Coronavirus Lessons Big and Small by Julia Noguchi


We are suddenly confronting keen reminders of why we need to ensure that our nation is more sustainable in the face of global health threats, or how we can mitigate a potential pandemic in the future. These reminders range from illness and grieving the losses of family or friends, to trying to care for children while trying to meet professional obligations, to restrictions on our movement, social isolation, and empty grocery store aisles.

The Trump administration, as well as other leaders across the globe, have demonstrated that disregard for science leads to poor health outcomes. We have learned that early action leads to less negative impact and less cost. Communities that take aggressive action on COVID-19 have had more success in flattening the curve and saving lives, allowing more capacity to lend to those who fall ill. We are now painfully aware that our reporting system is not good; we count numbers of the sick and the dead, but deaths are underreported due to lack of testing.

The pandemic has taught me to let some things go now that all the spheres of my life (school, work, family) have now blurred into one. I have learned to be okay with making waffles for dinner with the leftover batter from breakfast. I have also learned that I’m probably not cut out for home schooling.

Last week my son and I delivered food to some Liberian refugees in Providence. Upon visiting one apartment off of Chalkstone, we handed boxes of rice, plantains, cooking oil, pasta, beans, dried peas—and oddly, packs of M&Ms from FEMA—to a boy my son’s age, who hauled them up to a third-story apartment, where 11 people were packed into two small rooms. They were housing extended family from Liberia who had fled NYC due to COVID-19—essentially refugees twice over. When I learned that the family was afraid to go to the grocery store for fear of the police, I realized that all of my problems were quite small.


Julia is the Director of Service Learning and Community Mentoring at Alpert Medical School. She is currently a part-time doctoral student at Boston University School of Public Health.

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