Will this pandemic ever end? Yes. Eventually it will. How do we know this? We know because there has been a severe pandemic roughly every century over the last 2000 years or so. Every single one of those pandemics caused socio-economic upheaval, widespread sickness and death, and provoked many to believe in outlandish conspiracy theories. Every single terrible pandemic ended and life returned to normal. Just like all the others, the COVID-19 pandemic will end.
The last global pandemic of this sort was the 1918 Spanish Flu. That pandemic lasted about 2 or 3 years and hit the world with 3 or 4 waves. It was much the same as what we are experiencing with the current COVID-19 pandemic –social distancing, masking, and gathering restrictions were helpful in bringing cases down, but once measures were lifted, cases would rise again. By the time the dust settled, 500 million people caught the virus and at least 20 to 50 million people were dead.
“As the rates of infection grew, the number of healthy workers declined. Before long, the Canadian economy was paralyzed. Health care professionals were perhaps the hardest hit. Ultimately, it was doctors, volunteers, nurses, paramedics, and members of religious communities who visited those who were ill and their families to deliver modest health care and the supplies needed to survive.”Parks Canada: The Spanish Flu in Canada (1918-1920) National Historic Event
Politics played a role in the spread of the Spanish Flu
Political attitudes toward the Spanish Flu were eerily similar to contemporary attitudes toward COVID-19. Some people refused to wear masks, some raged against gathering limits, some organized into groups to resist public health measures. Many people asserted they didn’t need masks because they believed that God would protect them. Sound familiar? History remembers noncompliance with public health measures during the Spanish Flu to be foolish. It will probably be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
The COVID-19 Pandemic is deadly
In some regions, the COVID19 pandemic has resulted in more deaths than the Spanish Flu did. For example, the United States recorded 675,000 deaths from Spanish Flu, but COVID19 has resulted in the deaths of over 800,000 Americans. In Canada, the Spanish Flu killed about 50,000 people, while COVID-19 has killed over 30,000 Canadians so far. When people claim that COVID19 is not as severe as the Spanish Flu, they are not taking all factors into account.
Today, we have the benefit of advancements in medical science that the world did not have access to during the Spanish Flu pandemic. This includes equipment such as ventilators and effective personal protective equipment such as N95 masks, but also medications such as antibiotics. How many people might have survived secondary pneumonia infections caused by the Spanish Flu if antibiotics were available? Probably quite a few.
Importantly, we have the benefit of a vaccine against COVID-19. How terrible might the pandemic have become if we did not have the benefit of a vaccine that is known to reduce the severity of symptoms in those people who have caught COVID-19?
Unfortunately, some political leaders have failed to learn from the past and are falling into the same traps they did during the Spanish Flu. These traps were failure to trust medical scientists, and inability to do what is right rather than what is politically expedient. There is a general unwillingness to understand the COVID-19 pandemic will end. It will end because all pandemics eventually end.