Nothing changes yet everything is different

From April 20, 2020 “Road Map to Pandemic Resilience” and Updated May 5, 2020

What I hear this week is this, “Help me envision the “future” – like even next month or next fall. I can do this – the hunkering down, the waiting– for awhile but, when I picture doing it with without end, I get overwhelmed“

We have an outbreak challenge and a communication challenge. A novel pandemic afflicts us and we are groping our way forward. As the curve in NYC declined the media and many people have taken this in as “it is time to get back to the way things were”. I am concerned that we do not have much of a plan for what that looks like. Not only do we not know what to do but now our fear is coupled with a sense that it is everyone for themselves.

Helplessness is a terrible thing. We can do this and we need to push a bit from the grassroots to not let ourselves be helpless. There are things, local things, that we can do. We will share lessons learned in our local community Task Force and we are asking others who have found action helfpul to share their experiences and advice.

This pandemic is different depending on our geography and as Mike Osterholm says, “What’s happening is a series of “mini-epidemics,” ……..the national numbers offer a deceptive picture: All the mini-epidemics are laid on top of one another, coming at different moments and infecting different populations. These mini-epidemics take off regionally and put hundreds of lives at risk while the statewide numbers appear to be flat or dropping.” So, we need to look at the “right” data to decide where we are and we need to have a plan. Otherwise, we will feel overwhelmed and lost. Otherwise, we will blunder.

Today (April 20, 2020) the report by the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard titled “Massive Scale Testing, and Supported Isolation (TTSI) as the Path to Pandemic Resilience for a Free Society” was released.  It is available at this link.

For a nice introduction there is a 13-minute video summary of the report with graphics that helps you get a feel for what is proposed. In spite of the report’s very grand title, the video has graphics that helps you get a feel for what is proposed. The tone of the video and the report is warm and upbeat but the challenges it presents are very real.

The video and report give dates that are aspirational and possibly attainable but at this point it is a black box. We need to know how “real” these timelines are for the US and for us in Maine.  What is key is that we have a plan and then all of us can chip in to make that plan real. We also need to know when our plan is not working and we need to change direction.

Updating from the report and video is an interview from the NPR show “On Point” (5/4/2020) with Danielle Allen, lead author of the recent Harvard paper on COVID-19 resiliency. (Two people are interviewed in this podcast. Danielle is the second interview.)

The podcast is available online at NPR. You can find it here:

As my friend Margaret Downing says, “She does an excellent job describing what COVID19 resiliency is and why it’s important. It answers the question of how we can get back to some version of normal life. What struck me most was her full-throated call for a grass roots movement of citizens demanding their state’s government create and publish NOW a detailed plan, with numbers, for testing, contact tracing and isolation support that will lead the state to resiliency. Now these are the three components we know are required to corral the virus- but it was her call for citizen action that got my attention.”

Many communities are making grassroots movements to step-up for what is needed. I hope your community is as well.

Published by sharon Mcdonnell

Medical Epidemiologist and Community Memeber

2 thoughts on “Nothing changes yet everything is different

  1. I say “Nothing changes and everything is different” here because as much as we learn about the virus and its patterns in our lives there are basic things we need to refer to and that have not changed:
    Break the chain– wash your hands or use sanitizer often, stand 6′ apart, wear a mask when around others, don’t touch your face. Be kind.


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