Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Student Reflections on Topics Covered in our Class

Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

COVID-19: Is This The “New Normal?”

October 7, 2020 · 1 Comment · COVID19, Uncategorized

COVID-19 is not a new name in today’s time. There is hardly any individual who is not aware about the deadly coronavirus. Millions of lives are affected worldwide regardless of age, sex, race/ethnicity, or nationality. The coronavirus or first covid-19 case was detected in Wuhan, Hubei province of China around December of 2019. Not long after that, on March 11th of 2020, World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a Pandemic. Each nation tried to respond to these unprecedented events considering their social, cultural, infrastructural, and political compass. Some countries have performed better compared to others in containing the community spread of infections. Currently, the United States tops the list in terms of positivity rates followed by India.


Cultural and Behavioral Changes

We are in the fourth quarter of the year (2020) and if someone asks, what did you do this year? I guess the answer will be: stayed home, maintained social distancing, wore masks, sanitized the house and washed hands. Jokes apart, year 2020 taught us to value our health, family and more so life. The pandemic made us take the less explored paths and try to set “New Normals” for everyone. Working remotely, wearing mask and hand gloves, schools offering online learning sessions, a group huddle in conference room shifting to virtual meetings rooms, etc. became the “New Normals.”

A handshake which was a normal etiquette within society and an acceptable gesture in mostly many cultures have been transformed and some traditional or innovative greeting gestures such as “Namaste (joining hands),”  a “bow,” “footshake,” “the wave” etc.  have been the current trend.



How is Mental Health Affected?

To contain the spread of virus, many countries such as China, Italy, Africa etc. passed mandatory public quarantine/lockdown orders soon after an initial spike in coronavirus cases. However, even though quarantine is the best and most recommended option to stop the rapid spread of infections, it may have some downside to it. This lockdown might cause collateral damages to the conditions of people that are at high risk such as older people, those with hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, patients with respiratory disease, and mental illness. This tsunami of behavior and cultural changes highlighted the underlying mental health issues which might have been ignored so far. The prolonged isolation, loss of employment, financial stress, increased anxiety and severity of existing condition and the trauma of losing a loved one has worsened the health care gaps. Border closures and travel bans have separated families. All this has added “fuel to the fire.” Research and epidemiologic evidence suggest that physical activity and good diet might help reduce stress levels and cope with the challenging times.




Some basic coping mechanisms include:

 Breathe. Reflect

Connect with others

Keep to a healthy routine

Be kind to yourself and others

Reach out for help if you need it








How is Physical Health Affected?

The pandemic has not only affected the mental health but also physical health. As a result of mandatory quarantine or lockdowns, people have been home bound. Two things immensely increased during the “stay homes” 1) Binge watching (television) 2) Binge eating. The normal or minimal physical activity that might have been a part of the routine before covid-19 struck has diminished. Individuals that are usually active were restricted due to gym, malls, and other local park closures. Individuals who were barely active became much less active following the lock down orders. Also, people stockpiled foods, non-perishables (usually high in fats, sugars, and salts) for most part, along with “toilet paper” (just kidding).  

To add to this impulse buying and less physical activity, the unhealthy commodity industry has transformed the pandemic into a marketing opportunity and has mislead the citizens. The junk food and alcohol brands turned this pandemic to be the world’s largest marketing campaign. These unhealthy products have been known to worsen the non-communicable disease burden, however the respective companies such as Krispy Kreme, Coca-Cola, and many more have ironically positioned themselves as pandemic heroes or partners and interfered in public policies that are aligned to protect the population health.

The Future:

 What happens tomorrow depends on what we do today!

We can only assume what the future holds. Epidemiologists and biostatitians have been busy developing models to depict the trends of coronavirus and make appropriate recommendations. But no one knows for sure what scenarios we will face. There might be a vaccine that can immune everyone for lifetime or may be for six months. May be the vaccine might eradicate the virus forever or may be not. May be coronavirus is here for a long haul. May be the cultural and behavior changes persist after the virus is gone. May be the new etiquettes will only include “elbow shake” and “foot shake.” May be a “handshake” be gone with the wind. There are many “may be” and few answers. It is imperative to make real-time decisions and move with the flow. The pandemic is for real and we cannot “Sit back, Relax, and Enjoy the Flight (of covid).” We all, as responsible citizens need to be meticulous about taking precautions and shaping our habits such as frequent hand washing, wearing masks, sanitizing often used surfaces and maintaining physical distancing outside of home. We should also be well informed and up to date on new measures and guidance to avoid the spread of infection. This includes being able to identify symptoms related to covid-19 and getting tested if any symptom persists. At community level, we should adopt the new behaviors and avoid handshaking and hugging. Also, if one is exposed, it is necessary to follow appropriate quarantine/self-isolation guidelines to protect ourselves and others. As consumers, we should be aware about the several marketing tactics of corporates and industries to avoid being misled. And last but not the least, physical and mental health are of utmost importance and everyone should indulge in healthy lifestyle behaviors to keep our mental and physical well-being at par and the virus as distant as possible!


One Comment

  • ssanchezalvarez1

    I’m glad you brought up mental health and COVID-19 in your blog! More research has shown that this pandemic has a negative effect on the social and emotional well-being of individuals, especially among young adults.

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