The COVID killer’s silver lining
Jeff & Lindsay Sage / 15 April 2020

Illustration: Robert Rodriguez/CNET

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Things got bad fast. 

Wuhan was a normal city on December 1, 2019. By January 23, 2020 all seven hospitals were maxed and people were being sent home to die. The age of historic global quarantines had begun. 

The disease remains inescapable in one place and undetectable in another - until it rages to life. 

Today, over 2,000,000 people are infected worldwide.  And yet...

Silver lining #1: Good things still happen during a crisis

Global pandemics can be catalysts for social reform. This one continues to expose that:

  • The gaps in our social safety nets are a threat to us all;
  • Investments in science and technology are not optional;
  • The importance of sound leadership and collaboration vs. the siloed status quo is a political imperative.

We always knew a zoological respiratory virus could become a pandemic, but we ignored it. This crisis forces us to take it seriously. If we’re diligent (and lucky) we can avoid one in the future before it becomes unstoppable.  

Silver lining #2: Some industries are innovating & moving faster than we ever thought possible

Bio-medicine will soon get moon-shot-level funding. 

Instead of checking your shoes at the airport for an explosive that can kill hundreds, you’ll get checked in real time through your saliva for a virus that could infect fellow travellers and impact thousands. 

Diagnostics, treatments, and analytics will all be areas of massive growth and innovation. 

The pandemic has also been an incredible accelerant for:

  • Science fiction calibre pandemic surveillance; 
  • Wearables and integrated real time testing; 
  • Healthcare robots. That's right, robots.  
  • Faster clinical trials; 
  • And new hospitals that go up over night. 

Most of this has already been accomplished in China since January.

Now it's North America's turn.

Silver lining #3: No one really knows what a postpandemic world will really look like and that might be a good thing

We should stop holding our political and medical leaders to this impossible standard. 

The global effort we’re making to control the spread of this pandemic is not a fixed set of predetermined procedures. It’s iterative and experimental. A new yin-yang of voluntary social norms and legal restrictions that shape our new reality every-time we step outside. 

We should embrace this short window to try new things. 

If you’re not real-time wrestling Maslow or defending us all on the front line, spend some time thinking on the silver side.

Your business, your employees, your friends and your future self will be grateful. 

Who knows, a different way of life could finally be the key to us all thriving together in equal measure.


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