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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Pandemic

In Elemental. More on Medium.

It’s okay if your mental health is not bouncing back. Here’s why.

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At first, Lindsay Pearson felt hopeful. She was getting the Covid-19 vaccine, and case rates around the country were going down. The pandemic was, by many accounts, finally getting under control. Like many of us, Pearson, 23, who lives in Bakersfield, California, has had a miserable year — she has struggled with mental health problems her entire life, but being unable to work as an actress, her main creative and social outlet, made things so much worse. After Pearson got her first jab, she did feel some relief — until, suddenly, she didn’t. Her depression began to bear down on…


My Therapist Says

As the pandemic recedes, I’ve got to decide what kind of life I actually want to live

Illustration: Xinmei Liu for Elemental

When school let out for winter break of 2020, I finally started to lose my shit. It wasn’t the holidays, a possible election coup, my kids off Zoom school for a couple weeks, writing deadlines, managing my newsletter, or having to ready my online classes for a January 4 start date that had me at a breaking point. It was the upcoming vaccine rollout.

Everyone was starting to plan their vacations; schools were talking about bringing the kids back to campus; my partner was talking about going to a fall 2021 concert. Yet, I felt anxious. At the culmination of…


There will be no dramatic end to the pandemic, but we can at least look for these four signs that it’s under control

Photo: San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers/Getty Images

After a dark, lonely winter — when cases of Covid-19 ravaged the globe, surpassing 2 million deaths in mid-January, and with new variants cropping up — we seem to have begun emerging from the absolute worst. Spring’s fate is up in the air, but the ramped-up vaccine program under the new administration is sending hopeful signals. Seeing more and more friends and family posting vaccine selfies on social media amid climbing vaccination rates makes the end of the pandemic feel a little more tangible, in some ways.

But when we say “the end,” what exactly do we mean?

It’s challenging…


An invisible virus exposes critical blind spots in science and society. But will we learn?

Photo: MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram/Getty Images

Plaguing the world for more than a year, the coronavirus has forced reckonings in everything from scientific understanding to heart-wrenching inequities in health care and the economy. Given the human tendency to ignore history, here, for the record, are seven vital lessons we can take from the Covid-19 pandemic, which could start benefiting us now and for generations to come.

1. Virus science just underwent a paradigm shift

Sanitizing groceries and drowning our homes with bleach was wrongheaded, in hindsight. That early advice reflected an outdated view of how the coronavirus, influenza, and other respiratory viruses spread, some of it based on experiments done in the 1930s.

Combining…


What’s more, they’re looking to eradicate infectious diseases entirely

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“Unless we’re screened for coronaviruses and then shot out into space, leaving all other animals and nature behind, we’re going to have coronaviruses.” So says Benjamin Neuman, PhD, chief virologist at Texas A&M’s Global Health Research Complex. Neuman is no stranger to coronaviruses — he has been working with them for decades. His expertise even landed him a spot on the international committee that named SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. SARS-CoV-2 is the most recent member of the coronavirus family, which also includes the viruses that caused the SARS and MERS outbreaks.

The world’s changing climate and growing population…


Pandemic Reflections

After we settle into a new normal, we shouldn’t forget the lessons of the past year

Photo: John M Lund Photography Inc/Getty Images

As I look back on the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I can’t help but wonder why many of us weren’t more unsettled at the start of it all.

In early January 2020, my editor messaged me about the reports of a mysterious pneumonia-like illness out of Wuhan, China. As a science journalist, I’m careful to avoid hype in my writing. I wondered if I’d do more harm than good reporting on the outbreak. But my editor had been a foreign correspondent for TIME magazine in China when SARS was first identified in late 2002. He had reason to be…


Pandemic Reflections

How the pandemic made time a treasure of the privileged while it was stolen from everyone else

Photo: Jocelyn Michel/Getty Images

The day we began sheltering in place, a year ago on March 13, we celebrated a family birthday. It was the first of five we would share in the coming year, in the same place, in what felt like the same eternal moment, because we’d lost all sense of time. With all of us working and learning at home, without our usual cues that the day had come and gone — a departure for work or school, an arrival back from the trenches — one day was much like any other.

In the first few weeks of shelter in place…


Oxygen is one of the most abundant elements in the universe, but patients are dying from a lack of it

A blue medical oxygen concentrator.
A blue medical oxygen concentrator.
Photo: aydinmutlu/Getty Images

I’ve seen countless severe Covid-19 patients struggling to breathe. When they come into the emergency room, we immediately put an oxygen face mask on them and hook it to the wall. A quick turn of a bedside valve and oxygen rushes forward, quickly filling the patient’s lungs. In many cases, the improvement in the patient’s condition is immediate and dramatic.

In turning that valve, I never worry about the supply of oxygen running out. But my health care colleagues around the world aren’t so lucky.

Despite oxygen being one of the most abundant substances on Earth, people around the world…


Pandemic Reflections

There is always a new voice, always a new idea. It never quiets here.

Photo: Pola Damonte/Getty Images

I often describe Medium as an incredibly busy intersection on the internet. A massive amount of overlapping activity happens here at once. Writers and readers are everywhere you turn — some on their daily commute, some parked with no plans of leaving, some visiting for the first time, some lingering in doorways, seated on rooftops, or clustered in conversation.

As an editor for Medium, I stand at this intersection every day.

I read countless stories in depth, and catch glimpses or jagged corners of others. One person’s idea leads me to another and another — I move from the grimy…


Your Poor Pandemic Brain

The toll a year of loneliness, stress, fear, trauma, and loss takes on the structure and function of the brain

Animation: Carolyn Figel for Elemental

Sandro Galea, MD, is a physician and epidemiologist who knows trauma: He has studied people’s mental health in the aftermath of, among other earth-shattering events, 9/11, hurricanes, and civil unrest. In March and April 2020, the Boston University School of Public Health dean conducted one of the first mental health surveys of Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic. Galea found that in those early months, depression rates in the United States had more than tripled compared to the years prior, up from 8.5% to 27.8%.

“We were anticipating to find elevated rates, because we know that [depression increases in prevalence] from…

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