The Many Ways COVID-19 Has Impacted Our Lives
Story by Jeanie Edgmon
It was just over a year ago that the world shuttered its windows and locked its doors. The moment was so surreal that Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” and the famous melting clocks signifying the omnipresence of time and its mastery over human beings felt prophetic. We were not the masters of time we once believed we were.
In the days prior, American naivety could almost be excused. The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe in recent history, and with few living people who experienced it, only dusty accounts and grainy pictures tell the tale. Since that time, the U.S. had faced a variety of infectious diseases in recent decades — SARS, MERS, avian flu, Zika, Ebola, and others —most of which left the U.S. relatively unscathed. It was unclear how this new coronavirus would be notably different. Perhaps those who had watched the several videos on YouTube (prior to them being removed) that somehow made it out of China showing the Coronavirus impact had some idea of the dark cloud it would cast across the globe. Most citizens, however, were blissfully unaware until it hit our shore like a monstrous tidal wave of uncertainty.
But any doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic was about to shatter daily life ended on March 11, 2020. What had been a steadily building crisis exploded in a handful of hours. In a day, store shelves were cleared, non-essential businesses were closed, and the streets were empty. As we shuffled children out of school and watched endless commercials about how “we’re in this together,” something else became clear — the COVID-19 pandemic was a multifaceted health concern.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human life worldwide, though exact numbers are widely disputed. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) the virus has caused 6.9 million deaths globally, more than double what official reports show. IHME reports that COVID-19 deaths are significantly underreported in almost every country. The updated analysis shows that the United States has had more COVID-19 deaths to date than any other country, a total of more than 905,000. By region, Latin America, the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia were hardest hit in terms of total deaths.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S., there have been 33,922,998 confirmed Coronavirus cases that have resulted in 604,418 deaths to date. In Kansas alone, there have been approximately 315,000 reported cases and 5,092 deaths and counting. Confirmed cases and deaths, which are widely considered to be an undercount of the true toll, are counts of individuals whose coronavirus infections were confirmed by a molecular laboratory test.
However, the dramatic loss of life does not tell the entire health picture. The pandemic triggered many other health-related issues, highlighting the interconnectedness of many areas of medicine.
Increased Mental Health Awareness
As work, school, and entertainment all became home-based and remote, and travel prohibited, the isolation led to a wide range of mental health concerns. Children could not socialize beyond phone and computer interactions, which soon became normalized to them, and surprisingly widely preferred. Seniors and others living alone or in residential facilities could not receive visitors, leading many to suffer from loneliness and depression. Many were gripped by fear and anxiety, both of the virus and getting sick, as well as the impact it was having on their jobs and financial stability. Fortunately, this led to increased mental health awareness and widespread acceptance of care surrounding emotional wellness.
The Nutritional Impact
Job loss had a huge impact on many Americans and their health. According to Pew Research, overall, 25% of U.S. adults say they or someone in their household was laid off or lost their job because of the coronavirus outbreak, with 15% saying this happened to them personally. Even if they didn’t lose a job, many workers have had to reduce their hours or take a pay cut due to the economic fallout from the pandemic. About a third of all adults (32%) say this has happened to them or someone in their household. With so many out of work, an estimated 42 million Americans faced food insecurity throughout the pandemic and failed to get proper nutrition.
The Toll of Healthcare
COVID-19 also filled, or nearly filled in some areas, every hospital, and of necessity delaying other healthcare services. It has tested the limits of our healthcare system and stretched healthcare workers to their limits physically, and emotionally. Many suffered from exhaustion, depression, and anxiety while the frontline workers risked their lives to care for those afflicted. Here in Kansas City, we watched our healthcare heroes work around the clock, be separated from their families and risk all to serve this community. The staff here and the community abroad is humbled by this sacrifice.
As Americans masked up, socially distanced, got vaccinated, and responded to the crisis, we have begun to see a positive response across the nation. According to many sources, COVID-19 is on the retreat, as the United States reports a significant reduction in daily cases—a signal that the country’s largest vaccination push in decades is beginning to beat back the virus.
Fortunately, from the outset of the pandemic, most Kansas City residents took the virus seriously and did the right thing and masked up and socially distanced. That initial diligence paid off and our area did not see many of the problems other areas experienced, such as having to improvise hospital spaces. Because of this, the community has been able to open to business and life is returning to closer to what we recall as normal.
It has been a rough year since the coronavirus outbreak sent shockwaves throughout our lives. It has tested us in many ways, and revealed our weaknesses and our strengths. In many ways, it has helped us rediscover our gritty determination as we navigate still uncertain terrain. We at Healthy Kansas City are no different than the rest of the country. We doubled down in our efforts to continue to bring the most current and pressing information in the medical arena to our community.
As we look ahead, our editorial content line-up is brimming with more Physician features than ever, with more relevant information about the health issues that surround you and ways to stay proactive with your health, mentally and physically. Join us moving forward in staying healthy Kansas City.