The Elusive Quest to "Build Back Better" amid COVID-19

This post is a reflection on 2021 as a whole; I will discuss the highs and, of course, the lows that occurred this year. It's hard to believe that 2021 marks another year in the books. I am deeply grateful for surviving another year amid the looming COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, many people worldwide will not be able to relish this moment. Over 5 million people have succumbed to the pandemic, and it all could have been preventable. 2021 has taught me a few lessons, highlighting three main ones.

Lesson 1: Misinformation and the deep mistrust of science have wreaked havoc on individuals' lives and impeded our ability to successfully and equitably recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Former president, Donald Trump, is primarily responsible for opening up the floodgates to this issue. It was evident during his administration that Trump did not believe in logic/reasoning and the efficacy of science. Subsequently, many people endorse the belief that the virus is a hoax and refuse to adhere to safety measures to break the spread of the virus. Also, 2021 was rife with uncertainty, instability, and inconsistency. Dr. Anthony Fauci has been the beacon of light since the onset of the pandemic; however, there has been conflicting information on the efficacy of safety measures. The CDC recently updated its guidelines by reducing the quarantine period from 10 days to 5 days. Personally, I think that the reduced quarantine period will do more harm than good. The former duration period of 10 days was more effective in helping folks prevent the spread of the virus.

  • 2021 exacerbated many pre-existing and new manifestations of inequality. One example of this is the unequal distribution of vaccines. Many high-income countries, namely the US received the gross lion's share of vaccines, which enabled them to recover from the virus at a quicker rate. Despite the surging of COVID-19 cases, the USA among other wealthier nations is slowly resuming a sense of normalcy. Low-income countries received only a paucity of 0.4% of vaccines, which is shameful and reprehensible! Nearly 1/4(about 25%) of health care workers in Africa are fully vaccinated. Another type of inequality amid the COVID-19 pandemic was the disproportionate, astronomical rate of women and girls suffering from some form of gender-based violence and domestic violence. According to the World Health Organization(WHO), about 1/3 of women and girls were victims of gender-based violence.

  • Health care facilities worldwide were pushed to the brink throughout the pandemic in that health care workers continue to be called into the line of duty to treat patients with COVID-19 around the clock, 24/7, 365 days of the year. As one can imagine, health care workers are exhausted physically, emotionally, and psychologically in a way that is inexplainable to people who do not work in the medical field. One important lesson to carry into 2022 is that preparation is vital to endure and survive future disease outbreaks, namely pandemics.

Lesson 2: The climate crisis is everyone's problem to contend with: 2021 painted a grim picture of the state of the world's environment. Wildfires, droughts, monsoons, and floods are a few prime examples of environmental calamities that have plagued our society in every corner of the globe. No country, regardless of income status, is immune from the ramifications of climate change. Germany, Greece, Australia, Russia, the United States, among several other nations represent the tip of the iceberg. However, low-income nations have bore the huge brunt of the climate crisis although they contributed the least to it. According to the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization, low-income countries have

have suffered acutely from the climate crisis. Fossil fuel burning continues to be a thorny problem. Although the COP26 UN Conference ended in November 2021, various countries are still rely heavily on fossil fuel production, further contributing to warming temperatures. Despite this bleak outcome, governments are striving to install 698 gigawatts of renewable energy from myriad sources, such as hydro, thermal, solar, wind, geothermal, and renewable-based hydrogen, according to the United Nations.

Lesson 3: Greed, selfishness, and a sheer lack of empathy reared its ugly head amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic: The pandemic has brought to light how individuals have acted selfishly. Examples of this are people refusing to wear masks, which heightens the high possibility of getting COVID-19, and finally, individuals rushing to return to normalcy, such as attending social gatherings and traveling during a time of crisis, unpredictability, and uncertainty. The statistic of 5 million people who've died from COVID-19 is mind-blogging and unfortunate. It amazed me how people are so gung-ho to return to life before the pandemic despite the colossal amount of grief, loss, sorrow, and trauma that have since transpired. It's going to be a long, arduous road ahead to return to life before the pandemic. Another regrettable incident since the beginning of the pandemic is the amount of sheer hatred, discrimination, and hate that Asians and Pacific Islanders constantly endure. AAPI individuals are considered a scapegoat for creating the virus due to its origin beginning in Wuhan, China. Nevertheless, the treatment towards them is inexcusable and unfair!

Of course, I want to end things positively; amid darkness and uncertainty, there were a few bright spots or noteworthy achievements worth mentioning here. One positive highlight is the rapid creation of vaccines to protect against the virus. A growing acceptance of non-binary gender identities is worth noting. For example, New York City has discontinued the practice of invasive intersex surgeries. Argentina has embraced the existence of non-binary gender identities. Another noteworthy achievement is countries working toward the eradication of child marriage. The Dominican Republic, New York, and Rhode Island are a few examples of places striving to discontinue the traditional practice of child marriage, a grave human rights violation.

There are a total of 8 posters in green and pink stating the message, "Protect our Essential Workers, Wear a Mask" in both English and Spanish.
Essential workers signs in English and Spanish

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