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The Quad: Sharing some good news amid the coronavirus pandemic

(Aileen Nguyen/Graphics editor)

By Rachel Sarrafzadeh

March 31, 2020 8:12 pm

When the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31, it’s safe to say a life-threatening pandemic wasn’t part of most people’s 2020 plans.

Since the onset of the outbreak, the current news cycle has been consumed by coronavirus coverage, and each breaking update seems to bring worse updates than the day before. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the noise.

However, even with all the epidemiological curves, increasing case numbers and toilet paper shortages, there is some good news. We here at The Quad want to share some of the good stuff that has sprouted amid the chaos.

For starters, there appear to be some promising updates from the virus’ place of origin. The oldest survivor of COVID-19, a 103-year-old woman, recovered after only six days of treatment in a Wuhan, China, hospital. And just days before, a 100-year-old Chinese man also recovered from the virus, despite his underlying health conditions.

In addition to these recoveries, the light at the end of the tunnel appears to be nearing closer for the city of Wuhan. Not only have all 16 of the temporary hospitals recently closed, but the city’s travel restrictions will be lifted April 8, ending a nearly three-month-long lockdown period. These measures may serve as vital signs of the virus’ containment.

In other areas where the spread of the virus is still in its earlier stages, many companies are doing what they can to lessen shortages as they crop up. For example, distilleries are aiding with their most valuable resource: high-proof alcohol. Several distilleries have helped address the shortage of alcohol-based sanitizers, a highly demanded product during the pandemic. Atlanta’s Old Fourth Distillery even distributed its coveted product free of charge.

The outbreak has also caused a shortage of ventilators, but technology entrepreneur Elon Musk has come to the rescue. He pledged to repurpose Tesla Gigafactory 2 for the manufacture of ventilators and has already donated 1,255 ventilators to New York hospitals.

While coronavirus has caused a range of consequences, from unfortunate shortages to tragic losses of life, it has also led to some unforeseen environmental developments.

The Washington Post recently analyzed data from the European Space Agency, discovering significant declines in Italy’s nitrogen dioxide levels. Emanuele Massetti, an economics of climate change expert at the Georgia Institute of Technology, even made a startling claim about the research in the article: Northern Italy will soon enjoy the cleanest air it has ever experienced.

Moreover, there are other silver linings for wildlife. No, there aren’t dolphins swimming in the Venice canals, but some animals have been able to enjoy time outside their usual homes. In Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, penguins got a taste of freedom, getting to leave their glass enclosures to roam the surrounding aquarium.

On top of the liberated penguins, there’s also been some good news for our furry friends. Recent research suggests that our pets do not show symptoms for or spread the virus. Thankfully, we don’t have to stay 6 feet away from them.

But the good news doesn’t end there – in Italy, citizens are managing to keep their spirits up. Viral videos from various cities show Italians singing and dancing from their balconies and windows. In one video, the residents danced to the “Macarena,” and in others, people sang patriotic songs while banging on saucepans.

Such videos, specifically from the country that has suffered the highest death count because of the virus, have garnered thousands of views and seem to serve as an emblem of human resilience.

This resilience, however, is not unique to Italy – small acts of kindness and inspiration have been discovered everywhere.

In Bend, Oregon, a particularly uplifting story was shared by professional runner Rebecca Mehra. Mehra wrote in a Twitter thread that a couple in their 80s grabbed her attention in a grocery store parking lot, asking to help them with their shopping as they were too scared to go in themselves. Mehra got their groceries and loaded them in their trunk.

Mehra’s act is small, yet powerful. And what’s most heartening is that she said she believes most people would have done the same thing.

As Politico magazine writes, the virus is a “common enemy” that doesn’t discriminate or make any distinctions. When our individual differences are overlooked, we may rediscover unifying energy – possibly one that could inspire more acts like Mehra’s.

While Mehra’s story and other positive news coverage don’t make the outbreak any less serious, they do serve as encouraging reminders that can strengthen our hope.

Five-year-old Taytum Bauman, who films pretend YouTube videos that are occasionally shared on Facebook by her mom, made an endearing coronavirus advice video. In the viral footage, Bauman says it best: “I know you’re very scared, but it’s OK.”

Amid the chaos of this worldwide pandemic, there are a few, or perhaps more than a few, silver linings and beacons of hope to brighten our newsfeeds and remind us to stick together. Even if “sticking together” really means keeping a social distance.

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Rachel Sarrafzadeh
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