we’ve seen in the past, we might say there are certain things that are likely to be true,” Dr. Juthani says. “But we’ve seen that we have to take these pathogens seriously. We know that COVID-19 is not the flu. All these strokes and clots, and the loss of smell and taste that have gone on for months are things that we could have never known or predicted. So, you have to have respect for the unknown and respect science, but also try to give scientists the benefit of the doubt,” she says.

“We have been doing the best we can with the knowledge we have, in the time that we have it,” Dr. Juthani says. “I think most of us have had to have the humility to sometimes say, ‘I don't know. We're learning as we go.’"

Information provided in Yale Medicine articles is for general informational purposes only. No content in the articles should ever be used as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. Always seek the individual advice of your health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition.

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Your Say: What lessons have you learned during the pandemic?

At the Farmers Market in Little Italy on April 4, 2020, Stephen Clark from J.R. Organics

We asked: What have you learned about yourself, your family and your community after one year of the pandemic?

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Anger lingers, along with hope for future

I have learned from this pandemic the sad results of an overly contagious disease. Each night our news has the latest totals of illnesses and deaths. These totals flash me back to the days of the Vietnam War when the numbers of dead and wounded soldiers were announced. It sickened us each dinner hour. The horror is even greater now, for our numbers are staggering.

I learned that personal contact and socialization play a bigger part in all our lives than I ever understood. As a lucky senior with a loving supportive husband, not alone in isolation, and encouraging, friendly neighbors, friends and family, I’ve suffered. The distancing, the lack of activities in groups, all dimmed my spirit. As an upbeat, laughing sort, surprisingly I was hit in spite of being blessed.

I think of family — our grandkids struggling with school, their adolescence stifling in confinement, missing senior school year activities, experiencing college online. They have lost learning opportunities and personal growth from interactions with others. Their lives have forever changed. Sadly, this happened at the beginning of their life’s journey. Their loss is infinitely greater than mine. So, too, those without loving support and jobs have suffered immeasurably.

My sadness is lifting with the promise of tomorrow, thanks to vaccinations. Concerns are letting up due to a stable federal-state response to this disease. Anger lingers over the past president’s uncaring, negligent response. But I am hopeful for our future. We are a resilient people.

Sharon Smith, La Mesa

Next week: After the vaccine

What is the first thing you did or will do after being fully vaccinated and feeling safe to live the way you did before the pandemic hit? Please email your 500-word essay to us at [email protected] by Wednesday and we may publish it in the newspaper and online. Please include your name, community and a phone number we won’t publish. More on today’s Your Say topic at sandiegouniontribune.com/lessons.

Crisis may floor us but we can rise again

What have I learned about myself, my family and my community after one year of the pandemic?

I have learned a huge amount about myself. I come from a sports background and that results in a cannot-be-defeated attitude. I love tennis and when the pandemic struck, our leaders thought it would be beneficial to lock tennis courts so no one could play tennis. I found places to play, thanks to my wonderful tennis partners, and I continued to play at beautiful places like a private court in Rancho Bernardo and courts near Sunset Cliffs, which gave me the opportunity to discover the beautiful cliffs again even though I’ve lived here 64 years of my 65 on Earth. Because of this never-say-die attitude I was able to stay in contact with my son’s beautiful family after tennis on Saturdays. I guess the saying is, where there is a will, there is a way, or from one of our greatest poets, “All limitations are self-imposed.”

I love my family; however, we are just returning to the point where I feel I can call any one of my siblings to safely visit and hug them all much more often than I have during the past year. My wife, Kim, my shorty Jack Russell Terrier Stella and I have not missed a beat at home; in fact, we may be closer as a result of the pandemic.

As for my community, I honestly feel we have been dealt a huge straight right that has knocked us down for the count. With the resilience I know we have, though, all our businesses and high school sports will bounce back to deliver blows of our own until we become the victors in the last round of this most important fight of our lives.

Jim Valenzuela, Poway

The value of a loving pet became apparent

What I have learned after one year of the pandemic is a lot about cats.

We acquired a cat in our household last July. I have learned a lot about how humans can relate to cats that I was not aware of growing up with these lovely animals. I also learned that you can connect with such an animal at a level I never thought possible or perhaps never really explored.

This cat, during this pandemic, has served as our therapist, yoga instructor, meditation guide and fellow afternoon nap enthusiast. I know there are other animals that have served as pets to help people with the stress of the pandemic. I would expect people in my community to have had a similar experience with their pets and the bonds they have made with them.

David Terry, Lakeside

We have all shared an historic experience

This past year I’ve learned that I took many things for granted and expected that life wouldn’t change that much in my day-to-day routine. I think most of us did.

I was really looking forward to seeing The Rolling Stones at SDCCU Stadium last May, but the concert was canceled and now the stadium has been demolished. Weekends I would have spent looking forward to seeing the latest Hollywood blockbuster like “Top Gun: Maverick” or “No Time to Die” became weekends learning about the infamous rivalry of big cat enthusiasts Joe Exotic and Carol Baskin on Netflix.

Going out to a restaurant on a Friday night to start off the weekend became downloading the DoorDash app and bringing that food home. Those nights out became nights in. I’ve learned that as much as it’s nice to stay home in my pajamas, I really miss going out to social events and seeing people’s smiling faces.

I always look forward to seeing my family during the holidays and months when I can take time off of work, but this year, like many of us, I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas on Zoom. I learned, and knew all along, that I have a strong family. We have come together well during a global pandemic. My mom even asked if she needed to mail me toilet paper. As fun as it was seeing everyone on my computer screen, in 2021 I will not take for granted that something as terrible as this pandemic couldn’t happen again, and I will make it a priority to see my family as soon as I can.

I’ve learned the community of San Diego comes together very well during a crisis. We’re all human, and no one wants to see their business or the livelihood they worked so hard for destroyed. I saw organizations, restaurants and animal shelters come together to feed families and the pets of those who lost their jobs.

People were shopping local more to support locally owned businesses. When we started to have to wear masks in public, I saw that people were nicer to each other, but now I see mask fatigue and people just wanting to get on with their lives. I hope as the year goes on and we slowly get back to normal with vaccines getting out into the community that we maintain that positive energy and remain a strong, friendly community.

We don’t always know what’s going on in the lives of those we pass every day at the store, but we have all gone through something unprecedented in our generation together and should never forget how it made us feel.

Megan DePalo, Oceanside

Hope for the best but prepare for the worst

After a year of the coronavirus pandemic, I learned that I had better be prepared for the worst at any time. After seeing lines of people at the grocery stores, loading up with groceries and toilet paper overflowing from their carts, I realized that many people are out for themselves without a care for anyone else. I didn’t understand the reason why so many people stocked up on toilet paper, as the coronavirus was not going to cause a bad case of diarrhea for those infected. Going to stores to find empty shelves where toilet paper once was only made me shake my head in wonder. Hoarding took place at every level and made me think of countries where things like that are familiar.

With bare shelves and some money in my pocket, things became disheartening. I decided I needed to eat less so that my stomach could shrink and I wouldn’t be as hungry. It worked. I lost more than 20 pounds, and I am now feeling better when I have to bend down to pick something up. I no longer just keep eating because it’s there and it tastes good. I eat half a sandwich and get up to do something and I’ve been drinking more liquids. Even if some of those liquids are beer, I’m still down over 20 pounds and continue to lose a little more as the days pass.

It is nice that businesses are starting to open and things are slowly getting back to the way they were, and I hope this pandemic has taught everybody some good lessons.

Allen Stanko, Alpine

Glad this challenging time may soon end

Regarding the one-year lockdown anniversary: The last year has been without a doubt one of the most trying and difficult of my life. I work in senior long-term care, and I have seen fear and illness and loneliness and death. I have seen healthy people become deathly ill and pass away without family to comfort.

I have seen people trying to express love through glass windows with masks on. The loneliness and isolation is as detrimental as the virus. Holidays and birthdays pass in this odd world.

And I have seen courage and strength and resiliency. I feel I have been scarred on my heart but have learned patience and trust.

I am glad the vaccines are here and maybe we can turn the corner and hug each other again.

Angela Reynolds, Boulevard

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What students have learned about themselves living in COVID-19 pandemic: Student Voices winners

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many students have developed new hobbies and  strengths, come to appreciate family and friends,  and face a wide variety  of emotions.

In the first of 2021 Asbury Park Press Student Voices Essay contest, we posed the question: What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic?

Our students have shared with us the transformation  and growth they have achieved during the pandemic.  Below are the winning essays for December, as judged by the Press editorial staff.

First place winner: Grades 7-8

It’s okay to feel worried

The year of 2020 has been interesting, to say the least. I have learned many things about myself during the course of the pandemic. Let’s just say that I am not known to be the most optimistic person; I am a bit of a pessimist and an overthinker.  It suddenly occurred to me one day, when I had been in a particularly nasty mood: I was always a fairly reasonable child. I managed emotions well. I wouldn’t cry when I didn’t receive a toy that I wanted. It was not typical of me to perform nonsensical actions- temper tantrums, unreasonable decisions, and fits of anger were not a typical trait of mine. I was entertained easily. I was creative. I had never really dealt with true stress, real stress, until this year. Or real boredom.

I am an artist; I almost never run out of ideas. I perceive light and color and shapes in many different ways. I paint. I draw. But dealing with quarantine was a whole different obstacle to deal with together. Stress saps away my creativity- and I can get pretty cranky if I feel like I am not doing anything productive. It was not until this year that I realized how adaptable I am. Or how simple it is to deal with stress. I could have saved so much time and energy if I had realized that it’s okay to feel worried, that I shouldn’t panic over new situations too much.

I don’t like change; I generally dislike travelling and other things in that category. When New Jersey had to go into quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn’t very happy, but as an introvert, I figured that it would be nice to have two weeks to recharge my energy. Well, two weeks turned into a month. A month turned into two months. At the two-month mark, I began to become extremely bored. I had nothing to do in my free time besides sit at a computer screen. I was dissatisfied with my work. 

I felt like the once creative and sunny part of my mind was engulfed in mist. I didn’t know how to get out of it. At around three months of quarantine, I realized that the reason why I was struggling so much with work and school was because of stress. I realized I needed to calm down. When I was a child, I did yoga and stretching exercises. I decided to start that again. Immediately following the start of this I felt so much better. It was like magic. I began having confidence in my work again; I began rapidly improving. So great was the feeling of happiness that I never wanted to utter a pessimist word again in my life (sadly, this didn’t happen, I can still be a bit negative sometimes).

One day, you may be overwhelmed by something or someone in your life. Do not give in. Keep yourself afloat. Don’t let yourself be swallowed up by the vast and dark waters of sorrow. If you persist for long enough, you will get through any difficult situation that challenges you. And most of all, remember this: there is always someone who cares about you. You matter. Stay strong.

Joan Obolo-Pawlish

Teacher: Melinda Willems

Ocean Township Intermediate School    

First place winner: Grades 9-12

Overcoming obstacles is part of life

A whirlwind of negativity surrounds 2020. When things do not go as planned we as humans tend to immediately panic, throwing blame and projecting our own guilt onto others. But personally I find that change, while difficult, is just a test that I have to strive to overcome on my own. Growing up is all about self discovery through unexpected ways, of course, a global pandemic is not something I planned on experiencing, but two words come to mind when I look back on this year and my journey through it: acceptance and growth. 

I try to remember my life before everything shut down. I was free to go wherever, be as close to others as I wanted, and invest too much into everything happening around me. I thought that I was a social butterfly, that being in a group was where I was meant to be. But while home with just my family, I quickly learned that using other people as a distraction was just a way for me to avoid looking into who I really was. Whether it was to validate my feelings or just entertain me with useless drama, I realized that relying on others so much was an unhealthy way to live. So while the world hid, I found myself. I accepted that this was how it was going to be for now, and that I was given this time as an opportunity to rest, and heal, and break myself down and start from scratch. Grieve for everything that was gone, but also find new things everyday that made this kind of lonely life worth living. Filling my days with my family and activities like long nature walks, music, and art helped me grow into a strong, independent, and stable young woman during a time filled with such instability.

No, this was not easy. Yes, there were a lot of hard days and tears shed...and I’m not even done yet! This year is not over, this pandemic is not over, my life is not over. I have so much more change to grow through and so much more to discover about myself. Overcoming obstacles is part of life, so all I can ask is; what next?  

Sofia Roman

Teacher: Melissa Pitman

Academy of Allied Health and Science

Second place winner: Grades 7-8

Are you really ok?

Emotions are confusing, they're unpredictable and hard to control. During quarantine, I was focusing more on myself and found I was emotionally unstable. I found it hard to be happy when things were going right, and I found it difficult to be sad when things weren’t working out. I found myself crying at random times when my day was going well or if it was complete haywire. I was aware that something didn’t feel right, but I shrugged it off and told myself it was normal. I was lying to myself, but the more I did, the harder it got to tell the difference between a lie and a truth. 

As time went by, I started to distance myself from my parents. I started refusing hugs and I stopped telling them I love them. Of course I cared about them, but the idea of getting a hug or saying “I love you” was uncomfortable to me. That’s when I started to feel alone and less energetic than usual. This caused me to procrastinate with school and I felt overwhelmed. I spent the majority of my time in my bedroom on my bed doing schoolwork or using my phone. There was a time where I forgot the last time I stepped outside. Everything felt boring to the point where even eating was boring. 

One day, my friend Dania introduced Japanese cartoons called Anime. I was captivated by them and used them as a way to escape reality. Running away from your problems isn’t a way to solve them. I knew that, but I just enjoyed myself because at least I was happy. I watched them almost everyday, and one day I came across an anime where the protagonist was trying to get control of her feelings and trying to understand them. Along the way she realized that her problem was that she was hiding her emotions because she thought that if she showed them, she would be a problem. That’s when it clicked. 

It was like I found the last piece to an unsolved puzzle. My problem was that I was hiding and holding in my emotions, and it resulted in me losing control. It made me forget when to cry, laugh, and yell. From that day on I started to express my emotions. I felt free like a bird soaring through the sky. I started to hug and tell my parents I loved them. I could finally control the steering wheel of my emotions. I was no longer being devoured by them. I was eating well and getting the proper amount of sunlight. I was happy that I no longer needed to escape reality. 

Emotions are confusing, they're unpredictable and hard to control. At times you feel that showing your emotions makes you a problem and annoying. You feel like reality is not worth a shot and try to escape it, but you're wrong. Emotions are a way of defining who you are as a person. Your emotions will not make you a problem or annoying. Telling someone how your feeling is only gonna help you. This quarantine I learned that you should never try to hide or hold in your feelings. 

Guadalupe Monterrozas

Teacher: Melinda Willems 

Ocean Township Intermediate School

Second place winner: Grades 9-12

Personal Renaissance of self-discovery

I spend most of my time alone. And I’m fine with it because I’ve always been good at keeping myself occupied; I’ve always known that. But when the world closed and locked it’s doors for the past ten months I’ve realized how much I rely on seeing people in-person and going places to see or talk to others at all. I don’t get many calls or texts from friends and I’m usually fine with that because we pick up right where we left off whenever we see each other in person.

But now we can’t see each other in person. 

Quarantining was fine, I guess. You know, as fine as it can be. Most of my hobbies I can do on my own anyway: reading, writing, art, anything to do with music, cooking, and playing video games (most of which are single player anyway). I bet a lot of people would complain about having to stay in their houses 24/7, but I’m not one of them. Really. I’m not. Being completely honest, my schedule hadn’t really been affected all that much, besides school and stuff. But why, all of a sudden, do I have the urge to get out of the house and do something? I’m sure plenty of people have been feeling this recently, but I’ve never really felt like this before. I guess now that I can’t, it makes me want to do it more. 

When school started again, I joined every club or activity that caught my eye. Even though I still sometimes complain about my extracurriculars, I’ve been meeting people, and talking to them, and becoming friends with them; I’m exhausted between schoolwork and after-school activities, but I’m happy. 

Although the lesson I’ve learned appears to be relating to the importance of interpersonal relationships, what I’ve really learned was confidence. I, like a majority of people around the world, have had a surplus of free time on my hands to spend by myself and I’ve used that time to discover new things about myself, new passions, and new ways to creatively express myself. My becoming more comfortable with myself has allowed me to do things I never thought I could and show the world a better version of myself. I’m in the middle of a personal Renaissance of self-discovery, self-expression, and self-love. 

Madelyn Killi

Teacher: Susan Kuper

Point Pleasant Borough High School

Third place winner: Grades 7-8

My Lifeline

Normal people would think that a messy, hard working, and dirty stable could never seem like home to someone. I am not a normal person. I see a filthy barn as the ideal place to spend my summer. Over the course of the pandemic, everything normal faded, disappeared, and crumpled into what is now our ¨new normal.¨ My original lifelines have begun to fade. Ice Hockey was postponed and I couldn't see my friends and family as much as I would like. But even in the worst of times, something good can come out of it. That is how I found my new lifeline.

It may seem weird or different to other people that I ride horses, but just like any other

lovable animal, horses both give unconditional love and are great companions. As the pandemic shut down events, I was becoming both lazy and unmotivated. The only thing that kept me from these threats was the most unlikely animal, my horse, Max. He is the most amazing horse I have ever met, he has the most loving and caring personality. He's coat is a mix of black, and a gold- tinted bay(light and dark browns), with a pure white star marking on his forehead. His mane and tail are ebony black, and his light bay is offset by his black marking scattered all along his body.

He provided me with an outlet, a way to deal with the restrictions, loneliness, and the lack of motivation. Horses are animals that people don't expect to be a girl's best friend and treasured companion.

Haley Terranova

Teacher: Mrs. Orosz

Memorial Middle School

Third place winner: Grades 9-12

Light Switch

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, my life has turned into a living oxymoron. The dismay hindered my natural routine of living. It is as if the spark of optimism within me has been shut off.  Albeit the conspicuous negatives, I attempted to find the “light in the darkness.” Although the beginning of the pandemic brought a depletion to my mental health, steady progression is oncoming.  

Each of my hobbies and exercises represents a light in a room. The lights turned off progressively until I was left alone with the darkness and the enigma of my inner thoughts. Singing, off. Theatre, Off. Piano, Off. Hanging out with friends? Off. The overwhelming amalgamation of emotions as my mind attempted to process the sudden change became unbearable. 

Normative living? Off. The abrupt collapse of enterprises and businesses flipped an off-switch on regular daily practices. This was the moment of realization that I had taken many aspects of life for granted. As an extroverted person, I thrive off of the happiness and joy of others. I needed a human connection. I needed a conversation, not muffled volume. I needed to see eyes, nose, and mouth. It was different behind a screen. The light switch in my mind was not off. The power went out, and it refused to turn back on. 

My depression and anxiety depleted progressively. I did not want this. To be fair, no one wants the emotions of emptiness and dread. I so longed for change and the dissipation of my uncertainty and loneliness. However, one thing was for sure, I was not alone. I began consulting a therapist and began conversing with my friends and family. I started adapting to the abrupt adjustments. Life began writing a new variation of normalcy. 

I am delighted with my leisurely and steady progression. I am enthusiastic about the pursuit of new hobbies and interests. I now appreciate and relish the little things in life more. My family being loud, the smell of home-cooked meals, and even the faint sunlight beaming through my window make waking up worth it. The aid of my friends and family is the generator that powers my light within. My light switch is on, and I want to keep it on. 

Darryn Dizon

Teacher: Donna Mulvaney

Donovan Catholic High School

Honorable Mention Winners

Grades 7-8 

Sara Cook, Grade 7, Point Pleasant Borough School, Teacher: Shannon Orosz 

Leah Gerdes, Grade 7, Point Pleasant Borough School, Teacher: Melissa Hans

Miriam Priborkina, Grade 7, Manalapan Englishtown Regional School, Teacher: Cassie Capadona

Grades 9-12

Emma Conroy, Grade 10, Donovan Catholic, Teacher: Donna Mulvaney

Samantha Keller, Grade 10, Donovan Catholic,  Teacher: Donna Mulvaney

Marlee Card, Grade 11, Point Pleasant Borough High, Teacher: Susan Kuper 

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Lessons we will learn from this pandemic, unicef young reporters shed light on the lessons they have learned during the covid-19 pandemic.

Eva Hadzipetrova

There is no rainbow without rain

Eva Hadzipetrova (15), UNICEF Young Reporter

I’ve been thinking a lot - what is it that will come out of all this? Equality! This situation has shown us that we are all the same regardless of our religion, culture, customs, whether we are poor or rich. The virus simply does not choose. It connected us in a way, it showed us that we should all stick together. During this chaos, while many of us in a panic, it showed us the weight of humanity. It reminded us who we are. Maybe the world will finally change.

We humans are fragile by ourselves. Our strength lies in being part of a community.

We do not live without relationships and we should never forget that. We have a very caring and shared connection between us and it’s amazing to see how we stick together at times. Sharing is caring. Sometimes we need to remember how important kindness is. We need to remember that we have been given a gift called life and that we should appreciate it.

Everything can end tomorrow. Focus on what is important to us. When all this is over, Earth will continue to spin, and life will flow again. The question is whether by then we will have learned our lesson. Let us be mindful of our Earth and it will be kind to us. There is no rainbow without rain. Remember that.

Maria Mitrikeska

There is good in every evil

Maria Mitrikeska (15), UNICEF Young Reporter

There is an old saying ‘there is good in every evil’ that I will now use as a tiny consolation in this difficult, unexpected time. As a young teenager, believe me it is hard dealing with this situation, and to everyone who is reading this and feeling helpless, I just want to tell you that you are not alone, and it will be better!

I am aware of everything that has been taken away from us due to this situation, of all the unrealized plans, be it birthdays, travels, weddings ... and sadly, we cannot do anything about it. But we are not powerless! On the contrary, it is all of us together that can make the world a better place. If each of us respects the measures imposed by authorities, the situation will get better and it will pass much faster than expected.

I can single out isolation - staying at home – as one of the most important measures. I know it sounds difficult and believe me, at first this sounded impossible to me, just unfeasible. I found it hard and boring, I wasn’t used to sitting in the same closed place for so long. But over time, I started to find hobbies. I tried things I had never tried before. I spent a lot more time with my parents than before, and even though I didn’t go out, I exercised at home. I found I had the time to watch the TV series and read books I never had the time for! Also, I have to admit that for me, online learning is much easier, more flexible and stress-free.

One of the most important things I’ve learned while we’re in isolation is to take care of myself and to devote more time to myself.

Taking care of yourself is something so underestimated nowadays. Whether due to a lack of time or due to too much stress in everyday life or for a whatever reason, people don’t devote enough time to themselves. While in isolation, I’ve had a lot of time to think and realize that actually taking care of myself is one of the things that makes me happy. I mean little things that I believe are available to everyone. These little things are actually the ones that help me find myself.

Let’s go back to the sentence “There is good in every evil”. A simple short sentence, but still so powerful! This is just one perspective of a young girl who is going through the same thing as many others. So don’t forget, you’re never alone!

Branislav Maksimovski

A pandemic that taught me to love

Branislav Maksimovski (15), UNICEF Young Reporter

It’ll take just a little patience and support for us to master this crisis, but together can we do it. We only need to respect the recommendations and measures issued by the state, to protect ourselves, the people closest to us, and others who live in our community. We all know that it is not easy to stay at home but taking a break to stop and reflect has its own virtues.

If someone asks me how I’m dealing with the pandemic and how it influences me I would say:

I know that is not easy for us, I know it’s not easy for those lying in the hospitals, I know it’s not easy for those who lost someone. Life takes us in different directions. That’s why it’s important to live the moment, without thinking of the past or the future. I sit at home, do my school assignments, go out on the balcony, have a tee or coffee, listen to good music. I can’t count all the activities I do to stay positive. It matters to me that my brother, my parents and grandparents are safe and for them I do my best. I write essays, I paint, I read.  This situation has taught me many things.

It taught me to love, to listen, to care, to respect and to help.

Help - that’s the word I’m looking for. What does it mean “to help someone”? Help someone to teach them something. Help someone by having a conversation with them. We should use this word in our vocabulary more often, so we can see a smile on people’s faces more often. This situation taught me to love. Not only to love a person, but also to love the little things in life.

Adrijana Kamcheva

Life is a lesson, we learn and continue to learn every day

Andrijana Kamcheva (25), UNICEF Young Reporter

Humans are very complex beings; they spend their whole life learning. But why wait for something bad to happen so that we learn how to appreciate the good? Why can’t we appreciate the little things that actually make us happy?

I never had a chance to think about the things that have happened to me. I wasn’t appreciating many things and I have given importance to so many things, which weren’t important at all. I didn’t know that the rain makes me happy or that the coffee I have on the balcony is tastier than the coffee in a coffee shop. I realize that reading books makes me happy. Playing cards and monopoly at home wasn’t that bad at all and working out at home is better that at a gym.  I realized that I’m a philanthropist and have a great sense of empathy, which makes me very happy.

We learn how to live every day. We choose the path we will take.

Just think about everything you dream of? It is good that we dream and work towards achieving a goal. Don’t be afraid to work miracles on yourself, don’t be afraid to live as you deserve. Its normal to come across obstacles, that’s how we learn when we overcome challenges.

Life is a lesson; we learn every day and we will continue learning every day. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect in life for us to be happy and to appreciate ourselves and everything around us.  We just have to be greatful. Remember that the best life lesson is learned during hard times and when we make mistakes.

Enjoy your life and appreciate what you have. Just think about the fact that there are people in the world with less. Be happy and positive for everything around you and you will become a stonger person.

Blogs written by UNICEF Young Reporters are part of a UNICEF volunteer initiative to give young people the space to share their own views on topics important to them. The work of the Young Reporters during COVID-19 pandemic is partly funded by USAID.

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4 Ways That the Pandemic Changed How We See Ourselves

Man standing with mirror on ground and reflection

A fter more than two years of pandemic life , it seems like we’ve changed as people. But how? In the beginning, many wished for a return to normal, only to realize that this might never be possible—and that could be a good thing. Although we experienced the same global crisis, it has impacted people in extremely different ways and encouraged us to think more deeply about who we are and what we’re looking for.

Isolation tested our sense of identity because it limited our access to in-person social feedback. For decades, scientists have explored how “the self is a social product.” We interpret the world through social observation. In 1902, Charles Cooley invented the concept “the looking glass self.” It explains how we develop our identity based on how we believe other people see us, but also try to influence their perceptions , so they see us in the way we’d like to be seen. If we understand who we are based on social feedback, what happened to our sense of self under isolation?

Here are four ways that the pandemic changed how we see ourselves.

When lockdown started, our identities felt less stable, but we adjusted back over time

In crisis, our self-concept was challenged. A December 2020 study by Guido Alessandri and colleagues, which was published in Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research , measured how Italians reacted to the first week of the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020 by evaluating how their self-concept clarity—the extent to which they have a consistent sense of self—affected their negative emotional response to the sudden lockdown.

Self-concept clarity represents “how much you have [clearly defined who you are] in your mind … not in this moment but in general,” explains Alessandri, a psychology professor at the Sapienza University of Rome. While generally people have high self-concept clarity, those with depression or personality disorders usually experience lower levels. “The lockdown threatened people’s self-concept. The very surprising result was that people with higher self-concept clarity [were] more reactive” and experienced a greater increase in negative affect than those with lower self-concept clarity.

In Alessandri’s study, people eventually returned to their initial stages of self-concept clarity, but it took longer than expected due to the shock and distress of the pandemic. This reflects a concept called emotional inertia , where emotional states are “resistant to change” and take some time to return to a baseline level. At the beginning of the pandemic, we questioned what we believed to be true about ourselves, but since then, we’ve adjusted to this new world.

Many people were forced to adopt new social roles, but the discomfort they felt depends on how important that role is to them

Our identities are not fixed; we hold several different social roles within our family, workplace, and friend groups, which naturally change over time. But in isolation, many of our social roles had to involuntarily change , from “parents homeschooling children [to] friends socializing online and employees working from home.”

As we adapted to a new way of life, a study published in September 2021 in PLOS One found that people who experienced involuntary social role disruptions because of COVID-19 reported increased feelings of inauthenticity—which could mean feeling disconnected from their true self because of their current situation. It was challenging for people to suddenly change their routines and feel like themselves in the midst of a crisis.

But the study also uncovered that “this social role interruption affects people’s sense of authenticity only to the extent that the role is important to you,” says co-author Jingshi (Joyce) Liu, a lecturer in marketing at the City campus of the University of London. If being a musician is central to your identity, for example, it’s more likely that you would feel inauthentic playing virtual shows on Zoom, but if your job isn’t a big part of who you are, you may not be as affected.

To feel more comfortable in their new identity, people can start accepting their new sense of self without trying to go back to who they once were

Over the last two years, our mindset and control over the roles we occupy in many facets of life helped determine how virtual learning and remote work affected us. “We are very sensitive to our environment,” Liu says. “[The] disruption of who we are will nonetheless feed into how we feel about our own authenticity.” But we can do our best to accept these changes and even form a new sense of self. “[If] I incorporated virtual teaching as a part of my self-identity, I [may not] need to change my behavior to go back to classroom teaching for me to feel authentic. I simply just adapt or expand the definition of what it means to be a teacher,” she adds. Similarly, if you’re a therapist, you can expand your understanding of what consulting with patients looks like to include video and phone calls.

During the pandemic, many people have made voluntary role changes, like choosing to become parents, move to a new city or country, or accept a new job. Previous research by Ibarra and Barbulescu (2010) shows that although these voluntary role changes may temporarily cause a sense of inauthenticity, they eventually tend to result in a feeling of authenticity because people are taking steps to be true to themselves or start a new chapter. “The authenticity will be restored as people adapt to their new identity,” Liu says.

Our identities have changed, so it’s important to be authentic with how we present ourselves online and offline

We have more power than we may realize to navigate a crisis by accepting that it’s OK to change. But it’s important to act in a way that’s true to ourselves. “People have a perception of the true self … They have some idea of who they truly are,” Liu says. “When you lend that to the [looking glass self], I think people would feel most inauthentic when they are performing to others in a way that is inconsistent with how they are [thinking and feeling internally],” which can happen on social media.

In isolation , when we didn’t have access to the same level of social feedback as normal, social media in some cases became a lifeline and a substitute for our self-presentation. The pandemic inspired people to take space away from the Internet and others to become increasingly dependent on it for their social wellbeing. “[Our unpublished data shows] that time spent on social media increased people’s sense of inauthenticity, perhaps because social media entails a lot of impression management [and] people are heavily editing themselves on these platforms,” Liu says.

With all that we’ve experienced, many of us have fundamentally changed as people. “In the same way which the first lockdown required us to [self-regulate] and adhere to new social norms, these changes that we’re experiencing now require another self-regulation effort to understand what is happening,” Alessandri says. “We don’t expect that people will simply get back to their previous [lives]—I don’t think this is possible. I think we have to negotiate a new kind of reality.”

The more we accept that we are no longer the same people after this crisis, the easier it will be for us to reconcile who we are now and who we want to become.

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Six Lessons We’ve Learned From Covid That Will Help Us Fight the Next Pandemic

Public health experts weigh in on the steps America needs to take to stem a future outbreak

Simar Bajaj

Line for Covid Tests

It has been three years since the first reported Covid-19 case in Wuhan, China, and more than 6.6 million people have died from this disease since. The United States has the highest number of Covid-19 deaths worldwide, with a sixth of the global toll. But despite this devastation, the U.S. may not be ready for the next pandemic: Experts say they can easily imagine a virus that is as infectious (if not more infectious) than the coronavirus but far more deadly. “If this was our test run, I think we mostly failed,” says Bob Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

So, what went wrong? No one answer can explain everything, and Amy Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health, thinks the U.S. needs to establish a 9/11-style commission to study the pandemic response and improve preparedness going forward. With the country seemingly ready to move on, though, nobody can say when this commission will happen , if ever.

In this absence, we reached out to public health experts to distill six lessons we’ve learned from Covid-19 that could help us fight the next pandemic.

We need to rapidly scale up testing

According to Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, the first failure of the pandemic was “not to have a test for almost two months.” As Covid-19 spread across the country between late January and early March 2020 , the U.S. was driving blind, unable to track transmission and get ahead of the disease. “That set us down a dark hole that never has been truly dug out,” Topol says.

On January 11, 2020, Chinese scientists uploaded the coronavirus’ genome online , and a week later, German scientists made the first diagnostic test. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was developing its own test, but the first batch created was defective—and it took weeks to fix the issue. Meanwhile, the U.S. refused to use the World Health Organization (WHO) test, even as almost 60 other countries did, and federal regulations obstructed state, academic and commercial labs from developing their own versions. These regulations were lifted only at the end of February . “One of the biggest missteps we had was lost time,” says Monica Bharel, former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Looking around the world, many countries empowered commercial labs to produce Covid-19 tests so that early in the pandemic, they were able to test tens of thousands of people per day, even as the U.S. could test fewer than 100 . “One of the real lessons is that the CDC cannot, or—at least based on the way they were two years ago— should not have been trusted to be the only developer for testing,” says Wachter.

In the future, waiving some of the regulatory hurdles and using WHO tests as a temporary measure could help the U.S. rapidly scale up testing while still ensuring quality control and efficacy.

We need to leverage data more effectively

During the pandemic, “follow the science” was a common refrain, but the paucity of quality data made it almost impossible to adhere to this commitment. The initial delay in testing was part of the issue because it left public health officials with inadequate information to guide their state’s response. “If you don’t test, you don’t know what’s there,” Acton says.

That’s true from an equity lens as well. In late March, Bharel saw that Massachusetts wasn’t getting enough reporting of cases, hospitalizations and deaths by race and ethnicity, so she put out a public health executive order requiring this breakdown. And, in short course, race and ethnicity reporting shot up from 28 percent to 98 percent for Covid-19 deaths, Bharel says. That granularity in data allowed Massachusetts to identify health disparities early and proactively work to close them, even as many other states were working in the dark.

Beyond testing and data collection, one of the biggest challenges of the pandemic was that public health departments’ data systems were severely outdated. In Ohio, that meant that the department had to look elsewhere for its data analytics. “We don’t even have the money to afford that,” says Acton, “but we were able to go to Cleveland Clinic and scientists from amazing universities who could run the numbers for us.”

These collaborations were critically important but decentralized, so every state was reporting Covid-19 data in ways that weren’t always compatible nationally. “It was very difficult for me in Massachusetts to say, what can I learn from Illinois or Rhode Island or New York—and compare and contrast,” Bharel says. “There has to be a way for the CDC to obtain information from all states and territories in a standardized way.”

In future pandemics, the CDC should mandate that states collect granular, high-quality data and help build the digital infrastructure to standardize reporting across the U.S. Public health agencies could then share this data with Americans in daily briefings and weekly reports, as opposed to data snapshots that usually come too little, too late, Topol says.

We need to seek out a diversity of voices

Acton says, “when you’re a leader, truth doesn’t always get up to you.” That’s partially by design, because gatekeepers help prevent information overload. But it’s also partially politics: “Bureaucratic systems incentivize, at certain levels, not speaking up,” she adds.

That’s why Acton admires Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who used to say that “the only decisions he regrets are when he didn’t work hard enough to get all the information he needed.” This relentless information-seeking helped Ohio build a kitchen cabinet of advisers from day one. “Ohio got ahead because we were able to get the information we needed,” Acton says.

The lesson for future pandemics is to seek out expertise from across the government and country, from theologians to communications experts to medical anthropologists and more. Acton points to Angela Merkel of Germany as a leader who “intentionally surrounded herself with a diversity of minds and thoughts” to make the most informed decisions she could. In a pandemic that cuts across all facets of society, leaders need to deliberately weigh all sides of the situation to make the most effective decisions, she says.

Deliberately seeking out this diversity of voices is also critical for fighting health disparities, Bharel emphasizes. Massachusetts, for instance, formed a health equity advisory group, so community members, health care workers and other experts could counsel the department on where and how to deploy limited resources. The state’s vaccination strategy, widely touted for its high uptake and reach , was probably the most notable example of this advisory group’s success.

Massachusetts started with mass vaccination sites, like most states, but quickly observed that these sites weren’t reaching all residents equally. So, in the state’s most vulnerable regions, the department pursued a hyperlocal strategy, hiring community members to serve as vaccine ambassadors. They would go door to door, answer people’s concerns and walk them over to get vaccinated—familiar faces engaging their communities. “In the United States, if you start to feel unwell, it is your responsibility to physically go to the health care facility,” Bharel says. “What if we flipped that and said we want to come to you in the community, and we want to help you be well?”

Of course, this engagement shouldn’t be transactional—getting shots in arms and then leaving. Public health departments should form interdisciplinary advisory committees that represent their community’s diversity and can help guide their work, whether the threat is lung cancer or the next pandemic. Prioritizing the community’s lived experiences and continuously investing in their success builds trust and equity.

We need to continue making big bets on vaccines

Patient Gets a Covid Vaccine

The Covid-19 vaccine was undoubtedly the big success story of the pandemic. “It proved that a concerted public-private partnership is capable of producing at scale a highly effective vaccine in eight to ten months,” Wachter says. This victory was a testament to the unprecedented commitment of federal resources, an expedited Food and Drug Administration approval process, previous research into mRNA vaccines and good fortune that the spike protein was an easy target.

But this success also offers an important lesson. “If you make a big bet, and you’re successful with a program, you should keep making big bets,” Topol says. By removing the risk for pharmaceutical companies, Operation Warp Speed got the U.S. first-generation vaccines, but the government didn’t kick-start a second or third operation to make nasal vaccines or pan-coronavirus vaccines, which could have protected against new variants. This was reportedly because of a lack of political interest and funding . “It’s stupid,” Topol adds. “If this is the best we can do, it’s not good enough.”

Indeed, a big part of the promise of mRNA vaccines is that they can be endlessly tweaked, providing a foundation to tackle all sorts of infectious, autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases. For future pandemics, the U.S. should take advantage of this iterative nature to develop a series of new vaccines and not put all its eggs in one basket with first-generation vaccines, Topol emphasizes. Furthermore, Congress should be thinking of vaccine development as an instrument of national security , opening up its enormous defense budget to pandemic preparedness. After all, big public-private partnerships will always be needed to continue pushing technological boundaries and protecting American’s health.

We need to actively crowd out bad information

In 1984, HIV was discovered as the cause of AIDS, but almost 40 years later, scientists still haven’t been able to develop an effective vaccine for the virus. For Covid-19, however, “we learned that the biggest problem with vaccines is that people don’t take them,” Wachter says. Despite high-quality scientific evidence that they are essentially riskless, “the misinformation machine is able to elevate any tiny risk, either perceived or real, to feel almost equivalent to the benefit,” he adds.

Part of the challenge is that public health officials are not doing enough to compete for people’s attention. “The network that makes a conspiracy theory go viral is very well worked out and very strategic and intentional,” Wachter says, “whereas [public health] information networks tend to be like, ‘Well, we’re just putting out information. Why do we have to even think about spread?’”

For future pandemics, public health officials need to extensively engage their communities to drown out misinformation. “In Massachusetts, in the first 120 days of the pandemic, our governor had over 100 press events,” Bharel says. “What we really wanted to do was make our information the trusted source of information, because we knew there was a lot else out there.” Consequently, the department worked hard to put out information in different languages, create PSAs with physicians from local communities and creatively engage the public otherwise. In the Commonwealth Fund’s Scorecard , Massachusetts came eighth in the U.S. in its response and management of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Topol thinks holding press conferences and engaging the public isn’t enough. “You have to take on the anti-science community, aggressively,” he says, “because if you don’t neutralize it, it just grows and gets more organized and sponsored and funded.” But what would this takedown actually look like? Topol envisions a fact-checking team at the White House or U.S. Department Health and Human Services (HHS) that would be responsible for publicly calling out public health lies spread on major media networks. “These bad actors, whoever they are, need to be identified so that the public knows that these people are making stuff up or lying—and they’re twisting and distorting things,” Topol says.

Whether or not this fact-checking crew could actually work is an open question, but Topol is emphatic that public health cannot take a hands-off approach to misinformation going forward. “It’s harmed millions of people, maybe cost hundreds of thousands of lives in this country already,” he says. “And we just let it happen.”

We need to infuse public health communication with vulnerability

Although misinformation was certainly deadly, the problems with pandemic communication were so much broader. With shifting guidance on issues such as isolation length and booster eligibility , public health agencies lost the American people’s credibility. “When the vaccines first came out and they began saying breakthrough infections are rare, everyone looked around and said, ‘No, they’re not. Half of my family has one,’” Wachter says. According to a poll published in May 2021 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, only half of the public reported a great deal of trust in the CDC, and only a third in HHS.

Some of these failures in communication were to be expected because, as Bharel put it, “we were flying the plane at the same time as were building it.” In the context of a novel virus, of course scientific understandings evolve, but communicating this shift to the public proved to be more difficult, with the federal government faltering again and again. For instance, the CDC’s masking recommendation in April 2020 was seen as arbitrary and capricious rather than reflecting greater evidence for airborne transmission and asymptomatic spread .

For future pandemics, the U.S. should consider taking a page out of Ohio’s playbook. In 2020, New York Times producers watched seven weeks of Acton’s press briefings and released an opinion documentary titled “The Leader We Wish We All Had,” focusing on her vulnerability, brutal honesty and empowerment. She acknowledged Ohioans’ pain and made them feel less alone. She openly projected her own uncertainty instead of providing static, irrevocable answers. When testing was in short supply in April 2020, she confessed that the Department of Health didn’t know how much Covid-19 had spread. “I have to be very clear and transparent with you. All of these numbers are a gross underestimation,” Acton said at the time, “and we have no real idea of the prevalence of this infection yet.”

Acton reflects back and says, “We would directly lay truth on the table, and once you do, more truth will spread.”

Bharel echoes similar points about transparency and flexible messaging. “This is what we know now. This is what we don’t know. And this is how we’re trying to find out more information,” she parcels out. Public health experts say that the public can handle—and in fact appreciates—difficult truths, as well as learning what specific work is being done to provide more clarity.

But perhaps one of the most important lessons for public health messaging is unity. During her wildly popular press briefings , Acton would share everything from Michael Stipe’s song “No Time for Love Like Now,” to the story of Bonnie Bowen, a 93-year-old Ohioan who’s made watercolor paintings every day since March 2020. When Bowen got Covid-19, she received 250,000 prayer messages—and ended up surviving. “We had to build a life raft where people were pulling one another up, and in Ohio, we ended up creating this movement of people helping people,” Acton says. “Kindness is an age-old, enduring principle. It’s about having the hard conversations but holding space and seeing the humanity in one another.”

Before the next pandemic, Wachter says “there should be a postmortem of the communication effort by the federal government about what the lessons learned were.” After cleaning house accordingly, HHS should establish an integrated system for public health communication, like the U.S. has for extreme weather and homeland security threats , and promulgate best practices for science communication to state and local leaders.

We need to question whether we’ve learned our lessons

We discussed the six biggest takeaways from Covid that will help us fight the next pandemic, but we could have mentioned so many other lessons, from improving ventilation to reforming contact tracing to depoliticizing public health. And that’s why Acton, Bharel, Topol and Wachter all emphasized the need to fully reckon with the failures of the Covid-19 pandemic and ensure that we are actually learning from our mistakes.

But Topol says there’s no guarantee that we will. And Wachter paints a similarly bleak picture about the future of public health: “We will underinvest in it because that’s what everybody always does when the acute threat passes. There’s always some other threat to take its place in the public attention and priorities.”

But experts stress that we can’t let this moment go by, especially after the past three years have brought unimaginable suffering, fear and loss to every pocket of the U.S. “We need to mourn, memorialize and then move forward,” Acton says. “We have to make meaning out of things we've endured.”

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Simar Bajaj | | READ MORE

Simar Bajaj is a student at Harvard University studying the history of science and a research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Stanford University School of Medicine. He has previously written for the Washington Post , Guardian , TIME Magazine , and New England Journal of Medicine .

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Read these 12 moving essays about life during coronavirus

Artists, novelists, critics, and essayists are writing the first draft of history.

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what the pandemic taught me essay

The world is grappling with an invisible, deadly enemy, trying to understand how to live with the threat posed by a virus . For some writers, the only way forward is to put pen to paper, trying to conceptualize and document what it feels like to continue living as countries are under lockdown and regular life seems to have ground to a halt.

So as the coronavirus pandemic has stretched around the world, it’s sparked a crop of diary entries and essays that describe how life has changed. Novelists, critics, artists, and journalists have put words to the feelings many are experiencing. The result is a first draft of how we’ll someday remember this time, filled with uncertainty and pain and fear as well as small moments of hope and humanity.

At the New York Review of Books, Ali Bhutto writes that in Karachi, Pakistan, the government-imposed curfew due to the virus is “eerily reminiscent of past military clampdowns”:

Beneath the quiet calm lies a sense that society has been unhinged and that the usual rules no longer apply. Small groups of pedestrians look on from the shadows, like an audience watching a spectacle slowly unfolding. People pause on street corners and in the shade of trees, under the watchful gaze of the paramilitary forces and the police.

His essay concludes with the sobering note that “in the minds of many, Covid-19 is just another life-threatening hazard in a city that stumbles from one crisis to another.”

Writing from Chattanooga, novelist Jamie Quatro documents the mixed ways her neighbors have been responding to the threat, and the frustration of conflicting direction, or no direction at all, from local, state, and federal leaders:

Whiplash, trying to keep up with who’s ordering what. We’re already experiencing enough chaos without this back-and-forth. Why didn’t the federal government issue a nationwide shelter-in-place at the get-go, the way other countries did? What happens when one state’s shelter-in-place ends, while others continue? Do states still under quarantine close their borders? We are still one nation, not fifty individual countries. Right?

Award-winning photojournalist Alessio Mamo, quarantined with his partner Marta in Sicily after she tested positive for the virus, accompanies his photographs in the Guardian of their confinement with a reflection on being confined :

The doctors asked me to take a second test, but again I tested negative. Perhaps I’m immune? The days dragged on in my apartment, in black and white, like my photos. Sometimes we tried to smile, imagining that I was asymptomatic, because I was the virus. Our smiles seemed to bring good news. My mother left hospital, but I won’t be able to see her for weeks. Marta started breathing well again, and so did I. I would have liked to photograph my country in the midst of this emergency, the battles that the doctors wage on the frontline, the hospitals pushed to their limits, Italy on its knees fighting an invisible enemy. That enemy, a day in March, knocked on my door instead.

In the New York Times Magazine, deputy editor Jessica Lustig writes with devastating clarity about her family’s life in Brooklyn while her husband battled the virus, weeks before most people began taking the threat seriously:

At the door of the clinic, we stand looking out at two older women chatting outside the doorway, oblivious. Do I wave them away? Call out that they should get far away, go home, wash their hands, stay inside? Instead we just stand there, awkwardly, until they move on. Only then do we step outside to begin the long three-block walk home. I point out the early magnolia, the forsythia. T says he is cold. The untrimmed hairs on his neck, under his beard, are white. The few people walking past us on the sidewalk don’t know that we are visitors from the future. A vision, a premonition, a walking visitation. This will be them: Either T, in the mask, or — if they’re lucky — me, tending to him.

Essayist Leslie Jamison writes in the New York Review of Books about being shut away alone in her New York City apartment with her 2-year-old daughter since she became sick:

The virus. Its sinewy, intimate name. What does it feel like in my body today? Shivering under blankets. A hot itch behind the eyes. Three sweatshirts in the middle of the day. My daughter trying to pull another blanket over my body with her tiny arms. An ache in the muscles that somehow makes it hard to lie still. This loss of taste has become a kind of sensory quarantine. It’s as if the quarantine keeps inching closer and closer to my insides. First I lost the touch of other bodies; then I lost the air; now I’ve lost the taste of bananas. Nothing about any of these losses is particularly unique. I’ve made a schedule so I won’t go insane with the toddler. Five days ago, I wrote Walk/Adventure! on it, next to a cut-out illustration of a tiger—as if we’d see tigers on our walks. It was good to keep possibility alive.

At Literary Hub, novelist Heidi Pitlor writes about the elastic nature of time during her family’s quarantine in Massachusetts:

During a shutdown, the things that mark our days—commuting to work, sending our kids to school, having a drink with friends—vanish and time takes on a flat, seamless quality. Without some self-imposed structure, it’s easy to feel a little untethered. A friend recently posted on Facebook: “For those who have lost track, today is Blursday the fortyteenth of Maprilay.” ... Giving shape to time is especially important now, when the future is so shapeless. We do not know whether the virus will continue to rage for weeks or months or, lord help us, on and off for years. We do not know when we will feel safe again. And so many of us, minus those who are gifted at compartmentalization or denial, remain largely captive to fear. We may stay this way if we do not create at least the illusion of movement in our lives, our long days spent with ourselves or partners or families.

Novelist Lauren Groff writes at the New York Review of Books about trying to escape the prison of her fears while sequestered at home in Gainesville, Florida:

Some people have imaginations sparked only by what they can see; I blame this blinkered empiricism for the parks overwhelmed with people, the bars, until a few nights ago, thickly thronged. My imagination is the opposite. I fear everything invisible to me. From the enclosure of my house, I am afraid of the suffering that isn’t present before me, the people running out of money and food or drowning in the fluid in their lungs, the deaths of health-care workers now growing ill while performing their duties. I fear the federal government, which the right wing has so—intentionally—weakened that not only is it insufficient to help its people, it is actively standing in help’s way. I fear we won’t sufficiently punish the right. I fear leaving the house and spreading the disease. I fear what this time of fear is doing to my children, their imaginations, and their souls.

At ArtForum , Berlin-based critic and writer Kristian Vistrup Madsen reflects on martinis, melancholia, and Finnish artist Jaakko Pallasvuo’s 2018 graphic novel Retreat , in which three young people exile themselves in the woods:

In melancholia, the shape of what is ending, and its temporality, is sprawling and incomprehensible. The ambivalence makes it hard to bear. The world of Retreat is rendered in lush pink and purple watercolors, which dissolve into wild and messy abstractions. In apocalypse, the divisions established in genesis bleed back out. My own Corona-retreat is similarly soft, color-field like, each day a blurred succession of quarantinis, YouTube–yoga, and televized press conferences. As restrictions mount, so does abstraction. For now, I’m still rooting for love to save the world.

At the Paris Review , Matt Levin writes about reading Virginia Woolf’s novel The Waves during quarantine:

A retreat, a quarantine, a sickness—they simultaneously distort and clarify, curtail and expand. It is an ideal state in which to read literature with a reputation for difficulty and inaccessibility, those hermetic books shorn of the handholds of conventional plot or characterization or description. A novel like Virginia Woolf’s The Waves is perfect for the state of interiority induced by quarantine—a story of three men and three women, meeting after the death of a mutual friend, told entirely in the overlapping internal monologues of the six, interspersed only with sections of pure, achingly beautiful descriptions of the natural world, a day’s procession and recession of light and waves. The novel is, in my mind’s eye, a perfectly spherical object. It is translucent and shimmering and infinitely fragile, prone to shatter at the slightest disturbance. It is not a book that can be read in snatches on the subway—it demands total absorption. Though it revels in a stark emotional nakedness, the book remains aloof, remote in its own deep self-absorption.

In an essay for the Financial Times, novelist Arundhati Roy writes with anger about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s anemic response to the threat, but also offers a glimmer of hope for the future:

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.

From Boston, Nora Caplan-Bricker writes in The Point about the strange contraction of space under quarantine, in which a friend in Beirut is as close as the one around the corner in the same city:

It’s a nice illusion—nice to feel like we’re in it together, even if my real world has shrunk to one person, my husband, who sits with his laptop in the other room. It’s nice in the same way as reading those essays that reframe social distancing as solidarity. “We must begin to see the negative space as clearly as the positive, to know what we don’t do is also brilliant and full of love,” the poet Anne Boyer wrote on March 10th, the day that Massachusetts declared a state of emergency. If you squint, you could almost make sense of this quarantine as an effort to flatten, along with the curve, the distinctions we make between our bonds with others. Right now, I care for my neighbor in the same way I demonstrate love for my mother: in all instances, I stay away. And in moments this month, I have loved strangers with an intensity that is new to me. On March 14th, the Saturday night after the end of life as we knew it, I went out with my dog and found the street silent: no lines for restaurants, no children on bicycles, no couples strolling with little cups of ice cream. It had taken the combined will of thousands of people to deliver such a sudden and complete emptiness. I felt so grateful, and so bereft.

And on his own website, musician and artist David Byrne writes about rediscovering the value of working for collective good , saying that “what is happening now is an opportunity to learn how to change our behavior”:

In emergencies, citizens can suddenly cooperate and collaborate. Change can happen. We’re going to need to work together as the effects of climate change ramp up. In order for capitalism to survive in any form, we will have to be a little more socialist. Here is an opportunity for us to see things differently — to see that we really are all connected — and adjust our behavior accordingly. Are we willing to do this? Is this moment an opportunity to see how truly interdependent we all are? To live in a world that is different and better than the one we live in now? We might be too far down the road to test every asymptomatic person, but a change in our mindsets, in how we view our neighbors, could lay the groundwork for the collective action we’ll need to deal with other global crises. The time to see how connected we all are is now.

The portrait these writers paint of a world under quarantine is multifaceted. Our worlds have contracted to the confines of our homes, and yet in some ways we’re more connected than ever to one another. We feel fear and boredom, anger and gratitude, frustration and strange peace. Uncertainty drives us to find metaphors and images that will let us wrap our minds around what is happening.

Yet there’s no single “what” that is happening. Everyone is contending with the pandemic and its effects from different places and in different ways. Reading others’ experiences — even the most frightening ones — can help alleviate the loneliness and dread, a little, and remind us that what we’re going through is both unique and shared by all.

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Ongoing lessons from a long pandemic

What COVID-19 has taught—and continues to teach—us two years in.

FOR ALMOST TWO YEARS, the coronavirus has battered the world, with millions of deaths and hundreds of millions of cases. This winter’s omicron variant surge is just the latest example of the pandemic’s unpredictable trajectory. It has resulted in personal tragedy for many. It has left survivors with long-COVID-19 symptoms, and it has overwhelmed health care systems and caused burnout among health workers. It has changed our behavior, acquainting people with mask wearing and social distancing. It has changed the way we work, forcing the fortunate to work remotely and resulting in furloughs or layoffs or constant risk of exposure for the less fortunate. And it has been an impetus to scientific innovation, with effective vaccines created and distributed at a historic pace.

The world is a different place from what it was two years ago, and we are still learning to live with all the sorrow and change the pandemic has brought. At the same time, COVID-19 has taught us a lot. Through the global crisis, we have reevaluated aspects of our societies and examined what is working—and what isn’t.

Here HKS faculty members and other experts examine lessons learned during the pandemic.

  • Matthew Baum and John Della Volpe: National suffering and solidarity
  • Hannah Riley Bowles: Understanding the “Shecession”
  • David Eaves: Lessons from digital government
  • Debra Iles: Executive education will never be the same
  • Anders Jensen: A time to rethink tax systems
  • Asim Khwaja: Prioritizing process to prepare for the next shock
  • Dan Levy: Thinking outside—and inside—the Zoom box

National suffering and solidarity

Matthew baum and john della volpe.

Mathew Baum and John Della Volpe

It is difficult to conceive of anything good borne of COVID-19. As of this writing, in the United States, more than 700,000 are dead; 5 million have fallen worldwide. Millions of us grieve the untimely loss of a family member, a loved one, or a friend. And while our team of researchers from the Covid States Project has charted the extreme stress, anxiety, and depression so many Americans are facing, we also have found reason for optimism. 

Partnership between the public and private sectors has spurred tremendous innovation in vaccine development and distribution logistics, which will likely prove enormously beneficial in the future, both with routine vaccines and with future pandemics. COVID-19 has also provided a rare real-time window into the workings of science, which while not universally helpful, provides valuable education for many people. Life-saving developments like these are probably why the public’s trust in science has largely remained intact while trust in other institutions has fallen since we began tracking such measures in April 2020. In a recent wave of more than 21,000 interviews across 50 states and the District of Columbia, we found that 92% of American adults trust doctors and hospitals, nearly 90% trust scientists and researchers, 78% trust the CDC, 74% trust pharmaceutical companies, and 68% trust Dr. Anthony Fauci on how best to deal with the coronavirus. Although overall levels of confidence in the scientific community remain very strong in general, evidence suggests that trust has eroded somewhat over the past 18 months and bears watching.

“While our country and many communities feel as divided as they have ever been in our lifetimes, the bonds of family (whether nuclear or chosen) are stronger.”

Matt baum and john della volpe.

Additionally, the coronavirus has provided oxygen for many of us to reevaluate priorities and life choices, including family, work, and career. The racial reckoning that followed the death of George Floyd in 2020 would most likely not have been as profound if tens of millions of American families had not been locked down, watching the gruesome news coverage, and pressured by often younger family members to confront and discuss systemic racism and the sins of America’s past that led to the murder and civil unrest. 

Today, millions of Americans, especially Millennials and Generation Z, are reconsidering what it means to be happy and live a fulfilling and purposeful life. The effects of their decisions are now recognized by economists and businesses in need of labor, but the values leading to workforce changes have been developing for more than a decade, only to be supercharged during the pandemic. While our country and many communities feel as divided as they have ever been in our lifetimes, the bonds of family (whether nuclear or chosen) are stronger. 

More than 18 months ago, Amanda Gorman offered comfort to a nation that was unaware of the inordinate loss soon headed its way. She said, in part:

We ignite not in the light, but in lack thereof, For it is in loss that we truly learn to love. In this chaos, we will discover clarity. In suffering, we must find solidarity.

As science leads us to a brighter 2022, let’s hope that through our national suffering we can once again discover what’s important, not just for ourselves but for the nation.

Matthew Baum , the Marvin Kalb Professor of Global Communications, and John Della Volpe , director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, are among the team involved with the Covid States Project, a multi-university collaboration of researchers in a range of fields, who have examined behaviors and outcomes across the United States since March 2020.

Understanding the “Shecession”

Hannah riley bowles  .

Q: How is the intersection of race and gender at play for working mothers during the COVID-19 recovery phase?

Hannah Riley Bowles headshot.

The most detailed data we have is from a survey conducted by Women and Public Policy Program Fellow Alicia Modestino, which consisted of a national panel of 2,500 working parents between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (May 10 to June 21) of 2020. These data, collected at the onset of the pandemic, indicated that women accounted for more than half of unemployed workers (consonant with other economic studies), with Black and Hispanic women suffering outsize job losses at 9.5% and 8.3%, respectively. This gender disparity in labor market outcomes, often dubbed the “She-cession,” reflected the disproportionate toll on female workers, who were more likely to hold in-person jobs in affected industries such as hospitality, childcare, and health care.

A distinctive strength of this survey was that it collected information on whether childcare conflicts directly contributed to job losses. In contrast, other studies could only infer why women with children were displaced from the labor market. Modestino and colleagues found that 26% of unemployed mothers reported a lack of childcare as the reason for losing their jobs, compared with 14% of unemployed fathers. Their time-use data confirm that COVID-19 made work-life balance disproportionately difficult for women, with significant increases in time spent on schoolwork and playing with children as well as cooking and cleaning. In comparison, men reported only small increases in basic household chores. Women of color were more likely to have those experiences. For example, the survey showed that 23% of Black women—versus 15% of non-Black women—reported that their hours were reduced due to a lack of childcare.

Thanks to a gift to WAPPP from the Jessica Hoffman Brennan Gender Inequality and COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Research Fund for research on the effects of the pandemic on women’s labor-market participation, Modestino and I are launching a study to explore working mothers’ experiences during the COVID-19 recovery phase from an intersectional perspective, disaggregating data by race, income, education, and other demographics. We also seek to investigate the role of negotiations in “shock resilience”—namely, how negotiating with partners, employers, coworkers, immediate and extended family members, friends, and others who make up formal and informal support systems can help women manage family and paid labor.

“With the closure of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, household dynamics became a significant factor in determining labor outcomes for women.”

Hannah riley bowles.

Q: How has the shock to childcare during COVID-19 varied among women with different household dynamics?

With the closure of schools during the pandemic, household dynamics became a significant factor in determining labor outcomes for women. In Modestino’s survey, women were more likely to report losses in work status if they were single, divorced, separated, or widowed (22% for not married versus 15% for married). Women living in households with annual incomes below $75,000 were also significantly more likely to report that difficulties with childcare had had an adverse effect on their labor-market participation. This effect was more acute for women with small children and those holding in-person jobs.

Q: Working mothers have been hit hard. How can policy support them?

The Modestino survey data suggest that access to paid family leave, remote-work arrangements, and childcare subsidies were the most important policies in enabling women to remain fully employed. Equally or even more important was the support of managers and coworkers—suggesting that formal policies and practices need to be backed up by family-friendly work cultures.

Access to backup childcare was another important factor that varied across communities, with lower-income families more likely to rely on family support networks. However, although 24% of working parents reported having access to paid family leave, only 4% had used it during the pandemic. Even worse, working parents who identify as Black or Hispanic are less likely to work in jobs that offer paid sick time and medical leave or to have COVID-19 policies available to them such as backup childcare subsidies and working from home.

Again, looking forward, we seek to understand what critical factors enable working mothers to recover from the pandemic, including formal and informal supports for managing work and family.

Roy E. Larsen Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management Hannah Riley Bowles is a codirector of the Center for Public Leadership and the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP). Her research focuses on gender, negotiation, career advancement, and work-family conflict.

Lessons from digital government

David eaves.

David Eaves headshot

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital service groups and digital government experts around the world started to codify what a good digital crisis response could look like. These efforts have resulted in documents such as the  California Digital Crisis Standard , developed by the state’s COVID-19 response team. Another example comes from Ontario, where the digital service group leveraged previous work in Alberta to quickly deploy a COVID-19 self-assessment in days, helping lower call volumes to government help desks and reducing stress for citizens.

The broad takeaway is that in a crisis, tried-and-true practices become even more critical to executing digital service delivery. The experiences of California and Ontario tell us that:  

  • Working in the open enables learning In a national emergency, working in the open allows multiple service providers—within the same governing system or outside it—to learn from one another, accelerating development timelines and surfacing creative solutions. The California Digital Crisis Standard was made possible by work that was shared, while the story of Alberta and Ontario demonstrates that leveraging others’ work can radically reduce the cost and time to deploy government services.
  • There is always time for user testing While some may view user testing as a time-consuming luxury that has no place in rapid crisis response, the experiences of California and Ontario highlight the importance of prioritizing user needs. If anything, user testing is more important in a crisis, because the consequences are more serious if services do not work for users.
  • Clear communication is essential Both examples underscore the importance of communicating simply and clearly with users of digital services. Doing so can reduce panic and confusion while creating trust between users and the government agencies managing the services.  

Looking Ahead The experiences of California and Ontario don’t hold all the answers for an effective digital crisis response. No two crises are the same, and some degree of improvisation will always be necessary. But taking time to develop a framework for response—to understand how normal working processes might change or stay the same—helps mitigate the pressure teams face while handling any crisis. More important, the work that California and Ontario appeared to do “on the fly” was really the result of years of capacity building, changing policies, and acquiring the right talent to change how government works. The crisis just made the value of those new ways of working more apparent.

Digital service groups need to think proactively about how crises affect the development and deployment of digital technologies in the public realm and build a standard that draws on the elements of impactful crisis responses like those in California and Ontario.

Lecturer in Public Policy David Eaves, with coeditor Lauren Lombardo MPP 2021, produced a policy brief titled “2020 State of Digital Transformation,” with lessons from digital government service units that responded quickly and effectively to the pandemic. The excerpt above is an adaptation of material from this brief.

Executive education will never be the same

Debra Iles headshot

Only six weeks after we shuttered our offices due to the onset of COVID-19, in April 2020, HKS Executive Education brought together participants for our first pivoted online program in April 2020. Six weeks after that, we hosted our first free faculty-led webinar, which focused on helping our global community respond to the repercussions of the health crisis.

Before the pandemic, we had a few online programs. In general, though, our faculty and participants preferred being together in person and on campus. We stuck with that model because we knew it worked. We needed a crisis to embrace online learning.

And as was true for many during the pandemic, we learned a few things—fast. It turns out that online executive education can be excellent. Everyone is in the front row. The cost of travel has evaporated. Classroom diversity is enhanced. Different learning styles are welcomed, and extended program lengths allow people to test what they are learning in their jobs in real time. Deeply interactive discussions between faculty members and learners, a cornerstone of our in-person programs, came alive online.

“It turns out online executive education can be excellent. Everyone is in the front row.”

We also learned, through a difficult year, about the resilience of the Kennedy School team. The HKS faculty pulled together, building momentum and encouraging one another to move forward and revamp the curriculum for remote learning. The members of our staff rallied, expanding their skills to enable each program participant to be truly present in this new virtual world. Together, the faculty and the staff managed polls and chats, posted new video and audio materials, curated virtual study groups, and reviewed participants’ progress at every step.

Outside the classroom, we learned that many were eager to discover through our free webinars how COVID-19 was reshaping leadership, economics, and trade. We expanded what we thought was just a short-term offering to an ongoing series of faculty members sharing the latest research on racial justice, social justice, climate change, crisis, and new scholarship across the HKS spectrum. We’ve always known that the best leaders never stop learning, and thousands in our community showed up for this important content while they were facing some of the most extreme public challenges we’ve seen in decades.

Our mission has always been to bring HKS ideas and research to the broadest possible audience of senior-level leaders who are looking to apply new approaches to their work in real-time. Based on what we’ve learned this year, online learning’s expanded place in our programs is here to stay. Today we offer more than 60 online program sessions every year. And even when COVID-19 is behind us, we expect to stay 40% online.

Debra Iles is the senior associate dean for executive education at Harvard Kennedy School.

A time to rethink tax systems

Anders jensen.

Anders Jensen headshot

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to think about tax policy in an evidence-based way. It has put a lot of pressure on government budgets for unemployment benefits and other public goods, which means that the government must collect more taxes to provide them. But at the same time, the tax base has eroded owing to the various forms of lockdown that were necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19.  

Tax policies for the post-pandemic recovery period will thus require governments to be resourceful and to look at underutilized policy tools. To that end, the COVID-19 recovery phase may present a strong opportunity for a deeper overhaul of tax systems to improve efficiency and—perhaps even more important—equity.

Anders Jensen is an assistant professor of public policy who studies tax policy with a particular focus on countries’ capacity to tax.

Prioritizing process to prepare for the next shock

Asim khwaja.

Asim Khwaja headshot

The pandemic led to massive losses in many countries—of life, of livelihoods, and more.  The biggest lesson that I believe we can learn from these years of loss is that process matters. Shocks happen, and there is only so much a society can do to prepare for the worst kinds of shocks, such as COVID-19—one of the most devastating our world has experienced. 

What this specific shock revealed to me is that we didn’t have processes in place to navigate it in a way that wasn’t reactionary or destructive. We didn’t have measurement systems to figure out the extent of the problem, and we didn’t have ways to adjudicate the effectiveness of our policy responses to the problem. We were lacking the evidence we desperately needed as we designed costly policies, assuming that they would lead to a benefit instead of a huge cost. In some places around the world, policymakers overdid it, and in others, policies such as lockdowns to limit the spread of the virus, proved successful. These instances of failure or success derived more from reactionary decisions than from any evidence-based process. We could only depend on the loudest voices and a panicked desire to do something quickly in our policy responses.

“What this specific shock revealed to me is that we didn’t have processes in place to navigate the shock in a way that wasn’t reactionary or destructive.”

I hope that we have now learned how critical it is to have effective response processes in place before the challenges that we will inevitably face in the future. Doing so will allow us to have a more thoughtful, evidence-driven, and conceptually valid response, as opposed to an immediate and desperate reaction.

Asim Khwaja is the director of the Center for International Development and the Sumitomo-FASID Professor of International Finance and Development.

Thinking outside—and inside—the Zoom box

Dan levy  .

Dan Levy headshot

Q: How prepared was HKS for online learning when COVID-19 hit in March 2020?

Prior to COVID-19, the Kennedy School was already doing online learning, but it was mainly driven by a small number of faculty members and staff who strongly believed in its power to both expand reach and improve teaching and learning. There were many interesting initiatives in executive education. And there were pioneer faculty members, including Marshall Ganz and Matt Andrews. Teddy Svoronos, Pinar Dogan, I, and others were doing it as part of a blended learning approach. Then, a couple of years before the pandemic, a group of us started working on the Public Leadership Credential, which is the School’s flagship online learning initiative.

When we were forced by the pandemic to move to online learning, we were very fortunate to be able to leverage those previous efforts, and I think the School was better prepared for online learning because of them. That doesn’t mean it was easy to do, but it does mean that we had in-house expertise to help bring everyone into online teaching and learning.

Many of us had experience with asynchronous learning, whereby learners engage with online material but are not interacting live with teachers. So even some of us who had some experience had to adjust quickly to live online teaching.  I think it’s fair to say that there were growing pains. It was not easy at first, and I commend the spirit of the faculty and staff members. They looked for ways to innovate and make things work for students and were very resourceful and creative. That, to me, is one of the silver linings of the pandemic: the unleashing of creativity and resourcefulness that those involved in teaching and learning were able to bring to the enterprise.

“The pandemic has taught us to think more carefully about how to design successful learning experiences and programs for our students. We need to be better at putting ourselves in their shoes.”

Q: You wrote a book about teaching with Zoom. How did that come about?

We went to online learning at the Kennedy School in March of 2020. By mid-May, I was seeing faculty members, both here and outside the School, use Zoom in creative ways. I started documenting those examples because I wanted to learn what they were doing—and I ended up putting together a book. I felt that people needed a one-stop place to learn how to teach effectively with Zoom, since that’s the platform most people were using. I hope the book is helpful, not only to colleagues at the Kennedy School and at Harvard but more broadly.  

Q: What can we take from Zoom to the physical classroom?

Some aspects of teaching in the classroom are better—such as the magic that happens when people can engage in person. But it became clear to me that there are also some things we can do better online. Now that we’re transitioning back to in-person teaching, we can think about how to incorporate some of those advantages. The use of chat during live instruction on Zoom is an incredibly powerful tool for finding out quickly what’s on our students’ minds. As we return to classrooms, where we don’t have chat, we should think about alternative ways to get the same benefits. Another plus with teaching on Zoom is the breakout rooms, where you can put learners in groups. We’ve always done group work in classrooms, but on Zoom we experimented with having the groups use collaborative tools to document their work. Being able to better leverage group work for post-group discussions is something I hope we can bring into the physical classroom.

Q: What’s one lesson from teaching fully online during COVID-19 that you think we should not forget?

The pandemic has taught us to think more carefully about how to design successful learning experiences and programs for our students. We need to be better at putting ourselves in their shoes. That is a simple principle that should always guide teaching and learning, and it was especially evident over the past two years.

Dan Levy is a senior lecturer in public policy. He is the faculty director of the Public Leadership Credential , Harvard Kennedy School’s flagship online learning initiative, and the author of   Teaching Effectively with Zoom: A Practical Guide to Engage Your Students and Help Them Learn .

The White House is seen as a backdrop as people visit the 'In America: Remember' public art installation near the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The installation commemorates all the Americans who have died due to COVID-19. Image by Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Inline images by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, Andrei Pungovschi/Bloomberg /Getty Images, and Liu Guanguan/China News Service/Getty Images

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15 Lessons the Coronavirus Pandemic Has Taught Us

What we've learned over the past 12 months could pay off for years to come.

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For the past year, our country has been mired in not one deep crisis but three: a pandemic , an economic meltdown and one of the most fraught political transitions in our history. Interwoven in all three have been challenging issues of racial disparity and fairness. Dealing with all of this has dominated much of our energy, attention and, for many Americans, even our emotions.

But spring is nearly here, and we are, by and large, moving past the worst moments as a nation — which makes it a good time to take a deep breath and assess the changes that have occurred. While no one would be displeased if we could magically erase this whole pandemic experience, it's been the crucible of our lives for a year, and we have much to learn from it — and even much to gain.

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AARP asked dozens of experts to go beyond the headlines and to share the deeper lessons of the past year that have had a particular impact on older Americans. More importantly, we asked them to share how we can use these learnings to make life better for us as we recover and move forward. Here is what they told us.

Lesson 1: Family Matters More Than We Realized

"The indelible image of the older person living alone and having to struggle — we need to change that. You're going to see more older people home-sharing within families and cohousing across communities to avoid future situations of tragedy."

—Marc Freedman, CEO and president of Encore.org and author of  How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations

Norman Rockwell would have needed miles of canvas to portray the American family this past year. You can imagine the titles: The Family That Zooms Together. Generations Under One Roof. Grandkids Outside My Window. The Shared Office . “Beneath the warts and complexities of all that went wrong, we rediscovered the interdependence of generations and how much we need each other,” Freedman says. Among the lessons:

Adult kids are OK. A Pew Research Center survey last summer found that 52 percent of the American population between ages 18 and 29 were living with parents, a figure unmatched since the Great Depression. From February to July 2020, 2.6 million young adults moved back with one or both parents. That's a lot of shared Netflix accounts. It's also a culture shift, says Karen Fingerman, director of the Texas Aging & Longevity Center at the University of Texas at Austin. “After the family dinners together, grandparents filling in for childcare, and the wise economic sense, it's going to be acceptable for adult family members to co-reside,” Fingerman says. “At least for a while.”

What We've Learned From the Pandemic

•  Lesson 1: Family Matters •  Lesson 2: Medical Breakthroughs •  Lesson 3: Self-Care Matters •  Lesson 4: Be Financially Prepared •  Lesson 5: Age Is Just a Number •  Lesson 6: Getting Online for Good •  Lesson 7: Working Anywhere •  Lesson 8: Restoring Trust •  Lesson 9: Gathering Carefully •  Lesson 10: Isolation's Health Toll •  Lesson 11: Getting Outside •  Lesson 12: Wealth Disparities’ Toll •  Lesson 13: Preparing for the Future •  Lesson 14: Tapping Telemedicine •  Lesson 15: Cities Are Changing

Spouses and partners are critical to well-being . “The ones who've done exceptionally well are couples in long-term relationships who felt renewed intimacy and reconnection to each other,” says social psychologist Richard Slatcher, who runs the Close Relationships Laboratory at the University of Georgia.

Difficult caregiving can morph into good-for-all home-sharing.  To get older Americans out of nursing homes and into a loved one's home — a priority that has gained in importance and urgency due to the pandemic — will take more than just a willing child or grandchild. New resources could help, like expanding Medicaid programs to pay family caregivers, such as an adult child, or initiatives like the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, a Medicare-backed benefit currently helping 50,000 “community dwelling” seniors with medical services, home care and transportation.

"A positive piece this year has been the pause to reflect on how we can help people stay in their homes as they age, which is what everyone wants,” says Nancy LeaMond, AARP's chief advocacy and engagement officer. “If you're taking care of a parent, grandparent, aging partner or yourself, you see more than ever the need for community and government support, of having technology to communicate with your doctor and of getting paid leave for family caregivers. The pandemic has forced us to think about all these things, and that's very positive.”

Family may be the best medicine of all . “Now we know if you can't hug your 18-month-old granddaughter in person, you can read to her on FaceTime,” says Jane Isay, author of several books about family relationships. “You can send your adult kids snail mail. You can share your life's wisdom even from a distance. These coping skills may be the greatest gifts of COVID” — to an older generation that deeply and rightly fears isolation.

a healthcare technician unfrosts vials of a covid vaccine in a lab

Lesson 2: We Have Unleashed a Revolution in Medicine

" One of the biggest lessons we've learned from COVID is that the scientific community working together can do some pretty amazing things."

—John Cooke, M.D., medical director of the RNA Therapeutics Program at Houston Methodist Hospital's DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center

In the past it's taken four to 20 years to create conventional vaccines. For the new messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, it was a record-setting 11 months. The process may have changed forever the way drugs are developed.

"Breakthroughs” come after years of research . Supporting the development of the COVID-19 vaccines was more than a decade of research into mRNA vaccines, which teach human cells how to make a protein that triggers a specific immune response. The research had already overcome many challenging hurdles, such as making sure that mRNA wouldn't provoke inflammation in the body, says Lynne E. Maquat, director of the University of Rochester's Center for RNA Biology: From Genome to Therapeutics.

Vaccines may one day treat heart disease and more. In the near future, mRNA technology could lead to better flu vaccines that could be updated quickly as flu viruses mutate with the season, Maquat says, or the development of a “universal” flu shot that might be effective for several years. Drug developers are looking at vaccines for rabies, Zika virus and HIV. “I expect to see the approval of more mRNA-based vaccines in the next several years,” says mRNA researcher Norbert Pardi, a research assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

"We could use mRNA for diseases and conditions that can't be treated with drugs,” Cooke explains.

It may also target our biggest killers . Future mRNA therapies could help regenerate muscle in failing hearts and target the unique genetics of individual cancers with personalized cancer vaccines. “Every case of cancer is unique, with its own genetics,” Cooke says. “Doctors will be able to sequence your tumor and use it to make a vaccine that awakens your immune system to fight it.” Such mRNA vaccines will also prepare us for future pandemics, Maquat says.

In the meantime, use the vaccines we have available. Don't skip recommended conventional vaccines now available to older adults for the flu, pneumonia, shingles and more, Pardi says. The flu vaccine alone, which 1 in 3 older adults skipped in the winter 2019 season, saves up to tens of thousands of lives a year and lowers your risk for hospitalization with the flu by 28 percent and for needing a ventilator to breathe by 46 percent.

Lesson 3: Self Care Is Not Self-Indulgence

"Not only does self-care have positive outcomes for you, but it also sets an example to younger generations as something to establish and maintain for your entire life."

—Richelle Concepcion, clinical psychologist and president of the Asian American Psychological Association

As the virus upended life last spring, America became hibernation nation. Canned, dry and instant soup sales have risen 37 percent since last April. Premium chocolate sales grew by 21 percent in the first six months of the pandemic. The athleisure market that includes sweatpants and yoga wear saw its 2020 U.S. revenue push past an estimated $105 billion.

With 7 in 10 American workers doing their jobs from home, “COVID turned the focus, for all ages, on the small, simple pleasures that soothe and give us meaning,” says Isabel Gillies, author of  Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World.

Why care about self-care? Pampering is vital to well-being — for yourself and for those around you. Activities that once felt indulgent became essential to our health and equilibrium, and that self-care mindset is likely to endure. Whether it is permission to take long bubble baths, tinkering in the backyard “she shed,” enjoying herbal tea or seeing noon come while still in your robe, “being good to yourself offers a necessary reprieve from whatever horrors threaten us from out there,” Gillies says. Being good to yourself is good for others, too. A recent European survey found that 77 percent of British respondents 75 and younger consider it important to take their health into their own hands in order not to burden the health care system.

Nostalgia TV, daytime PJs. It's OK to use comfort as a crutch. Comfort will help us ease back to life. Some companies are already hawking pajamas you can wear in public. Old-fashioned drive-ins and virtual cast reunions for shows like  Taxi, Seinfeld  and  Happy Days  will likely continue as long as the craving is there. (More than half the consumers in a 2020 survey reported finding comfort in revisiting TV and music from their childhood.) Even the iconic “Got Milk?” ads are back, after dairy sales started to show some big upticks.

So, cut yourself some slack. Learn a new skill; adopt a pet; limit your news diet; ask for help if you need it. You've lived long enough to see the value of prioritizing number one. “Not only does self-care have positive outcomes for you,” Concepcion says, “but it also sets an example to younger generations as something to establish and maintain for your entire life."

Lesson 4: Have a Stash Ready for the Next Crisis

"The need to augment our retirement savings system to help people put away emergency savings is crucial."

—J. Mark Iwry, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former senior adviser to the U.S. secretary of the Treasury

Before the pandemic, nearly 4 in 10 households did not have the cash on hand to cover an unexpected $400 expense, according to a Federal Reserve report. Then the economic downturn hit. By last October, 52 percent of workers were reporting reduced hours, lower pay, a layoff or other hits to their employment situation. A third had taken a loan or early withdrawal from a retirement plan , or intended to. “Alarm bells were already ringing, but many workers were caught off guard without emergency savings,” says Catherine Collinson, CEO and president of the Transamerica Institute. “The pandemic has laid bare so many weaknesses in our safety net."

Companies can help . One solution could be a workplace innovation that's just beginning to catch on: an employee-sponsored rainy-day savings account funded with payroll deductions. By creating a dedicated pot of savings, the thinking goes, workers are less likely to tap retirement accounts in an emergency. “It's much better from a behavioral standpoint to separate short-term savings from long-term savings,” Iwry says. (AARP has been working to make these accounts easier to create and use and is already offering them to its employees.)

Funding that emergency savings account with automatic payroll deductions is a key to the program's success. “Sometimes you think you don't have the money to save, but if a little is put away for you each pay period, you don't feel the pinch,” Iwry notes.

We're off to a good start . Thanks to quarantines and forced frugality, Americans’ savings rate — the average percentage of people's income left over after taxes and personal spending — skyrocketed last spring, peaking at an unprecedented 33.7 percent. On the decline since then, most recently at 13.7 percent, it's still above the single-digit rates characterizing much of the past 35 years. Where it will ultimately settle is unclear; currently, it's in league with high-saving countries Mexico and Sweden. The real model of thriftiness: China, where, according to the latest available figures, the household savings rate averaged at least 30 percent for 14 years straight.

Lesson 5: The Adage ‘Age Is Just a Number’ Has New Meaning

"This isn't just about the pandemic. Your health is directly related to lifestyle — nutrition, physical activity, a healthy weight and restorative sleep."

—Jacob Mirsky, M.D., primary care physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital Revere HealthCare Center and an instructor at Harvard Medical School

Just a few months ago, researchers at Scotland's University of Glasgow asked a big question: If you're healthy, how much does older age matter for risk of death from COVID? The health records of 470,034 women and men revealed some intriguing answers.

Age accounted for a higher risk, but comorbidities (essentially, having two or more health issues simultaneously) mattered much more. Specifically, risk for a fatal infection was four times higher for healthy people 75 and older than for all participants younger than 65. But if you compared all those 75 and older — including those with chronic health condition s like high blood pressure, obesity or lung problems — that shoved the grim odds up thirteenfold.




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Live healthfully, live long . More insights from the study: A healthy 75-year-old was one-third as likely to die from the coronavirus as a 65-year-old with multiple chronic health issues. The bottom line: Age affects your risk of severe illness with COVID, but you should be far more focused on avoiding chronic health conditions. “Coronavirus highlighted yet another reason it's so important to attend to health factors like poor diet and lack of exercise that cause so much preventable illness and death,” says Massachusetts General's Mirsky. “Lifestyle changes can improve your overall health, which will likely directly reduce your risk of developing severe COVID or dying of COVID."

Exercise remains critical . In May 2020 a British study of 387,109 adults in their 40s through 60s found a 38 percent higher risk for severe COVID in people who avoided physical activity. “Mobility should be considered one of the vital signs of health,” concludes exercise psychologist David Marquez, a professor in the department of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Lesson 6: We Befriended Technology, and There's No Going Back

"Folks who have tried online banking will stay with it. It won't mean they won't go back to branches, but they might go back for a different purpose."

—Theodora Lau, founder of financial technology consulting firm Unconventional Ventures

Of course, the world has long been going digital . But before the pandemic, standard operating procedure for most older Americans was to buy apples at the grocery, try the shoes on first before buying, have your doctor measure your blood pressure and see that hot new movie at the theater.

Arguably the biggest long-term societal effect of the pandemic will be a grand flipping of the switch that makes the digital solution the first choice of many Americans for handling life's tasks. We still may cling to a few IRL (in real life) experiences, but it is increasingly apparent that easy-to-use modern virtual tools are the new default.

"If nothing else, COVID has shown us how resilient and adaptable humans are as a society when forced to change,” says Joseph Huang, CEO of StartX, a nonprofit that helps tech companies get off the ground. “We've been forced to learn new technologies that, in many cases, have been the only safe way to continue to live our lives and stay connected to our loved ones during the pandemic.”

The tech boom wasn't just video calls and streaming TV. Popular food delivery apps more than doubled their earnings last year. Weddings and memorial services were held over videoconferences (yes, we'll go back to in-person ones but probably with cameras and live feeds now to include remote participants). In the financial sector, PayPal reported that its fastest-growing user group was people over 50; Chase said about half of its new online users were 50-plus. In telehealth, more doctors conducted routine exams via webcam than ever before — and, in response, insurance coverage expanded for these remote appointments. “It quickly became the only way to operate at scale in today's world,” Huang says, “both for us as patients and for the doctors and nurses who treat us. Telemedicine will turn out to be a better and more effective experience in many cases, even after COVID ends."

Tech is for all . To financial technology expert Lau, the tech adoption rate by older people is no surprise. She never believed the myth that older people lack such knowledge. “There's a difference between knowing how to use something versus preferring to use it,” Lau says. “Sometimes we know how, but we prefer face-to-face interaction.” And now those preferences are shifting.

man at his home computer on a telemedicine call

Lesson 7: Work Is Anywhere Now — a Shift That Bodes Well for Older Americans

"One of the major impacts of the new working-from-home focus is that more jobs are becoming non-location-specific."

—Carol Fishman Cohen, cofounder of iRelaunch, which works with employers to create mid-career return-to-work programs for older workers

Necessity is the mother of reinvention : Forced to work remotely since the onset of the pandemic, millions of workers — and their managers — have learned they could be just as productive as they were at the office, thanks to videoconferencing, high-speed internet and other technologies. “This has opened a lot of corporate eyes,” says Steven Allen, professor of economics at North Carolina State University's Poole College of Management. Twitter, outdoor-goods retailer REI and insurer Lincoln Financial Group are a few of the companies that have announced plans to shift toward more remote work on a permanent basis.

Face-lift your Face-Time . Yes, many workers are tied to a location: We will always need nurses, police, roofers, machine operators, farmers and countless other workers to show up. But if you are among the people who are now able to work remotely, you may be able to live in a less expensive area than where your employer is based — or work right away from the home you were planning to retire to later on, Cohen says. As remote hiring takes hold, how you project yourself on-screen becomes more of a factor. “This puts more pressure on you to make sure you show up well in a virtual setting,” Cohen notes. And don't assume being comfortable with Zoom is a feather in your cap; mentioning it is akin to listing “proficient in Microsoft Word” on your résumé.

Self-employed workers have suffered during the pandemic — nearly two-thirds report being hurt financially, according to the “State of Independence in America 2020” report from MBO Partners — but remote work could fuel their comeback. Before the pandemic, notes Steve King, partner at Emergent Research, businesses with a high percentage of remote workers used a high percentage of independent contractors. “Now that companies are used to workers not being as strongly attached physically to a workplace, they'll be more amenable to hiring independent workers,” he says.

Travel less, stay longer . Tired of sitting in traffic to and from work? Can't stand flying across country for a single meeting? Ridding yourself of these hassles with an internet connection and Zoom calls may be the incentive you need to work longer. People often quit jobs because of little frustrations, Allen says. But now, he adds, “the things that wear you down may be going by the wayside."

Ageism remains a threat . Older workers — who before the coronavirus enjoyed lower unemployment rates than mid-career workers — have been hit especially hard by the pandemic. In December, 45.5 percent of unemployed workers 55 and older had been out of work for 27 weeks or more, compared with 35.1 percent of younger job seekers. Some employers, according to reports this fall, are replacing laid-off older workers with younger, lower-cost ones, instead of recalling those older employees. Psychological studies, Allen says, indicate that older workers have better communication and interpersonal skills — both of which are critical for successful remote work. But whether those strengths can offset age discrimination in the workplace is unknown.

Lesson 8: Our Trust in One Another Has Frayed, but It Can Be Slowly Restored

"Truth matters, but it requires messaging and patience.”

—Historian John M. Barry, author of  The Great Influenza

Even before our views perforated along lines dotted by pandemic politics, race, class and whether Bill Gates is trying to save us or track us, we were losing faith in society. In 1997, 64 percent of Americans put a “very great or good deal of trust” in the political competence of their fellow citizens; today only a third of us feel that way. A 2019 Pew survey found that the majority of Americans say most people can't be trusted. It's even tougher to trust in the future. Only 13 percent of millennials say America is the greatest country in the world, compared with 45 percent of members of the silent generation. No wonder that by June of last year, “national pride” was lower than at any point since Gallup began measuring. To trust again:

As life returns, look beyond your familiar pod. “Distrust breeds distrust, but hope isn't lost for finding common ground, especially for older people,” says Encore.org's Freedman. “Even in the era of ‘OK, boomer’ and ‘OK, millennial’ — memes that dismiss entire generations with an eye roll — divides are bridgeable with what Freedman calls “proximity and purpose.” Rebuilding trust together, across generations, under shared priorities and common humanity.” He points to pandemic efforts like Good Neighbors from the home-sharing platform Nesterly, which pairs older and younger people to provide cross-generational support, and UCLA's Generation Xchange, which connects Gen X mentors with children in grades K-3 in South Los Angeles, where educational achievement is notoriously poor. “Engaging with people for a common goal makes you trust them,” he says.

Be patient but verify facts. History also provides a guide. In the wake of the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed between 50 million and 100 million people, trust in authority withered after local and national government officials played down the disease's threats in order to maintain wartime morale. Historian Barry points out that the head of the Army's’ division of communicable diseases was so worried about the collective failure of trust that he warned that “civilization could easily disappear ... from the face of the earth.” It didn't then, and it won't now, Barry says.

Verify facts and then decide. Check reliable, balanced news sources (such as Reuters and the Associated Press) and unbiased fact-checking sites (such as PolitiFact) before clamping down on an opinion.

Perhaps most important, be open to changing conditions and viewpoints. “As we see vaccines and therapeutic drugs slowly gain widespread success in fighting this virus, I think we'll start to overcome some of our siloed ways of thinking and find relief — together as one — that this public health menace is ending,” Barry adds. “We have to put our faith in other people to get through this together.”

aerial photo of people in a grassy park staying within social distancing circles painted on the grass

Lesson 9: The Crowds Will Return, but We'll Gather Carefully

"Masks and sanitizers will be part of the norm for years, the way airport and transportation security measures are still in place from 9/11."

— Christopher McKnight Nichols, associate professor of history at Oregon State University and founder of the Citizenship and Crisis Initiative

The COVID-19 pandemic won't end with bells tolling or a ticker-tape parade . Instead, we'll slowly, cautiously ease back to familiar activities. For all our fears of the coronavirus, many of us can't wait to resume a public life: When 1,000 people 65 and older were asked which pursuits they were most eager to start anew post-pandemic, 78 percent said going out to dinner, 76 percent picked getting together with family and friends, 71 percent chose travel, and 30 percent cited going to the movies.

Seeing art , attending concerts, cheering in a stadium — even going to class reunions we might have once dreaded — we'll do them again. But how will we return to feeling comfortable in groups of tens, hundreds and thousands? And will these gatherings be different? How we come together:

Don't expect the same old, same old . Just as the rationing, isolation and economic crisis caused by World War I and the Spanish flu epidemic “led to a kind of awakening of how we assembled,” Nichols says, expect COVID to shake up the nature and personality of our public spaces. Back in the 1920s, it was the rise of jazz clubs, organized athletics, fraternal organizations and the golden age of the movie cinema. As the pandemic subsides, we'll probably see more temperature-controlled outdoor event and dining spaces, more pedestrian and bicycling options, more city parks and more hybrid events that give you the option to attend virtually.

Retrain your brain . Psychologists say the techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy can help people at any age regain the certainty and confidence they need to venture into the public space post-pandemic. “Visualizing good outcomes and repeating a stated goal can help overcome whatever obstacles are holding you back,” says Gabriele Oettingen, a professor of psychology at New York University, who suggests making an “if-then plan” to reacclimate to public life. If eating indoors at a restaurant is too agitating, even if you've been vaccinated, then try a table outside first. If a bucket-list family vacation to Italy feels too daunting, then book a stateside trip together first. “There's always an alternative if something stands in the way of you fulfilling your wish,” she says. “Eventually, you'll get there.”

Lesson 10: Loneliness Hurts Health More Than We Thought

"What we've learned from COVID is that isolation is everyone's problem. It doesn't just happen to older adults; it happens to us all."

— Julianne Holt-Lunstad, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University

How deadly is the condition of loneliness? During the first five months of the pandemic, nursing home lockdowns intended to safeguard older and vulnerable adults with dementia contributed to the deaths of an additional 13,200 people compared with previous years, according to a shocking  Washington Post  investigation published last September. “People with dementia are dying,” the article notes, “not just from the virus but from the very strategy of isolation that's supposed to protect them.”

Isolation may be the new normal . Fifty-six percent of adults age 50-plus said they felt isolated in June 2020, double the number who felt lonely in 2018, a University of Michigan poll found. Rates of psychological distress rose for all adults as the pandemic deepened — increasing sixfold for young adults and quadrupling for those ages 30 to 54, according to a Johns Hopkins University survey published in  JAMA  in June. And it's hard to tell whether the workplace culture many of us relied on for social support will fully return anytime soon.

Those 50-plus have a leg up. “Older adults with higher levels of empathy, compassion, decisiveness and self-reflection score lowest for loneliness,” says Dilip Jeste, M.D., director of the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California, San Diego. “Research shows that many older adults have handled COVID psychologically better than younger adults. With age comes experience and wisdom. You've lived through difficult times before and survived.”

Help yourself by helping others. Jeste says that when older adults share their wisdom with younger people, everyone benefits. “Young people are reassured about the future,” he adds. “Older adults feel even more confident. They're role models. Their contributions matter."

a couple poses for a photograph at a scenic overlook at yosemite national park in california

Lesson 11: When Your World Gets Small, Nature Lets Us Live Large

"For older people in particular, nature provided a way to shake off the weight and hardships associated with stay-at-home orders, of social isolation and of the stress of being the most vulnerable population in the pandemic."

— Kathleen Wolf, a research social scientist in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington

One silver lining to COVID-19's dark cloud : Clouds themselves became more familiar to all of us. So did birds, trees, bees, shooting stars and window gardens. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans have a new appreciation for nature because of the pandemic, according to one survey that also found three-quarters of respondents reported a boost in their mood while spending time outside.

By nearly every measure, the planet got more love during COVI D. And wouldn't it be nice if that continued going forward? The ins and outs on our new outdoor life:

Move somewhere greener (or at least move around more outside). How you access nature is up to you, but consider the options. Nearly a third of Americans were considering moving to less populated areas, according to a Harris Poll taken last year during the pandemic. Walking, running and hiking became national pastimes. One day last September, Boston's BlueBikes bike-share system saw its highest-ever single-day ridership, with 14,400 trips recorded. Stargazers and bird-watchers helped push binocular sales up 22 percent.

Once known mainly as a retirement activity, pickleball has been the fastest-growing sport in America, with almost 3.5 million U.S. players of all ages participating in the contact-free outdoor net game designed for players of any athletic ability. The return of the pandemic “victory garden” reflects research that finds 79 percent of patients feel more relaxed and calm after spending time in a garden.

Make the city less gritty . The University of Washington's Wolf thinks that our collective nature kick will go beyond a run on backyard petunias. Her research brief on the benefits of nearby nature in cities for older adults suggests we may rethink the design of neighborhood environments to facilitate older people's outdoor activities. That means more places to sit, more green spaces associated with the health status of older people, safer routes and paths, and more allotment for community gardens. “It's impossible to overestimate the value these outdoor spaces have on reducing stressful life events, improving working memory and adding meaning and happiness in older people's lives,” Wolf says.

If you can't get out, bring nature in . Even video and sounds of nature can provide health gains to those shut indoors, says Marc Berman of the University of Chicago's Environmental Neuroscience Lab. “Listening to recordings of crickets chirping or waves crashing improved how our subjects performed on cognitive tests,” he says.

Above all, the environment is in your hands, so take action to protect it . “We've seen a lot of older folks stepping up their activity in trail conservation, stream cleaning, being forest guides and things like that this year, which indicates a shift in how that age group interacts with nature,” says Cornell University gerontologist Karl Pillemer.

"There's an old saw that older people care less than younger people about the environment. But given this year's nature boom, I'm expecting that to change. As the generation that gave birth to the environmental movement enters retirement, we're likely to see a wave of interest in conservation among those 60 and up."

Lesson 12: You Can Hope for Stability — but Best Be Prepared for the Opposite

"COVID-19, perhaps more than any other disaster, demonstrated that we need to continue ensuring response plans are flexible and scalable. You can't predict exactly what a disaster will bring, but if you know what tools you have in your tool kit, you can pull out the right one you need when you need it."

— Linda Mastandrea, director of the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

The pandemic was among the toughest slap-in-the-face moments in recent history to remind us that everything —  everything  — in our lives can change in a moment. While older Americans may have a deep-seated desire for stability and security after all it took to get to an advanced age, we certainly cannot bank on it. Which is why the word of the year, and perhaps the coming century, is “resilience.” Not just at the individual level but at every social tier, from family to community to the nation as a whole.

Banish fear . “We don't have to live in fear” of some looming disaster, says former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tom Frieden, now president and CEO of global public health initiative Resolve to Save Lives. “By strengthening our defenses and investing in preparedness, we can live easier knowing that communities have what they need to better respond in moments of crisis."

Preparation must start at the top . For government, that means a new commitment to plans that allow, not so much for stockpiles but for the ability to ramp up production of crucial equipment when needed. “We need increased, sustained, predictable base funding for public health security defense programs that prevent, detect and respond to outbreaks such as COVID-19 or pandemic influenza,” Frieden says.

Being creative and even entrepreneurial helps , says Jeff Schlegelmilch, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Earth Institute. Warehouses full of masks could have helped us initially, he says, but stockpiles of equipment aren't the answer on their own. In a free market there is pressure to sell off surpluses, so he suggests we reimagine our manufacturing capacities for times of emergency. When whiskey distillers stepped up to make hand sanitizer, and auto manufacturers switched gears to build ventilators, we saw “glimmers of solutions,” Schlegelmilch says, the sort of responses we may need to tee up in the future.

Focus on health care . Prime among the areas that need to be addressed, crisis management consultant Luiz Hargreaves says, are overwhelmed health care systems. “They were living a disaster before the pandemic. When the pandemic came, it was a catastrophe.” But Hargreaves hopes we will use this wake-up call to produce new solutions, rather than to return to old ways. “Extraordinary times,” he says, “call for extraordinary measures."

Lesson 13: Wealth Inequality Is Growing, and It Affects Us All

"It's outrageous that somebody could work full-time and not even be able to pay rent, let alone food and clothing. There's a recognition that there's a problem on both the left and right. "

— Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize–winning economist, Columbia University professor and author of  The Price of Inequality

"The data is pretty dramatic,” says Stiglitz, one of America's most-esteemed economists. Government economists estimate that unemployment rates in this pandemic are less than 5 percent for the highest earners but as high as 20 percent for the lowest-paid ones. “People at the bottom have disproportionately experienced the disease, and those at the bottom have lost jobs in enormous disproportion, too."

As white-collar professionals work from home and stay socially distant, frontline workers in government, transportation and health care — as well as retail, dining and other service sectors — face far greater health risks and unemployment. “We try to minimize interactions as we try to protect ourselves,” he says, “yet we realize that minimizing those interactions is also taking away jobs.” The disparate effects of the pandemic are particularly evident along racial lines, points out Jean Accius, AARP senior vice president for global thought leadership. “Job losses have hit communities of color disproportionately,” he says. And there's a health gap, too, with people of color — who have a greater likelihood than white Americans to be frontline workers — experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalizations and mortality, and lower rates of vaccinations. “What we're seeing is a double whammy for communities of color,” Accius says. “It is hitting them in their wallets. And it's hitting them with regard to their health."

Those economic and health crises, along with protests over racial injustice over the past year, says Accius, “have really sparked major conversations around what do we need to do in order to advance equity in this country."

A rising gap between rich and poor in any society, Stiglitz argues, increases economic instability, reduces opportunities and results in less investment in public goods such as education and public transportation. But the country appears primed to make some changes that could help narrow the wealth gap, he says. Among them are President Biden's proposals to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, increase the earned income tax credit for low-income workers and provide paid sick leave. Stiglitz also proposes raising taxes on gains from sales of stocks and other securities not held in retirement accounts. “The notion that people who work for a living shouldn't pay higher taxes than those who speculate for a living seems not to be a hard idea to get across,” Stiglitz says.

"Many people continue to say, ‘It's time for us to get back to normal,'” Accius says. “Well, going back to normal means that we're in a society where those that have the least continue to be impacted the most — a society where older adults are marginalized and communities of color are devalued. We have to be honest with what we are going through as a collective nation. And then we have to be bold and courageous, to really build a society where race and other social demographic factors do not determine your ability to live a longer, healthier and more productive life.”

Who Owns America's Wealth?

For some, hard times bring opportunity.

Want a positive reminder of the American way? When the going got tough this past summer, many people responded by planning a new business. In the second half of 2020, there was a 40 percent jump over the prior year's figures in applications to form businesses highly likely to hire employees, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Significantly, no such spike occurred during the Great Recession, points out Alexander Bartik, assistant professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “That's cause for some optimism — that there are people who are trying to start new things,” he says. One possible reason this time is different: Unlike during that recession, the stock market and home values have held on, and those sources of personal wealth are often what people draw upon to fund small-business start-ups.

High-propensity* Business Applications in the U.S.

*Businesses likely to have employees

the number of applications to form businesses likely to hire employees greatly increased during the pandemic

Lesson 14: The Benefits of Telemedicine Have Become Indisputable

"The processes we developed to avoid face-to-face care have transformed the way we approach diabetes care management.”

— John P. Martin, M.D., codirector of Diabetes Complete Care for Kaiser Permanente Southern California

If there was ever any truth to the stereotype of the older person whose life revolved around a constant calendar of in-person doctor appointments, it's certainly been tossed out the window this past year due to the strains of the pandemic on our health care system. The timing was fortuitous in one way: Telemedicine was ready for prime time and has proved to be a godsend, particularly for those with chronic health conditions.

Say goodbye to routine doctor visits . Patients who sign up for remote blood sugar monitoring at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California use Bluetooth-enabled meters to transmit results via a smartphone app directly to their health records. “ Remote monitoring allows us to recognize early when there should be adjustments to treatment,” Martin says.

We need to push for more access . The pandemic underlines the need for more home-based medical help with chronic conditions. But that takes both willingness and a lot of gear, such as Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure monitors and, on the doctor side, systems to store and analyze the data. “People need access to the equipment, and health care systems have to be ready to handle all that data,” says Mirsky of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Group doctor visits may be a way forward . Mirsky is conducting virtual group visits and remote monitoring of blood sugar for his patients with type 2 diabetes. “Instead of having a few minutes with each person to talk about important issues — like blood sugar testing, diet and exercise — we get an hour or more to go over it,” he says. “At every meeting somebody in the group has a great tip I've never heard of, like a new YouTube exercise channel or fitness app. There's group support, too. I see group visits like this continuing into the future, becoming part of routine chronic disease care for all patients who want it."

Bottom line: The doctor is in (your house) . Managing chronic health conditions like diabetes “can't just be about getting in your car and driving to your doctor's office,” Martin says. Taking care of your health conditions yourself is the path forward.

Lesson 15: Our Cities Won't Ever Be the Same

"This is obviously a very big watershed moment in how we live, how we organize our cities and our communities. There are going to be long-lasting changes."

— Chris Jones, chief planner at Regional Plan Association, a New York–based urban planning organization

"When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown,” Petula Clark sang in her 1964 chart-topping ode to city life. Well, things change. Suddenly, crowds are the enemy, public buses and subways a health risk, packed office towers out of favor, and a roomy suburban home seems just where you want to be. But don't write off downtowns just yet.

The office and business district will look different. Many workers have little interest in returning to a 9-to-5 life. For those who do make the commute, they may find cubicles replaced with more flexible work spaces focused on common areas, with ample outdoor seating space for meetings and working lunches. And some now-empty offices will likely be converted into apartments and condos, making downtowns more vibrant. “Now you have an opportunity to remake a central business district into an actual neighborhood,” says Richard Florida, author of  The Rise of the Creative Class  and a cofounder of  CityLab,  an online publication about urbanism.

Public spaces will serve more of the public. Those areas set up for outdoor restaurant dining — some of those will likely remain. Streets and parking lots have been turned into plazas and promenades. Many cities have already opened miles of bike lanes; in 2020, Americans bought bikes, including electric bikes, in record numbers. “This idea of social space, where you can get outside and enjoy that active public realm, is going to become increasingly important,” says Lynn Richards, the president and CEO of Congress for the New Urbanism, which champions walkable cities.

Contributors to this report: Sari Harrar, David Hochman, Ronda Kaysen, Lexi Pandell, Jessica Ravitz and Ellen Stark

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Jennifer Hamady

  • Coronavirus Disease 2019

5 Things COVID-19 Taught Me

Opportunities to learn and grow are always available, even in challenging times..

Posted August 14, 2020 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

“Never let a good crisis go to waste. It’s the universe challenging you to learn something new and rise to the next level of your potential.” — Kristen Ulmer

I’ve always been an optimist . And for the most part, I’ve remained positive during the pandemic.

Not that my head has been stuck in the Pollyanna sand. It’s hard not to spend time with my friends and neighbors. It is frustrating not to be able to volunteer and contribute to my community. And it has been painful to see my son talking with his friends and classmates on a screen rather than in person.

It hurts to not be able to hug and kiss my father, who lives in the same town.

Yet through the lens of optimism — and objectivity — it’s clear that these inconveniences are just that; they’re not real problems when compared to what so many others are dealing with.

No matter where you fall on the scale from traumatized to peaceful, from economically or physically struggling to secure, I’d like to share what I’ve been learning during these unusual times. After all, when life hands us lemons, we may as well make lemonade, pull up a chair, and try and see the silver lining in the clouds passing overhead.

1. Objectivity Einstein’s first law of motion says that a moving object remains so, consistent in direction and speed, unless acted upon by an outside force. As painful as being knocked off-kilter has been for many of us, this radical shift in our personal and collective experience affords an opportunity so few human beings ever get: to see things from an entirely different point of view. It lets us see the world and ourselves newly, including what we need and what we don’t… in our schedules, homes, relationships, and lives. As well as the opportunity to release whatever isn’t working for us.

2. Simple Pleasures The shift in viewpoint also lets us identify and take on what may have been missing. I’ve found joy in longer and more meaningful calls to family and friends, reading more widely, and writing letters (by hand!); pleasures I often felt too busy for prior to the pandemic.

While I’ve always spent a good deal of time outdoors, I am now there more frequently and deliberately. So it seems, is everyone else… wherever I go, I see people walking, hiking, and biking; families playing and being together. The world has moved outside and we all seem healthier and happier for it.

The pandemic has also reshaped why I have been going out. Prior to COVID-19, when I left the house — even for a family walk — I often felt a need to buy something, eat something, or do something. Now, a bike ride is the agenda, a drive is the outing. Before, it seemed we did those things to get somewhere else — a restaurant, a store, or a coffee shop — whether we needed anything from them or not. Now, the journey is the destination.

3. Time Management and Pacing Life is busier in many ways now that our home also houses a full-time play space, school, and two offices. That said, the lack of commuting, shopping, and shuttling around has helped me to see the distinction between the actual rush of my life and work, and the hurry, worry, and anxiety that I have been imposing upon them. Which has given me the opportunity to slow down, relax, and be more present in both.

4. Family, Communication, and Connection This includes relaxing into the opportunity of ongoing family togetherness. As well as flexing the intimacy and communication muscles that can get weak, thanks to life on the go. Living together in this new way as a family has been a great experience for us, in part because of our recognition of the need for structure and space, as well as proactively sharing what we’re feeling and going through in our increased closeness.

5. Flexibility The through-theme here, and certainly the greatest lesson for me of the pandemic, has been the chance to practice the art of flexibility and flow… Learning to accept what is, rather than struggle and fight against my idea of how life and the world "should be." The latter gets us nowhere other than stressed , tired, and worn out. When things are relatively predictable and going the way we want them to, we don’t need to flex our surrendering muscles. But they’re important, no matter how good our current circumstances may seem. Now is our opportunity to give them a workout.

As we all know by now, we can’t control what happens to us and in the world, much as we’d like to. We can, however, decide how we’ll react to what is going on, including what we choose to learn from our experiences, and the opportunities we seek out in the face of these and other changing and challenging times.

what the pandemic taught me essay

Learn more about me on my website .

Jennifer Hamady

Jennifer Hamady specializes in emotional issues that interfere with optimal self-expression and is the author of The Art of Singing .

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5 things the pandemic taught me

what the pandemic taught me essay

Now officially a year into this pandemic, I’ve been reflecting on what lessons I learned during this ever-challenging time. It felt like every week came with a new batch of trials, changes and forced adaptations in a world of COVID-19.

I for one grew in ways I never imagined I could. I came to understand myself, my career journey and the young professional inside me on a whole new level.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned

1. boundaries are key.

I learned setting healthy boundaries is a crucial form of self-care that is not always easy. I still have to work at it, but now I am trying to set boundaries about how I spend my time and what commitments are achievable for me. I prioritize people and activities that fill my cup.

2. It’s OK to take a step (or four) back

The stress of the pandemic took a toll on our mental health and ability to accomplish our goals. Taking a beat and some distance to evaluate what I can and cannot handle is a big part of finding balance in school, in work and in my personal life.

3. Asking for support is a strength

I had to learn it was okay to ask for support when I needed it and I learned how to ask for it. You can get support from your family, friends, coworkers, supervisor, faculty, advisors and career coaches. They are your support system in times of crisis.

4. Celebrate the little things

Day to day, everything seemed the same for me during this pandemic, so I learned to celebrate the little victories I rarely enjoyed before. Sending an email, letting someone know where I was (emotionally or otherwise), reaching out to a friend, making coffee—all became celebratory moments for me.

5. We are always learning new skills

The pandemic put me in positions where I had to develop skills I rarely used before, such as adaptability. I learned to make the best of the challenges presented and found new ways to connect and collaborate with people.

People say hindsight is in 20/20 vision (pun intended) and that is true of the last year. It gave me a greater perspective on my career path as I evaluated my coping strategies and worked through what was and wasn’t working for me. It gave me a new trajectory, kickstarting Turby Talks and teaching me how to share my voice.

Through it all, I learned more about myself getting closer to the person I want to be. I learned to be a friend, a professional, a student amidst so many new trials and I believe I am better for it.

What did you learn this year?


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9 Valuable Lessons We’ve Learned During The Pandemic

what the pandemic taught me essay

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We’re not going to lie: It’s been a little hard to find the silver lining at times this past year.

With so much stress, loss, and pain at the forefront of our minds, it sometimes feels like we’re in a constant waiting game, counting down the minutes until our “normal” lives are back. But after a year like this, there’s no going back to normal because we’ve all been changed forever in one way or another. We’ve lived 12 years in the past 12 months, and we’ve grown in the process – and that is a silver lining to be proud of!

what the pandemic taught me essay

So we decided the best way to acknowledge and appreciate the growth we’ve experienced is by taking a second to reflect on this past year and find the positives that were woven through each day.

To see the good that has come from these hard times, we adopted a lens of learning and growing, and it empowered us to do just that! Here are nine important lessons we’ve learned in the midst of COVID-19.

1. Family is nonnegotiable.

For many of us, this year brought with it quality family time that we never expected and, honestly, might never have had otherwise. It’s reminded us just how much family matters. And I don’t just mean blood relatives, I mean chosen family, too. 

We were encouraged to take a step out of the craziness of our former lives and deeply invest in those relationships again, whether it was face-to-face or not.

We’ve had the opportunity to not just catch up on life, but to also spend priceless time with our loved ones, asking personal questions, being there for the important moments, leaning on each other for support, and growing together. As a result, we remembered just how much we need each other! 

what the pandemic taught me essay

2. Prioritize health and wellness .

When the pandemic first began, the world started paying attention to health, wellness, and hygiene like never before. We realized just how effective our handwashing wasn’t , how much we shouldn’t be touching our faces, and the beauty of both modern and natural medicine. These are all crucial practices and levels of care that will hopefully stick with us in the future.

Not only that, but without the usual benefits of daily activity, in-person workouts, and restaurant dining, a microscope was placed on just how willing we were to maintain our wellness all on our own.

With the pandemic came a myriad of free cooking and workout classes on social media and a realization that, particularly when we’re stuck inside, our bodies really do need nutrients and activity to survive. 

what the pandemic taught me essay

3. We can get by on less. Much less.

The road to discovering how little we need was paved with uncertainty. With the overwhelming job loss that came with the pandemic, people had to learn how to pinch pennies, clip coupons, and trim excess like never before. 

Even for those who kept their jobs, without indoor dining, salons, gyms, and a wealth of other standard social activities, saving money actually became easier to do. Even though we’ll all be lining the doors when things are back to normal, we realized in the process that we actually can live on a lot less and still be content.

what the pandemic taught me essay

4. Build that nest egg.

In addition to pinching those pennies, we learned the endless value of having a rainy day fund – or more appropriately, an emergency fund. An emergency fund is one that is set aside for the most essential of needs, including rent, medical expenses, childcare, and food. 

As we’ve all heard over and over again, these are unprecedented times. The nature of unprecedented times is that we don’t see them coming, so we don’t plan for them.

If this year has taught us anything, it’s the importance of setting aside a little extra money and leaving it there until the day comes when we might need it. 

what the pandemic taught me essay

5. Slow down.

We’ve realized that not only is it OK to slow down, but it’s actually essential. 

When the pandemic hit, it was as if the whole world was running on overdrive and then, all at once, it crashed. We allowed it to get this way because we have a tendency to align our worth with our busyness. But luckily, this past year has shown us just how unbalanced that meter is. 

There are a few key points to remember moving forward. First of all, self-care is not self-indulgent; it’s one way that we keep ourselves healthy, both physically and mentally. Second, slowing down is what helps us truly live in the present and find contentment in our circumstances. 

what the pandemic taught me essay

6. We should be talking about mental health.

One of the best silver linings of this year is that we learned just how valuable mental health is. Studies show that ever since the pandemic hit, close to 40 percent of Americans now suffer from anxiety and depression. The causes are endless: financial stress, difficult home lives, boredom, loss, fear, and, perhaps the heaviest of all, loneliness. 

These universal mental health issues truly are a “second wave” of this global crisis, and the greatest benefit has been the light shed on their gravity.

People are being more vocal than ever about the importance of honesty and vulnerability when it comes to our mental health, just like we would a physical ailment. By doing so, we can get the love and support we need. 

what the pandemic taught me essay

7. Our thoughts on people have changed.

The more closed off we’ve had to become socially and the more we’ve noticed the deep need around us, the more we’ve realized whom we consider to be truly essential.

In our own lives, we’ve learned which friends we want close to us in times of trouble – and maybe even some relationships we’ve been needing freedom from. 

In our communities, we’ve finally realized the overwhelming value of our essential workers: in health care, education, food service, and the most underappreciated segments of our workforce. May we never forget how brave and resilient they have been for all of us these past 12 months. 

what the pandemic taught me essay

8. Becoming comfortable with uncertainty.

“The one thing that’s certain about this current crisis is the massive amount of uncertainty,” Paul Knopp, U.S. Chair and CEO of KPMG LLP, told Accounting Today . “In order to succeed, you must execute on the activities and behaviors that are within your control.”

We have definitely learned flexibility this year. From working and schooling from home, to rerouting our careers, to finding new ways to stay connected, to moving back in with our parents, our flexibility has been award-winning and record-breaking. 

A benefit of this growing pain is that it’s made us more comfortable with uncertainty. There’s so much about the future that we can’t possibly know or predict right now, so ultimately all we can do is be OK with it – and choose to find the wonder and joy in our present circumstances. 

what the pandemic taught me essay

9. We are deeply resilient.

We are capable of so much more than we ever knew. This year has been rife with chaos, unrest, injustice, loss, and pain – but we’ve survived. We’re still standing. Even in the darkest time, we’ve been able to look outside ourselves and pull through for those in need in remarkable ways. It’s helped us realize the stuff we’re made of . 

More than that, we’ve done it together. We’ve all been in isolation together, and we’ve survived together. It’s reminded us that at the end of the day, we are all just human beings, and we need each other.

And now we know with certainty that we can handle anything!

what the pandemic taught me essay

After the levels of stress we’ve lived through this past year, the best we can do is make sure it wasn’t for nothing. We can search for the good, continue to grow, and allow our circumstances to change us for the better. Only then will we continue to come out on the other side stronger, more resilient, more compassionate, and more hopeful than ever!

Share this story to remind others how much they’ve grown this year.

what the pandemic taught me essay

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Reshaping Teacher Licensure: Lessons from the Pandemic

  • Posted April 12, 2024
  • By Jill Anderson
  • Education Policy
  • K-12 School Leadership
  • K-12 System Leadership
  • Teachers and Teaching

Teacher standing happily in front of class

With looming threats of high teacher turnover rates during COVID-19, Olivia Chi , Ed.M.'17, Ph.D.’20, an assistant professor at Boston University, wanted to study how the pandemic shaped who decided to become a teacher.

Many states foresaw serious disruptions to the teacher pipeline as testing centers and schools closed around the county. While teacher requirements differ by state, many require a bachelor’s or master’s teacher education program, student teaching, state teaching exams, or some type of alternative certification program. Massachusetts sought innovative solutions to sustain their teaching workforce by issuing emergency teaching licenses. 

“In order to prevent a stopgap essentially in the teacher pipeline, Massachusetts issued what they called emergency teaching licenses. And these began in June of 2020, in response to all of the closures during the pandemic,” Chi says. “And the emergency teaching license is different from the others because it only requires a bachelor's degree to be eligible for the license. In other words, you did not have to complete and pass these teacher licensure exams in order to get the license. So if you have a bachelor's degree and you went through the typical checks, you could get that license and be eligible to be a Massachusetts classroom teacher in a public school.”

Chi's research, conducted in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, demonstrates how emergency licenses influenced the demographics and effectiveness of the teaching workforce.

“I think our results would put forth to consider more flexibility, particularly for those who have already engaged in the teacher pipeline or may already have lots of experience working in public schools as paraprofessionals or in other staff positions,” Chi says. “That being said, I don't necessarily think our results suggest we should just do away with all of the requirements and let anybody in.”

In this episode of the Harvard EdCast, we discuss the study’s findings and what emergency licenses can tell us about teacher licensure requirements given the current state of the teaching workforce today.

JILL ANDERSON: I'm Jill Anderson. This is the Harvard EdCast.

Olivia Chi wanted to know how the pandemic's disruption of the teacher pipeline shaped who became a teacher. She's an assistant professor at Boston University whose research focuses on teacher labor markets. She studied what happened when Massachusetts implemented emergency teaching licenses to scale the teaching force during COVID-19. The traditional pathway to become a teacher varies by state and often includes a bachelor's or a master's teacher education program or some type of alternative certification. I wanted to know how teacher licensure requirements may impact the ongoing challenges of teacher diversity and the nationwide shortage of educators. First, I asked Olivia how difficult it is to become a teacher.

Olivia Chi

OLIVIA CHI: It can be. Going through the teacher preparation program, it's a big time commitment and it's a big monetary investment. So if you're going through an undergraduate program, that's the college tuition that you're paying. That's the time you're taking out of the workforce to go through education. And even with alternative certification programs, you may not necessarily be going through that traditional teacher preparation, like that four-year undergraduate program or the master's in education necessarily. But it still can be a big investment in terms of time that one needs to take to study for the exams and pass exams and the investment that you need to pay in order to pay for each examination. So these barriers to entry, they can disproportionately affect different groups. It can be hard for many individuals to enter the teacher workforce.

JILL ANDERSON: You looked specifically at what happened in Massachusetts during the pandemic when emergency teaching licenses were allowed. What made you particularly interested in studying this change in requirements?

OLIVIA CHI: I would say earlier on in the pandemic, there was a lot of national conversation. You saw a lot of headlines about what was going to happen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And there was a big concern that there was going to be high teacher turnover, that teachers weren't going to feel safe to work in schools, and that they were going to leave the profession. So it was unclear. At least in the summer of 2020, it was unclear what was going to happen. So some colleagues and I at Boston University, we proposed to examine what this looks like and how that played out in Massachusetts.

So we did an initial project where we looked at teacher turnover, how that varied by different types of schools, how that varied across different types of teacher demographic subgroups. And one thing we found when we were diving into this is that we saw that those who were coming in under an emergency teaching license, and teaching under the emergency teaching license, those folks were more ethnically and racially diverse than those who came in under the more traditional teacher licenses. We did this in the context of a research practice partnership with Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Massachusetts DESI. So we partnered with them to continue something like an evaluation of the emergency teaching license to try to examine who took up the emergency teaching license, what were the effectiveness of those who ended up teaching under the emergency license and so forth.

JILL ANDERSON: How did these emergency teaching licenses differ from the traditional requirements in the state?

OLIVIA CHI: Right. So this is all in the context of Massachusetts. A new teacher who wanted to join the Massachusetts teacher workforce, they typically had to get one of these initial licenses where they went through a teacher prep program and they would have to pass the licensure exams. Alternatively, there's something called a provisional license where folks with a bachelor's degree could take these licensure exams and get that provisional license. But as a result of the pandemic, testing centers for these licensure exams closed. Public schools closed, so students couldn't do their student teaching. So students who would've gone on to become teachers and get these licenses weren't able to complete these requirements.

So in order to prevent a stopgap essentially in the teacher pipeline, Massachusetts issued what they called emergency teaching licenses. And these began in June of 2020, in response to all of the closures during the pandemic. And the emergency teaching license is different from the others because it only requires a bachelor's degree to be eligible for the license. In other words, you did not have to complete and pass these teacher licensure exams in order to get the license. So if you have a bachelor's degree and you went through the typical checks, you could get that license and be eligible to be a Massachusetts classroom teacher in a public school.

JILL ANDERSON: How many people pursued this route of licensure?

OLIVIA CHI: We saw that in the first year that they were issued. So between June of 2020 and May of 2021, we saw about 5,800 individuals apply and receive these emergency teaching licenses. And I believe it made up roughly two-third of the folks getting teacher's licenses within that time span. Again, some of these folks would have gone on to get an initial or provisional license, but couldn't because of the pandemic. But there were others who took this... like you were saying, who took this as an opportunity to become eligible to teach in Massachusetts public schools when they otherwise wouldn't have been able to.

JILL ANDERSON: One of the fascinating findings of your research was how these licenses were able to boost the ethnic and racial diversity of teachers. And that's been something the field has long struggled with. Why do you think that is?

OLIVIA CHI: Yeah. So from prior research from folks like Melanie Rucinski and Josh Goodman, as well as Dan Goldhaber and his colleagues, among others, we've seen that licensure exams and the requirement to pass many licensure exams, it tends to disproportionately deter teacher candidates of color. We see that in many states, where there's been research done, that they pass at lower rates. And a part of it's also because once teacher candidates of color... those who don't pass, they're less likely to retake them as compared to white teacher candidates of color. So there are, I think these systematic differences in, for example, retaking rates that are disproportionately affecting teacher candidates of color. So that's one way in which licensure exams shape who's eligible to become public school teachers.

JILL ANDERSON: Do you have to pay every single time that you take these exams?

OLIVIA CHI: It depends by state. So in the context that we're studying in Massachusetts, the individuals do have to pay to retake exams. I've heard of other contexts where that's not necessarily the case. But in our context, in Massachusetts, folks have to pay the testing fee every time you take it, which could add up.

JILL ANDERSON: Were you surprised when you saw this, when you were looking at the data and what you collected to see this shift?

OLIVIA CHI: I guess in some ways there were a lot of folks who indicated that the licensure exams and other requirements served as barriers to entry into the teacher workforce for those individuals. Folks who said that they weren't previously able to pass the licensure exams, but they wanted to become teachers. So in some ways, there were a lot of folks who were "waiting in the wings", that when the emergency license was available, they were able to use that as an opportunity to become eligible to become classroom teachers in public schools in Massachusetts. So in many ways, because we know that there are folks that haven't been able to pass the licensure exams and yet want to become teachers, in some ways it wasn't all of that surprising that once the opportunity came about, they were able to obtain the emergency license and become eligible. In some ways, it wasn't entirely surprising knowing that there were folks waiting in the wings, given the licensure exams that some folks weren't able to pass. So in some ways, that wasn't totally surprising. But I think the numbers are pretty clear. In the first year, among those who obtained emergency teaching licenses, roughly 25% of emergency teaching license holders who became teachers were Black or Hispanic. And this is in pretty sharp contrast to those holding provisional and initial licenses, those more traditional teaching licenses. I believe roughly 10% of provisional teaching license holders are Black or Hispanic, and roughly 5% of initial license holders who are teaching that were new in that year identified as Black and Hispanic. So the numbers are pretty stark in that sense.


OLIVIA CHI: Yeah. So while the vast majority of emergency license holders who became teachers, they were still majority white. But the share who identified as Black and Hispanic was much larger in comparison to their more traditionally licensed peers.

JILL ANDERSON: Do we know a lot about what ended up happening with some of these folks? Because this was a temporary situation and, obviously, it's still a little bit early. It's only a few years out.

OLIVIA CHI: Yeah. So from our survey interview and focus group data and asking these individuals what their intentions were, among the respondents, the vast majority said they wanted to remain teaching in Massachusetts public schools. And right now, Massachusetts has stopped issuing new emergency teaching licenses. And since the initial rollout, there have been some extensions of those existing emergency teaching licenses. So right now, for those who want to remain in the teacher workforce, they have to obtain a provisional or an initial license in order to remain teaching. And so I think there's a big push among policymakers at the state and among school districts and within schools that are trying to provide support to these emergency license holders, so that they can obtain the provisional or initial license in order to remain teaching in the workforce.

JILL ANDERSON: Right. So it's not a case of you get this emergency license and you never have to do any of these requirements.

OLIVIA CHI: That's right. These folks, they're eligible to use the emergency license for a limited amount of time. And then within a given time period, they're going to have to transition into one of these other licenses in order to remain as teachers.

JILL ANDERSON: There's so much in the news about teacher shortages around the country. There's talk about this nearing crisis levels. And I know there's debate around that entire concept. There were some reports I saw about 55,000 teacher vacancies and how there's a lot of unqualified teachers currently in positions. How do you think changes to teacher licensure requirements can impact the recruitment and retention of teachers?

OLIVIA CHI: I think that's a really good question. It's an open question. I think there are some out there who believe that reducing requirements would help make the supply of teachers larger. I think there are others who would argue that that's not necessarily the best way to go about it in terms of we want to make sure that we have the right requirements in place to ensure some level of quality among the individuals who are coming in. Because it's really difficult to assess quality from meeting an individual, let's say, in just in one interview. It's very much a national debate right now, what exactly to do with licensure. Something I will mention is that at least based on our study of the emergency teaching licenses, we did end up examining a few measures of teacher quality among those who came in with the emergency license. Meaning they only had a bachelor's degree. They hadn't passed the traditional licensure exams, didn't necessarily go to the traditional educator prep program.

And when we look at these measures of quality, when we look at administrator ratings, these teacher evaluation ratings, these folks who got the emergency license and got hired as teachers, they're largely rated as proficient. The vast majority are rated proficient. And they look pretty similarly rated as compared to their peers with provisional licenses. So some of their peers, they seem to look very similar to them in terms of their ratings. We also looked at measures of student growth. We looked at teachers' mean student growth percentiles. These are measures of how much teachers are able to improve their students' test scores in math and English language arts in tested grades and subjects. And what we find is that those with emergency teaching licenses again, on average, look very similar to those who hold provisional licenses and initial licenses on this measure of improving test scores for students. So at least in the context of Massachusetts during the pandemic, we see that on average, those who entered in with an emergency teaching license seemed to perform pretty similarly to their traditionally licensed peers. However, and I would say this is a pretty big asterisk, what we did see is that when we look at the subgroup of emergency license holders who had no prior connection to the educator workforce or to educator preparation... In other words, when we looked at the folks who didn't previously work in any Massachusetts public schools and who had not been involved in teacher preparation programs, and had not attempted any licensure exams... When we looked at this subgroup of individuals without prior engagement in the teacher pipeline, we actually saw that they seem to be rated a bit lower on their evaluations. And we have some suggested evidence that they seem to have lower measures of ability to improve test scores, at least in English language arts.

That being said, it's a small sample, so we'll have to wait to see what happens in future years when folks continue to examine teacher quality among these individuals. All is to say, seeing that those without prior engagement in the teacher pipeline having potentially lower evaluation ratings and test score measures, we might worry that letting in just anybody might not necessarily be the best idea. And I think that's very unique to this context. Like in Massachusetts, there were all these folks who wanted to become teachers and they were waiting in the wings, as I was saying. These are folks that were either working as paraprofessionals in schools, they were working in public schools as staff members. They were engaged in teacher preparation programs and maybe didn't pass the licensure exams. So there were all these folks waiting in the wings, that once they were able to obtain emergency teaching license and enter the teacher workforce, they were already these engaged individuals.

We might worry that if we continued to offer an emergency license or restarted a new version of the emergency license, you might worry that the folks coming in aren't necessarily the same as those folks who are waiting in the wings. They might be of individuals who have different characteristics, and they might have different levels of teacher quality. I think that while our study does suggest there should be some flexibility maybe in the existing teacher licensure requirements because it appears that at the time, maybe some of these requirements were keeping out folks who seemed to have gone on to become as good teachers as they're traditionally licensed peers. There seemed to be folks that... Before they couldn't enter. They enter the workforce as a result of this emergency license, and they seem to perform similarly. So I think that suggests there maybe should be some flexibility in the existing structure that requires very specific cut scores for the licensure exams and very specific requirements for educator preparation.

I think our results would put forth to consider more flexibility, particularly for those who have already engaged in the teacher pipeline or may already have lots of experience working in public schools as paraprofessionals or in other staff positions. That being said, I don't necessarily think our results suggest we should just do away with all of the requirements and let anybody in. I don't think our results would suggest that. Though, there are folks in the policy realm out there who do believe that. I don't think our results push it that far, given what we see among those without prior engagement in the teacher pipeline. But putting it all together, I think our results suggest maybe there should be some flexibility in the existing requirements.

JILL ANDERSON: Right. If there is this issue of unqualified teachers at high levels nationwide in the field, then it did make me question if we significantly change licensure requirements, how that might impact kids in the long run. Because logic seems to say that would just increase the number of unqualified people in the teaching profession, which I imagine is not the direction that we want to go in, but...

OLIVIA CHI: Yeah. I think it's a tricky problem because I think there are arguments that licensure requirements deter individuals who would go on to become high quality teachers. I think our results suggest there are some folks out there who really want to become teachers and just can't get over some of those requirements, and they would go on to become as good as some of their peers with the traditional licenses. At the same time, I don't think it necessarily suggests that any single person who had the inkling to become a teacher and lands a classroom teaching position would necessarily be as awesome in that role. Again, like you were saying, I think it's a really tricky policymaking decision of what to do with teacher licensure moving forward. Based on the results of our study, I am a proponent of that flexibility.

And going back a little bit to what you were about teacher shortages. I think nationwide, we have a data problem in terms of being able to quantify the nature of teacher shortages nationwide. I don't think our data systems are where they need to be for us to truly understand the extent of teacher shortages. That being said, I think it's not a surprise for those who are in this field to know that there have been historical shortages in areas such as special education, such as English learners, such as STEM subjects. Those have historically been shortage areas. And they've continued to be shortage areas throughout the pandemic. In particular, there are certain types of schools that have historically been hard to staff. Teacher shortages are not a new issue. I think they've always been an issue, particularly in these hard to staff subject areas.

And in some particular schools, teacher shortages are not new. I think they're going to continue to be a problem, particularly in those subject areas and in certain types of schools. One thing for us to do is to try to get a better handle on the nature of these shortages is that we do need to improve the existing data systems that we have in our country to have a better understanding of the health of our teacher workforce and the nature of these shortages.

JILL ANDERSON: What do you think about the role of state education departments and school districts to ensure some long-term stability and diversity of the teaching workforce?

OLIVIA CHI: One strategy that I think a lot of states are either beginning to adopt or considering is this notion of Grow Your Own programs. And that term, "Grow your own," can mean lots of different things. There's a really great, I think, new working paper by Danielle Edwards and Matt Kraft that look at Grow Your Own programs and what that could all entail. So there are lots of different flavors of Grow Your Own profiles. Some are focused on recruiting folks who are in high school and getting them interested in teaching, and helping to ensure that they can find their way into and through the teacher pipeline to be able to serve as teachers when they finish their undergraduate degree.

And there are other programs that are targeting folks who are already working in schools, such as paraprofessionals or teachers aides or substitute teachers to try to figure out how to get them into the teacher pipeline, to go through teacher education programs and get their license to become public school teachers. So there are these initiatives that are put forth by districts and by states to try to grow their own teachers to make sure that there's a continuous healthy supply of teachers entering the workforce. That's one really popular strategy that a lot of folks are either considering or putting forth. I think time will tell the extent to which we're able to use these as a healthy supply into the teacher workforce.

JILL ANDERSON: Do you think that states should revisit their licensure requirements, given the current situation? Especially in some states, it's more dire than others about some of these teacher vacancies.

OLIVIA CHI: There are many states out there that have their own version of emergency teaching licenses that allow individuals who aren't traditionally licensed to take in positions. So as you were saying, the regulations vary from state to state. But again, based on the research that we see here in Massachusetts and from some existing work done by Ben Backus and Dan Goldhaber and colleagues in New Jersey where they look at something that's similar to the emergency teaching license that occurred in New Jersey during the pandemic, I think all of the points to the idea that states should really consider some flexibility. Particularly to those who are trying and have been trying to enter the teacher workforce. I would imagine all over the country, there are folks who do want to become teachers and are passionate about education, but yet can't meet the requirements for one reason or another. It might be because they're unable to pass the licensure exams. And it's possible that they would go on to be as good as their peers. So thinking through some other flexible ways for them to meet requirements that's not necessarily meeting a given cut score on a licensure exam. I know Massachusetts is already exploring some of these possibilities. I think that they've been investigating something called the MTEL-Flex. The MTELs are the licensure exam in Massachusetts. And they've been investigating and evaluating an initiative to, again, provide some flexibility around how you pass the licensure exam. So I do think that states across the country should be thinking about how can we provide some flexibility. Again, this doesn't mean take away all requirements completely. But how do we provide some flexibility to the existing structure to make sure that we can let in folks who are extremely dedicated to the profession, seem to have the potential to be really good teachers, and really want to become teachers? So how can we think about opportunities to do that? I know some work by Mary Lasky who examined, I think a pandemic policy in Mississippi that allowed paraprofessionals with bachelor's degrees to be essentially hand-chosen by their principals to become classroom teachers in certain parts of the state during the pandemic. So that's one possibility of thinking about flexibility. How do we allow folks under the supervision of other educators to be able to enter the workforce without necessarily having gone through a traditional requirement? Again, I think that an evaluation of that policy is underway. But I think that that's just an example of how policymakers can think flexibly about how to have folks meet requirements through an alternative pathway than what currently exists.

JILL ANDERSON: Well, thank you so much, Olivia.

OLIVIA CHI: Thank you.

JILL ANDERSON: Olivia Chi is an assistant professor at Boston University. I'm Jill Anderson. This is the Harvard EdCast produced by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Thanks for listening.

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what the pandemic taught me essay

The first song I ever knew all the words to was the BYU Fight Song. I would ask my mom to sing it to me before I went to bed at night. My earliest memories were of watching football games, walking campus, and planning my future as a BYU cougar.

Imagine the devastation when, one fateful day in 2018, I got an email that read: “We are honored that you chose to apply to Brigham Young University. After a thorough review of your application, we regret that we are unable to offer you admission.”

This left me to battle a question I never thought I would need to: What do you do when the one thing you have worked toward your entire life is taken away from you in two sentences of an email?

Becoming Lost

After my rejection, I spiraled. I began attending Utah Valley University and lost myself. I hated being at church because it reminded me of everything I didn’t have, and I hated being at home because the people I chose to surround myself with did not bring out the best in me.

I chose to become lost; I wanted to throw away the person I was because, clearly, she was not good enough. I stopped reading my scriptures, praying and trying to understand what was happening at church. Everyone in my life noticed this change in me, and to this day my family refers to this time in my life as my “Dark Days.”

In all the darkness I became a part of at that time, God was watching over me. Somehow, in all the gloom, He led me to a session of General Conference, where He had inspired M. Joseph Brough to speak on facing trials in the Lord’s way.

In this talk, Brough relays the story of his daughter being called on a mission. Previously, she had lived with her family in Guatemala during Brough’s time serving as a mission president. His daughter struggled throughout the three years, and at the conclusion of her family’s service, she told her father she had already served a mission and would not be going on another.

“About six months later, the Spirit awoke me in the night with this thought: ‘I have called your daughter to serve a mission,’” Brough said.

As soon as I heard those words, I knew that I, too, was called to serve. I did not have a testimony, I had never read the Book of Mormon and I was content to fade into inactivity. God had other plans for me.

Becoming a Disciple

I did not want to serve a mission. I began making excuses to delay turning in the life-altering paperwork. In my journal from that time, I wrote: “I told God today that I couldn’t go on a mission because I cannot not wear pants for that long. Today, I got an email saying sister missionaries can now wear pants in the field.”

I also told God that I could not possibly serve a mission because I could not go that long without talking to my family on the phone. The next day, it was announced that missionaries could call home each week. Out of excuses, I turned in my paperwork and was called to serve the people of Las Vegas, Nevada. No part of me was excited.

During my mission, I came to know God again. I came to love Him, trust His plan for me and accept that my life had a different trajectory that I originally planned. Although I did not want to, I knew I needed to reapply to BYU while I was on my mission. Writing the application essays from a Bluetooth keyboard on my phone, I prepared for another rejection letter to arrive in my inbox. It never came. I was accepted to BYU and prepared to attend, begrudgingly.

Becoming BYU

President C. Shane Reese spoke in his September 2023 inaugural address about the idea of “Becoming BYU.” When I first heard this address as a junior at BYU, I thought President Reese was thinking of making big changes to the school. I imagined him changing the things I saw that were “wrong” at BYU, making the school more easily stomached by the mainstream world. I realized later that I completely missed the point.

“Our task is to become the university that prophets have foretold — to become the world’s ‘greatest institution of learning’ and ‘the fully anointed university of the Lord about which so much has been spoken in the past,’” Reese said.

Becoming BYU, to me, is not about becoming something new; it is about looking to past prophecies and becoming what it was always intended to be. Throughout my time at BYU, I have tried to change who I am. I wanted to fit the perfect Provo mold, be the perfect returned missionary I thought God wanted me to be.

President Reese has taught me I am intended to be something much different than any mold. I need to become the person God has always intended me to be, much like BYU needs to become the beacon of spiritual and intellectual knowledge God has always intended it to be.

“Becoming BYU requires individual reflection and spiritual growth from all of us,” Reese said.

I submit that each of us are on a path to become our own version of BYU. Each of us that walks past the Wilkinson Student Center or cheers at LaVell Edwards Stadium has been called to Become BYU, personally and collectively. This transformation looks radically different for each of us, but if there is one thing I have learned on my pursuit to Become BYU, it is that God is individually preparing, cheering and shaping us.

He took a lost, confused and hurt young girl and transformed her into a missionary. He took that same missionary and transformed her into the woman I am today. I know that, with a lot of time and hard work, he can take me, and this university, and shape us into the fulfilment of centuries-old prophecies.


What it’s like to be undocumented at byu, letting go of the burden of hate to feed thousands: the story of the black 14, byu school of music presents ‘così fan tutte’.

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How Tesla Planted the Seeds for Its Own Potential Downfall

Elon musk’s factory in china saved his company and made him ultrarich. now, it may backfire..

This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and email [email protected] with any questions.

From “The New York Times,” I’m Katrin Bennhold. This is “The Daily.”


Today, the story of how China gave Tesla a lifeline that saved the company — and how that lifeline has now given China the tools to beat Tesla at its own game. My colleague, Mara Hvistendahl, explains.

It’s Tuesday, April 9.

So, Mara, you’ve spent the past four months investigating Elon Musk and his ties to China through his company, Tesla. Tell us why.

Well, a lot of American companies are heavily invested in China, but Tesla’s kind of special. As my colleagues and I started talking to sources, we realized that many people felt that China played a crucial role in rescuing the company at a critical moment when it was on the brink of failure and that China helps account for Tesla’s success, for making it the most valuable car company in the world today, and for making Elon Musk ultra rich.

That’s super intriguing. So maybe take us back to the beginning. When does the story start?

So the story starts in the mid 2010s. Tesla had been this company that had all this hype around it. But —

A lot of people were shocked by Tesla’s earnings report. Not only did they make a lot less money than expected, they’re also making a lot less cars.

Tesla was struggling.

The delivery of the Model 3 has been delayed yet again.

Tesla engineers are saying 40 percent of the parts made at the Fremont factory need reworking.

At the time, they made their cars in Fremont, California, and they were facing production delays.

Tesla is confirming that Cal/OSHA is investigating the company over concerns over workplace safety.

Elon Musk has instituted a kind of famously grueling work culture at the factory, and that did not go over well with California labor law.

The federal government now has four active investigations involving Tesla.

They were clashing with regulators.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate a second crash involving Tesla’s autopilot system.

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk — friends are really concerned about him. That’s what Musk told “The New York Times.”

And by 2018, he was having all of these crises.

According to “The Times,” Musk choked up multiple times and struggled to maintain his composure during an hour-long interview about turmoil at his electric car company, Tesla.

So all of this kind of converged to put immense pressure on him to do something.

And where does China come in?

Well, setting up a factory in China, in a way, would solve some of these problems for Musk. Labor costs were lower. Workers couldn’t unionize there. China provided access to this steady supply of cheaper parts. So Elon Musk was set on going to China. But first, Tesla and Musk wanted to change a key policy in China.

Hmm, what kind of policy?

So they wanted China to adopt a policy that was aimed at lowering car emissions. And the idea was that it would be modeled after a similar policy in California that had benefited Tesla there.

OK, so explain what that policy actually did. And how did it benefit Tesla?

So California had this system called the Zero-Emission Vehicle program. And that was designed to encourage companies to make cleaner cars, including electric vehicles. And they did that by setting pollution targets. So companies that made a lot of clean cars got credits. And then companies that failed to meet those targets, that produced too many gas-guzzling cars, would have to buy credits from the cleaner companies.

So California is trying to incentivize companies to make cleaner cars by forcing the traditional carmakers to pay cleaner car makers, which basically means dirtier car makers are effectively subsidizing cleaner cars.

Yes, that’s right. And Tesla, as a company that came along just making EVs, profited immensely from this system. And in its early years, when Tesla was really struggling to stay afloat, the money that it earned from selling credits in California to polluting car companies were absolutely crucial, so much so that the company structured a lot of its lobbying efforts around this system, around preserving these credits. And we talked to a former regulator who said as much.

How much money are we talking about here?

So from 2008, when Tesla unveiled its first car, up until the end of last year, Tesla made almost $4 billion by selling credits in California.

Wow. So Musk basically wants China to recreate this California-style program, which was incredibly lucrative for Tesla, there. And they’re basically holding that up as a condition to their building a factory in China.

Right. And at this point in the story, an interesting alliance emerges. Because it wasn’t just Tesla that wanted this emissions program in China. It was also environmentalists from California who had seen the success of the program up close in their own state.

If you go back to that period, to the early 2010s, I was living in China at the time in Beijing and Shanghai. And it was incredibly polluted. We called it airpocalypse at times. I had my first child in China at that point. And as soon as it was safe to put a baby mask on her, we put a little baby mask on her. There were days where people just would try to avoid going outside because it was so polluted. And some of the pollution was actually wafting across the Pacific Ocean to California.

Wow, so California is experiencing that Chinese air pollution firsthand and, in a way, has a direct stake in lowering it.

That’s right. So Governor Jerry Brown, for example — this became kind of his signature issue, was working with China to clean up the environment, in part by exporting this emission scheme. It was also an era of a lot more US-China cooperation. China was seen as absolutely crucial to combating climate change.

So you had all these groups working to get this California emissions scheme exported to China — and the governor’s office and environmental groups and Tesla. And it worked. In 2017, China did adopt a system that was modeled after California’s.

It’s pretty incredible. So California basically exports its emissions-trading system to China, which I imagine at the time was a big win for Californian environmentalists. But it was also a big win for Tesla.

It was definitely a big win for Tesla. And we know that in just a few years Tesla, made almost $1 billion from the emissions-trading program he helped lobby for in China.

So Elon Musk goes on, builds a factory in China. And he does so in Shanghai, where he builds a close relationship with the top official in the city, who actually is now the number-two official in all of China, Li Qiang.

So according to Chinese state media, Elon Musk actually proposed building the factory in two years, which would be fast. And Li came back and proposed that they do it in one year, which — things go up really quickly in China. But even for China, this is incredibly fast. And they broke ground on the factory in January 2019. And by the end of the year, cars were rolling off the line. So then in January 2020, Musk was able to get up on stage in Shanghai and unveil the first Chinese-made Teslas.

Really want to thank the Tesla team and the government officials that have been really helpful in making this happen.

Next to him on stage is Tesla’s top lobbyist who helped push through some of these changes.

Thank you. Yeah, everybody can tell Elon’s super, super happy today.


And she says —

Music, please.

Cue the music. [UPBEAT MUSIC]

And he actually broke into dance. He was so happy, a kind of awkward dance.


And what is the factory like?

The Shanghai factory is huge. 20,000 people work there. Tesla’s factories around the world tend to be pretty large, but the Shanghai workers work more shifts. And when Tesla set up in China, Chinese banks ended up offering Tesla $1.5 billion in low-interest loans. They got a preferential tax rate in Shanghai.

This deal was so generous that one auto industry official we talked to said that a government minister had actually lamented that they were giving Tesla too much. And it is an incredibly productive factory. It’s now the flagship export factory for Tesla.

So it opens in late 2019. And that’s, of course, the time when the pandemic hits.

Yes. I mean, you might think that this is really poor timing for Elon Musk. But it didn’t quite turn out that way. In fact, Tesla’s factory in Shanghai was closed for only around two weeks, whereas the factory in Fremont was closed for around two months.

That’s a big difference.

Yes, and it really, really mattered to Elon Musk. If you can think back to 2020, you might recall that he was railing against California politicians for closing his factory. In China, the factory stayed open. Workers were working around the clock. And Elon Musk said on a podcast —

China rocks, in my opinion.

— China rocks.

There’s a lot of smart, hardworking people. And they’re not entitled. They’re not complacent, whereas I see —

We’ve seen a lot of momentum and enthusiasm for electric vehicles, stocks, and Tesla certainly leading the charge.

Tesla’s stock price kept going up.

Tesla has become just the fifth company to reach a trillion-dollar valuation. The massive valuation happened after Tesla’s stock price hit an all-time high of more than $1,000.

So this company that had just a few years earlier been on the brink of failure, looking to China for a lifeline, was suddenly riding high. And —

Tesla is now the most valuable car company in the world. It’s worth more than General Motors, Ford, Fiat, Chrysler.

By the summer, it had become the most valuable car company in the world.

Guess what? Elon Musk is now the world’s richest man.

“Forbes” says he’s worth more than $255 billion.

And Elon Musk’s wealth is tied up in Tesla stock. And in the following year, he became the wealthiest man in the world.

So you have this emission trading system, which we discussed and which, in part, thanks to Tesla, is now established in China. It’s bringing in money to Tesla. And now this Shanghai factory is continuing to produce cars for Tesla in the middle of the pandemic. So China really paid off for Tesla. But what was in it for China?

Well, China wasn’t doing this for charity.

What Chinese leaders really wanted was to turn their fledgling electric vehicle industry into a global powerhouse. And they figured that Tesla was the ticket to get there. And that’s precisely what happened.

We’ll be right back.

So, Mara, you’ve just told us the story of how Elon Musk used China to turn Tesla into the biggest car maker in the world and himself — at one point — into the richest man in the world. Now I want to understand the other side of this story. How did China use Tesla?

Well, Tesla basically became a catfish for China’s EV industry.

A catfish, what do you mean by that?

It’s a term from the business world. And, essentially, it means a super aggressive fish that makes the other fish in the pond swim faster. And by bringing in this super competitive, aggressive foreign company into China, which at that point had these fledgling EV companies, Chinese leaders hoped to spur the upstart Chinese EV makers to up their game.

So you’re saying that at this point, China actually already had a number of smaller EV companies, which many people in the West may not even be aware of, these smaller fish in the pond that you were referring to.

Yes, there were a lot of them. They were often locally based. Like, one would be strong in one city, and one would be strong in another city. And Chinese leaders saw that they needed to become more competitive in order to thrive.

And China had tried for decades to build up this traditional car industry by bringing in foreign companies to set up joint ventures. They had really had their sights set on building a strong car industry, and it didn’t really work. I mean, how many traditional Chinese car company brands can you name?

Exactly none.

Yeah, right. So going back to the aughts and the 2010s, they had this advantage that many Chinese hadn’t yet been hooked on gas-guzzling cars. There were still many people who were buying their first car ever. So officials had all these levers they could pull to try to encourage or try to push people’s behavior in a certain direction.

And their idea was to try to ensure that when people went to buy their first car, it would be an EV — and not just an EV but, hopefully, a Chinese EV. So they did things like — at the time, just a license plate for your car could cost an exorbitant amount of money and be difficult to get. And so they made license plates for electric vehicles free. So there were all these preferential policies that were unveiled to nudge people toward buying EVs.

So that’s fascinating. So China is incentivizing consumers to buy EV cars and incentivizing also the whole industry to get its act together by chucking this big American company in the mix and hoping that it will increase competitiveness. What I’m particularly struck by, Mara, in what you said is the concept of leapfrogging over the conventional combustion engine phase, which took us decades to live through. We’re still living in it, in many ways, in the West.

But listening to you, it sounds a little bit like China wasn’t really thinking about this transition to EVs as an environmental policy. It sounds like they were doing this more from an industrial-policy perspective.

Right. The environment and the horrible era at the time was a factor, but it was a pretty minor factor, according to people who were privy to the policy discussions. The more significant factor was industrial policy and an interest in building up a competitive sphere.

So China now wants to become a leader in the global EV sector, and it wants to use Tesla to get there. What does that actually look like?

Well, you need sophisticated suppliers to make the component parts of electric vehicles. And just by being in China, Tesla helped spur the development of several suppliers. Like, for example, the battery is a crucial piece of any EV.

And Tesla, with a fair amount of encouragement — and also various levers from the Chinese government — became a customer of a battery maker called CATL, a homegrown Chinese battery maker. And they have become very close to Tesla and have even set up a factory near Teslas in Shanghai. And today, with Tesla’s business — and, of course, with the business of some other companies — CATL is the biggest battery maker in the world.

But beyond just stimulating the growth of suppliers, Tesla also made these other fish in the pond swim faster. And the biggest Chinese EV company to come out of that period is one called BYD. It’s short for Build Your Dreams.

We are BYD. You’ve probably never heard of us.

From battery maker to the biggest electric vehicle or EV manufacturer in China.

They’ve got a lot of models. They’ve got a lot of discounts. They’ve got a lot of market growth.

China’s biggest EV maker just overtook Tesla in terms of worldwide sales.

BYD 10, Chinese automobile redefined.

I’ve actually started seeing that brand on the streets here in Europe recently, especially in Germany, where my brother actually used to lease a Tesla and now leases a BYD.

Does he like it?

He does. Although he did, to be fair, say that he misses the luxury of the Tesla, but it just became too expensive, really.

The price point is a huge reason that BYD is increasingly giving Tesla a run for its money. Years ago, back in 2011 —

Although there’s competitors now ramping up. And, as you’re familiar with, BYD, which is also —

— Elon Musk actually mocked their cars.

— electric vehicles, here he is trying to compete. Why do you laugh?

He asked an interviewer —

Have you seen their car?

I have seen their car, yes.

— have you seen their cars? Sort of suggesting, like, they’re no competition for us.

You don’t see them at all as a competitor?

Why is that? I mean, they offer a lower price point.

I don’t think they have a great product. I think their focus is — and rightly should be — on making sure they don’t die in China.

But they have been steadily improving. They’ve been in the EV space for a while, but they really started improving a few years ago, once Tesla came on the scene. That was due to a number of factors, not entirely because of Tesla. But Tesla played a role in helping train up talent in China. One former Tesla employee who worked at the company as they were getting set up in China told me that most of the employees who were at the company at the time now work for Chinese competitors.

So they have really played this important role in the EV ecosystem.

And you mentioned the price advantage. So just for comparison, what does an average BYD sell for compared to a more affordable Tesla car?

So BYD has an ultra-cheap model called the Seagull that sells for around $10,000 now in China, whereas Tesla Model 3s and Model Ys in China sell for more than twice that.

Wow. How’s BYD able to sell EVs at these much lower prices?

Well, the Seagull is really just a simpler car. It has less range than a Tesla. It lacks some safety measures. But BYD has this other crucial advantage, which is that they’re vertically integrated. Like, they control many aspects of the supply chain, up and down the supply chain. When you look at the battery level, they make batteries. But they even own the mines where lithium is mined for the batteries.

And they recently launched a fleet of ships. So they actually operate the boats that are sending their cars to Europe or other parts of the world.

So BYD is basically cutting out the middleman on all these aspects of the supply chain, and that’s how they can undercut other car makers on price.

Yeah. They’ve cut out the middleman, and they’ve cut out the shipping company and almost everything else.

So how is BYD doing now as a company compared to Tesla?

In terms of market cap, they’re still much smaller than Tesla. But, crucially, they overtook Tesla in sales in the last quarter of last year.

Yeah, that was a huge milestone. Tesla still dominates in the European market, which is a very important market for EVs. But BYD is starting to export there. And Europe traditionally is kind of automotive powerhouse, and the companies and government officials there are very, very concerned. I interviewed the French finance minister, and he told me that China has a five - to seven-year head start on Europe when it comes to EVs.

Wow. And what has Elon Musk said about this incredible rise of BYD in recent years? Do you think he anticipated that Tesla’s entry into the Chinese market could end up building up its own competition?

Well, I can’t get inside his head, and he did not respond to our questions. But —

The Chinese car companies are the most competitive car companies in the world.

— he has certainly changed his tune. So, remember, he was joking about BYD some years ago.

Yeah, he’s not joking anymore.

I think they will have significant success.

He had dismissed Chinese EV makers. He now appears increasingly concerned about these new competitors —

Frankly, I think if there are not trade barriers established, they will pretty much demolish most other car companies in the world.

— to the point that on an earnings call in January, he all but endorsed the use of trade barriers against them.

They’re extremely good.

I think it’s so interesting, in a way — of course, with perfect hindsight — the kind of maybe complacency or naivete with which he may not have anticipated this turn of events. And in some ways, he’s not alone, right? It speaks to something larger. Like, China, for a long time, was seen as kind of the sweatshop or the manufacturer of the world — or perhaps as an export market for a lot of these Western companies. It certainly wasn’t putting out its own big brand names. It was making stuff for the brand names.

But recently, they have quite a lot of their own brand names. Everybody talks about TikTok. There’s Huawei. There’s WeChat, Lenovo. And now there is BYD. So China is becoming a leader in technology in certain areas. And I think that shift in some ways has happened. And a lot of Western companies — perhaps like Tesla — were kind of late to waking up to that.

Right. Tesla is looking fragile now. Their stock price dropped 30 percent in the first quarter of this year. And to a large degree, that is because of the threat of companies like BYD from China and the perception that Tesla’s position as number one in the market is no longer guaranteed.

So, Mara, all this raises a much bigger question for me, which is, who is going to own the future of EVs? And based on everything you’ve said so far, it seems like China owns the future of EVs. Is that right?

Well, possibly, but the jury is still out. Tesla is still far bigger for now. But there is this increasing fear that China owns the future of EVs. If you look at the US, there are already 25 percent tariffs on EVs from China. There’s talk of increasing them. The Commerce Department recently launched an investigation into data collection by electric vehicles from China.

So all of these factors are creating uncertainty around what could happen. And the European Union may also add new tariffs against Chinese-made cars. And China is an economic rival and a security rival and, in many ways, our main adversary. So this whole issue is intertwined with national security. And Tesla is really in the middle of it.

Right. So the sort of new Cold War that people are talking about between the US and China is, in a sense, the backdrop to this story. But on one level, what we’ve been talking about, it’s really a corporate story, an economic story that has this geopolitical backdrop. But it’s also very much an environmental story. So, regardless of how Elon Musk and Tesla fare in the end, is BYD’s rise and its ability to create high-quality and — perhaps more importantly — affordable EVs ultimately a good thing for the world?

If I think back on those years I spent living in Shanghai and Beijing when it was extremely polluted and there were days when you couldn’t go outside — I don’t think anyone wants to go back to that.

So it’s clear that EVs are the future and that they’re crucial to the green energy transition that we have to make. How exactly we get there is still unclear. But what is true is that China did just make that transition easier.

Mara, thank you so much.

Thank you, Katrin.

Here’s what else you need to know today.


Millions of people across North America were waiting for their turn to experience a rare event on Monday. From Mexico —

Cuatro, tres, dos, uno.

— to Texas.

Awesome, just awesome.

We can see the corona really well. Oh, you can see —


Oh, and we are falling into darkness right now. What an incredible sensation. And you are hearing and seeing the crowd of 15,000 gathered here in south Illinois.

Including “Daily” producers in New York.

It’s like the sky is almost —

— like a deep blue under the clouds.

Wait, look. It’s just —

Oh my god. The sun is disappearing. And it’s gone. Oh. Whoa.

All the way up to Canada.

Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I’m talking about.

The moon glided in front of the sun and obscured it entirely in a total solar eclipse, momentarily plunging the day into darkness.

It’s super exciting. It’s so amazing to see science in action like this.

Today’s episode was produced by Rikki Novetsky and Mooj Zadie with help from Rachelle Bonja. It was edited by Lisa Chow with help from Alexandra Leigh Young, fact checked by Susan Lee, contains original music by Marion Lozano, Diane Wong, Elisheba Ittoop, and Sophia Lanman and was engineered by Chris Wood.

Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly.

That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m catching Katrin Bennhold. See you tomorrow.

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  • April 10, 2024   •   22:49 Trump’s Abortion Dilemma
  • April 9, 2024   •   30:48 How Tesla Planted the Seeds for Its Own Potential Downfall
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Hosted by Katrin Bennhold

Featuring Mara Hvistendahl

Produced by Rikki Novetsky and Mooj Zadie

With Rachelle Bonja

Edited by Lisa Chow and Alexandra Leigh Young

Original music by Marion Lozano ,  Diane Wong ,  Elisheba Ittoop and Sophia Lanman

Engineered by Chris Wood

Listen and follow The Daily Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Amazon Music

When Elon Musk set up Tesla’s factory in China, he made a bet that brought him cheap parts and capable workers — a bet that made him ultrarich and saved his company.

Mara Hvistendahl, an investigative reporter for The Times, explains why, now, that lifeline may have given China the tools to beat Tesla at its own game.

On today’s episode

what the pandemic taught me essay

Mara Hvistendahl , an investigative reporter for The New York Times.

A car is illuminated in purple light on a stage. To the side, Elon Musk is standing behind a lectern.

Background reading

A pivot to China saved Elon Musk. It also bound him to Beijing .

Mr. Musk helped create the Chinese electric vehicle industry. But he is now facing challenges there as well as scrutiny in the West over his reliance on China.

There are a lot of ways to listen to The Daily. Here’s how.

We aim to make transcripts available the next workday after an episode’s publication. You can find them at the top of the page.

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  1. 8 lessons the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us

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  2. 'What I learned from the pandemic': student essay contest launched

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  3. Corona Virus Essay, Life Lessons that Corona Virus Taught Us

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  4. How the pandemic has changed education

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  5. Lessons from the Coronavirus Pandemic

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  6. ≫ Nationalism and Covid-19 Pandemic Free Essay Sample on Samploon.com

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  1. What We Learned About Ourselves During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    Alex, a writer and fellow disabled parent, found the freedom to explore a fuller version of herself in the privacy the pandemic provided. "The way I dress, the way I love, and the way I carry ...

  2. What the Pandemic Taught Me

    What the Pandemic Taught Me Change is an imminent fact of human nature. It's scary, it's exciting and it is the driving factor that allows us to learn from the past, live for the present and await the future. Today, I think we like to place ourselves in two separate categories: the person I was before the pandemic and the person I am now.

  3. 8 Lessons We Can Learn From the COVID-19 Pandemic

    The CDC reports that the percentage of adults who reported symptoms of anxiety of depression in the past 7 days increased from 36.4 to 41.5 % from August 2020 to February 2021. Other reports show that having COVID-19 may contribute, too, with its lingering or long COVID symptoms, which can include "foggy mind," anxiety, depression, and post ...

  4. Your Say: What lessons have you learned during the pandemic?

    Please email your 500-word essay to us at [email protected] by Wednesday and we may publish it in the newspaper and online. ... and I hope this pandemic has taught everybody some good ...

  5. Student Voices: What have you learned about yourself during COVID

    The year of 2020 has been interesting, to say the least. I have learned many things about myself during the course of the pandemic. Let's just say that I am not known to be the most optimistic ...

  6. Lessons we will learn from this pandemic

    A pandemic that taught me to love. Branislav Maksimovski (15), UNICEF Young Reporter . It'll take just a little patience and support for us to master this crisis, but together can we do it. We only need to respect the recommendations and measures issued by the state, to protect ourselves, the people closest to us, and others who live in our ...

  7. How the Pandemic Changed Our Sense of Self

    In 1902, Charles Cooley invented the concept "the looking glass self.". It explains how we develop our identity based on how we believe other people see us, but also try to influence their ...

  8. 3 lessons about what really matters in life, learned in the pandemic

    The pandemic brings together a mother and daughter. In 2005, attorney Chalana McFarland of Atlanta, Georgia, was convicted of mortgage fraud and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The judge hoped this harsh sentence would deter others from similar crimes, but it had severe consequences for McFarland's 4-year-old daughter, Nia Cosby.

  9. Six Lessons We've Learned From Covid That Will Help Us Fight the Next

    In a pandemic that cuts across all facets of society, leaders need to deliberately weigh all sides of the situation to make the most effective decisions, she says.

  10. What Have You Learned About Yourself During This Lockdown?

    But a "world on pause" affects teenagers differently than it does older generations, and Ana Homayoun reports that " Some Teenagers Are Creating New Rituals in the Pandemic " to cope. The ...

  11. 12 moving essays about life during coronavirus

    The days dragged on in my apartment, in black and white, like my photos. Sometimes we tried to smile, imagining that I was asymptomatic, because I was the virus. Our smiles seemed to bring good ...

  12. Ongoing lessons from a long pandemic

    That, to me, is one of the silver linings of the pandemic: the unleashing of creativity and resourcefulness that those involved in teaching and learning were able to bring to the enterprise. "The pandemic has taught us to think more carefully about how to design successful learning experiences and programs for our students.

  13. 15 Lessons the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Taught Us

    Published March 04, 2021. Sean McCabe. For the past year, our country has been mired in not one deep crisis but three: a pandemic, an economic meltdown and one of the most fraught political transitions in our history. Interwoven in all three have been challenging issues of racial disparity and fairness. Dealing with all of this has dominated ...

  14. 5 Things COVID-19 Taught Me

    It lets us see the world and ourselves newly, including what we need and what we don't… in our schedules, homes, relationships, and lives. As well as the opportunity to release whatever isn ...

  15. 5 things the pandemic taught me

    The stress of the pandemic took a toll on our mental health and ability to accomplish our goals. Taking a beat and some distance to evaluate what I can and cannot handle is a big part of finding balance in school, in work and in my personal life. 3. Asking for support is a strength. I had to learn it was okay to ask for support when I needed it ...

  16. The Past Year Has Taught Me a Lot About Nostalgia

    As the pandemic has kept continuing — in its tedious, incessant, maddening, horrifying, catastrophic way, with 525,000 Americans dead — it has so far denied us the solace of a clear narrative arc.

  17. 9 Valuable Lessons We've Learned During The Pandemic

    Here are nine important lessons we've learned in the midst of COVID-19. 1. Family is nonnegotiable. For many of us, this year brought with it quality family time that we never expected and, honestly, might never have had otherwise. It's reminded us just how much family matters.

  18. What Students Are Saying About Living Through a Pandemic

    March 26, 2020. The rapidly-developing coronavirus crisis is dominating global headlines and altering life as we know it. Many schools worldwide have closed. In the United States alone, 55 million ...

  19. What Hard Times Teach Us: 5 Pandemic-Inspired Lessons That ...

    The lesson—that living in this period is part of a greater whole of history—and we will get through it. Lessons in Resilience and Response. Adaptability. This is a time when everything feels ...

  20. Reshaping Teacher Licensure: Lessons from the Pandemic

    With looming threats of high teacher turnover rates during COVID-19, Olivia Chi, Ed.M.'17, Ph.D.'20, an assistant professor at Boston University, wanted to study how the pandemic shaped who decided to become a teacher. Many states foresaw serious disruptions to the teacher pipeline as testing centers and schools closed around the county.

  21. What Covid-19 Has Taught Me

    The Life Lessons. Instead of selfishness, share what you have, be loving and compassionate. If this year has taught me anything, it is that this world is filled with selfish people — from toilet ...

  22. BYU at 150: The university prophets have foretold

    This left me to battle a question I never thought I would need to: What do you do when the one thing you have worked toward your entire life is taken away from you in two sentences of an email ...

  23. What the Great Pandemic Novels Teach Us

    By Orhan Pamuk. Mr. Pamuk was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. April 23, 2020. ISTANBUL — For the past four years I have been writing a historical novel set in 1901 during what is ...

  24. Poland's battle over homework

    Seven-year-old Nadia Nizinkiewicz is thrilled about the Polish government's decision to remove homework from her schooling. In fact, "everybody in my class is very happy," she tells me while ...

  25. What Sourdough Taught Me, in the Pandemic and Beyond

    Combine flour and water in a jar. Cover and let rest for 24 hours. Stir gently and add flour and water. rising vigorously. Cover and let rest for 12 to 24 hours. Take 1 tablespoon and add same ...

  26. Robert F. Kennedy junior doesn't care if he condemns America to Trump

    The "paranoid style in American politics", as Richard Hofstadter termed it in a famous essay of 1964, long predates the Kennedys, but the assassinations revived it. Kennedy says the events ...

  27. Book Review: 'Negative Space,' by Gillian Linden

    Parenting in a Pandemic, and Other Tales of Woe Gillian Linden's slim debut novel, "Negative Space," explores the being and nothingness of modern motherhood. Share full article

  28. Esther Perel on What the Other Woman Knows

    It's called "What Sleeping with Married Men Taught Me About Infidelity," by Karin Jones. Karin's essay was one of the most controversial pieces ever published in the history of the ...

  29. How Tesla Planted the Seeds for Its Own Potential Downfall

    This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this ...