The Year the World Went Crazy
Usually, I write about marketing or business. This month is different because in 2020 the world turned upside down.
In December 2019, a pneumonia outbreak happened in Wuhan, China. Wuhan has a population of 11 million and is China’s 7th largest city. Health officials didn’t know the root cause of the issue, so it spread rapidly through the densely populated city.
January 7, 2020, Chinese health authorities identified and announced the source—a new version of the coronavirus. The coronavirus had been around for years, but this was a new strain, accordingly named 2019-nCoV, now known as COVID-19. It’s in the same family as SARS and MERS, both of which have caused severe outbreaks in the past.
January 9, 2020, China reported the first related death, and shortly thereafter cases were detected in Thailand and Japan. The United States and other countries reported cases within the next two-three weeks.
China began quarantining cities, cancelling events, and suspending travel as their death toll rose. Other countries were taking precautions, but not all government authorities took it seriously. Many citizens were only vaguely aware of the issue. It didn’t touch them; it seemed so far away.
Within a month of China’s first death, their reported cases had reached over 20,000 and the death toll surpassed the numbers of the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003.
Finally, other countries began taking more concrete measures to prevent the spread. They evacuated citizens and suspended some travel from China. Still, they moved at a leisurely pace. It wouldn’t hit them the way it had hit China. They had better people, better systems, better response teams. Citizens became more aware, but still, life continued as normal for them.
By early March, over 30 countries had reported cases. Some of those, like South Korea, Iran, and Italy, saw steeply rising infections and deaths. The World Health Organization proclaimed a global pandemic.
Mid-March is when the United States began really taking things seriously. We went from hearing assurances from public health officials that things were under control and there was no need to panic, to hearing that events and schools were closed. Other countries began declaring country-wide emergency or crisis statuses.
Italy’s death numbers were rising by the hundreds on a daily basis and surpassed China in the most COVID-19-related deaths. Meanwhile, China reported no new cases for the first time, a leveling-off.
Around March 20, the shit was really hitting the fan. More and more governments began or intensified country-wide lockdowns. Now all events were being cancelled. Gatherings of more than a few people were banned. Schools and business were closed. Global deaths rose above 13,000 and total cases above 300,000.
The United States’ infection and death rates were now on the same projection course as Italy. Citizens around the world were most definitely taking the pandemic seriously. Their own lives, as well as friends and family’s, lives were at stake. Health care facilities were overloaded and didn’t have the supplies or manpower to treat everyone. They were prioritizing patients who had a higher likelihood of survival.
Businesses and incomes were being impacted, if not entirely wiped out. People were staying home, disinfecting surfaces and mail. “Social distancing” became the phrase of the day, with even small family gatherings being avoided, and attempts to stay several feet away from others became the norm.
Finally, the world was scared.
Lockdowns that had been announced as two or three weeks were extended. Indefinitely. Some areas had stay-at-home orders, where venturing from home was only allowed for food, work, and healthcare. Governments commandeered privately owned company resources and labor to provide needed supplies like facemasks, gloves, and makeshift hospitals.
But something else happened. As April began, people connected virtually. They became intentional in reaching out to one another. They purposely spread messages of hope and encouragement.
Businesses helped communities in tangible ways, giving services away, delivering supplies to fully quarantined households, and paying employees what they could even when they could scarcely afford it. Individuals prayed for one another, donate money and time at risk of their own health, and buy from local businesses to keep them afloat.
Vaccines began emerging left and right. New inventions and solutions appeared. Creativity, ingenuity, and elbow grease met a sense of urgency.
And the world, though still wracked by disease, pain, and fear, emerged a better place.