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A nurse tends to a patient infected with COVID-19 at a hospital in Istanbul, Turkey A nurse tends to a COVID-19 patient at a hospital in Istanbul, Turkey, Dec. 19, 2020 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

Three Public Health Lessons From Year One of COVID-19

Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021

The world has just passed an important anniversary. A year ago, on the eve of 2020, a municipal office in Wuhan, China, reported that 27 people in the city had come down with a strange and unidentified “viral pneumonia.” The next day, the World Health Organization picked up on the report and reached out to the Chinese government for more information. No one realized at the time how significant this new pathogen—later named SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19—would become. One year later, it has changed the world in unimaginable ways.

The past year has seen nearly 86 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 1.8 million deaths. In the immediate aftermath of the virus’ global spread, economies around the world were sent reeling, with the World Bank estimating that the global economy would shrink by 5.2 percent by the end of 2020. More than 20 million people lost their jobs in the United States alone, where unemployment reached 14.7 percent in April—the highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression. Just last month, the United Nations warned that the loss of jobs and income threatens to push a billion people—nearly one-eighth of the world’s population—into extreme poverty, erasing decades of progress on poverty reduction in an instant. Reports of discrimination and xenophobia, against people of Asian descent, refugees and other groups inaccurately perceived as being more likely to spread COVID-19, are on the rise and hampering disease control efforts, according to the United Nations. The pandemic has also strained governments at all levels and impaired the work of international organizations. ...

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