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3 Truths: It Has Been Bad, and It’s Not Over Yet—But It Will Get Better

I’m going to put a stake in the ground and say: I hope that by Labor Day 2021, we are going to feel that we are beyond the worst of it, and life will be getting closer to normal.

Photo by Tai's Captures via Unsplash

When the first U.S. cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in January and lockdowns began in March, we listened to the experts, and their forecasts stoked our primal fears and concerns. We worried if we, or our loved ones, would get sick and if we would have adequate medical care and food supplies.

Six months later, we watch the Johns Hopkins tracker tick up daily, and we collectively grieve the almost 220,000 Americans who have died and hope for the recovery of those of the almost eight million in the U.S. who have contracted the disease and are still suffering.

But the experts’ recent guidance also gives us hope. Health care access and treatment modalities are better. Doctors and researchers have learned a great deal about the virus and how it impacts the body. New and experimental treatments are saving lives. And we know we can help avoid exposure with simple and effective methods, like hand washing and wearing masks.

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I’m going to put a stake in the ground and say I hope that by Labor Day 2021, we are going to feel that we are beyond the worst of it, and life will be getting closer to normal. This will be a gradual recovery and things will never return to the way they were before the pandemic, but by next summer things will feel better.

Why do I pin my hopes on that date? Each day, stories bring news on progress toward vaccines, treatments, health care system adjustments and improvements for critical supply chains.

At the recent Yale School of Management’s CEO Caucus, Sten Vermund, Dean of the School of Public Health at Yale, shared with attendees that we have 487 drugs in preclinical studies and 92 vaccines in preclinical development. “A year from now, we will be in a very different place in terms of vaccines and treatments,” Vermund said. “Until then, we are dependent on classic public health measures of masks and hand washing.”

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At a recent webinar, clinicians from NYU Langone Medical Center estimated that we’d have a viable vaccine sometime between February 2021 and the third quarter of 2021. This timeline reinforces our hopes for Labor Day of next year bringing some sense of normalcy.

New York Times science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil, Jr. expressed “cautious optimism” about the defeat of COVID in an article this week. He agrees that things will be better by this time next year, but he warned, “pandemics don’t end abruptly; they decelerate gradually, like supertankers.”

One thing that’s troublesome to me is that with the arrival of fall, shorter days and changing weather, people will soon closet themselves indoors again for winter. I am concerned that there is a potential for a spike in COVID infections, as well as mental health challenges, and I want us all to be prepared for both—while realizing an end is in sight. Erica Pandey, author of @Workpublished a warning on Axios this week on just this topic—we’re in for some hard times yet before things get better, and we must brace ourselves. The mental and physical health of our community is, and will remain, our utmost priority, demonstrated in part by our Connection Communities, which we developed in partnership with the peer-to-peer support app Wisdo. In fact, in the last two weeks, we’ve seen page views to our Loneliness community increase 60 percent.

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Why am I putting a stake in the ground at all? As a business leader, I believe it is my role to gather important information for our teams, businesses and communities.

Labor Day 2021: A year goes by in a flash, even if the days seem to drag. We are in the business of connection and are planning, building and evolving for both the short and long term, so we can serve our customers in deeper and more engaging ways beyond providing quality products. And we are finding a silver lining in a time of tragedy—that we can help people connect in ways large and small to develop more and deeper relationships.

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