8 Lessons We Can Learn From the COVID-19 Pandemic


Rear view of a family standing on a hill in autumn day, symbolizing hope for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic

Note: Information in this article was accurate at the time of original publication. Because information about COVID-19 changes rapidly, we encourage you to visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and your state and local government for the latest information.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we know it—and it may have changed us individually as well, from our morning routines to our life goals and priorities. Many say the world has changed forever. But this coming year, if the vaccines drive down infections and variants are kept at bay, life could return to some form of normal. At that point, what will we glean from the past year? Are there silver linings or lessons learned?

“Humanity's memory is short, and what is not ever-present fades quickly,” says Manisha Juthani, MD , a Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist. The bubonic plague, for example, ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages—resurfacing again and again—but once it was under control, people started to forget about it, she says. “So, I would say one major lesson from a public health or infectious disease perspective is that it’s important to remember and recognize our history. This is a period we must remember.”

We asked our Yale Medicine experts to weigh in on what they think are lessons worth remembering, including those that might help us survive a future virus or nurture a resilience that could help with life in general.

Lesson 1: Masks are useful tools

What happened: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed its masking guidance for those who have been fully vaccinated. But when the pandemic began, it necessitated a global effort to ensure that everyone practiced behaviors to keep themselves healthy and safe—and keep others healthy as well. This included the widespread wearing of masks indoors and outside.

What we’ve learned: Not everyone practiced preventive measures such as mask wearing, maintaining a 6-foot distance, and washing hands frequently. But, Dr. Juthani says, “I do think many people have learned a whole lot about respiratory pathogens and viruses, and how they spread from one person to another, and that sort of old-school common sense—you know, if you don’t feel well—whether it’s COVID-19 or not—you don’t go to the party. You stay home.”

Masks are a case in point. They are a key COVID-19 prevention strategy because they provide a barrier that can keep respiratory droplets from spreading. Mask-wearing became more common across East Asia after the 2003 SARS outbreak in that part of the world. “There are many East Asian cultures where the practice is still that if you have a cold or a runny nose, you put on a mask,” Dr. Juthani says.

She hopes attitudes in the U.S. will shift in that direction after COVID-19. “I have heard from a number of people who are amazed that we've had no flu this year—and they know masks are one of the reasons,” she says. “They’ve told me, ‘When the winter comes around, if I'm going out to the grocery store, I may just put on a mask.’”

Lesson 2: Telehealth might become the new normal

What happened: Doctors and patients who have used telehealth (technology that allows them to conduct medical care remotely), found it can work well for certain appointments, ranging from cardiology check-ups to therapy for a mental health condition. Many patients who needed a medical test have also discovered it may be possible to substitute a home version.

What we’ve learned: While there are still problems for which you need to see a doctor in person, the pandemic introduced a new urgency to what had been a gradual switchover to platforms like Zoom for remote patient visits. 

More doctors also encouraged patients to track their blood pressure at home , and to use at-home equipment for such purposes as diagnosing sleep apnea and even testing for colon cancer . Doctors also can fine-tune cochlear implants remotely .

“It happened very quickly,” says Sharon Stoll, DO, a neurologist. One group that has benefitted is patients who live far away, sometimes in other parts of the country—or even the world, she says. “I always like to see my patients at least twice a year. Now, we can see each other in person once a year, and if issues come up, we can schedule a telehealth visit in-between,” Dr. Stoll says. “This way I may hear about an issue before it becomes a problem, because my patients have easier access to me, and I have easier access to them.”

Meanwhile, insurers are becoming more likely to cover telehealth, Dr. Stoll adds. “That is a silver lining that will hopefully continue.”

Lesson 3: Vaccines are powerful tools

What happened: Given the recent positive results from vaccine trials, once again vaccines are proving to be powerful for preventing disease.

What we’ve learned: Vaccines really are worth getting, says Dr. Stoll, who had COVID-19 and experienced lingering symptoms, including chronic headaches . “I have lots of conversations—and sometimes arguments—with people about vaccines,” she says. Some don’t like the idea of side effects. “I had vaccine side effects and I’ve had COVID-19 side effects, and I say nothing compares to the actual illness. Unfortunately, I speak from experience.”

Dr. Juthani hopes the COVID-19 vaccine spotlight will motivate people to keep up with all of their vaccines, including childhood and adult vaccines for such diseases as measles , chicken pox, shingles , and other viruses. She says people have told her they got the flu vaccine this year after skipping it in previous years. (The CDC has reported distributing an exceptionally high number of doses this past season.)  

But, she cautions that a vaccine is not a magic bullet—and points out that scientists can’t always produce one that works. “As advanced as science is, there have been multiple failed efforts to develop a vaccine against the HIV virus,” she says. “This time, we were lucky that we were able build on the strengths that we've learned from many other vaccine development strategies to develop multiple vaccines for COVID-19 .” 

Lesson 4: Everyone is not treated equally, especially in a pandemic

What happened: COVID-19 magnified disparities that have long been an issue for a variety of people.

What we’ve learned: Racial and ethnic minority groups especially have had disproportionately higher rates of hospitalization for COVID-19 than non-Hispanic white people in every age group, and many other groups faced higher levels of risk or stress. These groups ranged from working mothers who also have primary responsibility for children, to people who have essential jobs, to those who live in rural areas where there is less access to health care.

“One thing that has been recognized is that when people were told to work from home, you needed to have a job that you could do in your house on a computer,” says Dr. Juthani. “Many people who were well off were able do that, but they still needed to have food, which requires grocery store workers and truck drivers. Nursing home residents still needed certified nursing assistants coming to work every day to care for them and to bathe them.”  

As far as racial inequities, Dr. Juthani cites President Biden’s appointment of Yale Medicine’s Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS , as inaugural chair of a federal COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. “Hopefully the new focus is a first step,” Dr. Juthani says.

Lesson 5: We need to take mental health seriously

What happened: There was a rise in reported mental health problems that have been described as “a second pandemic,” highlighting mental health as an issue that needs to be addressed.

What we’ve learned: Arman Fesharaki-Zadeh, MD, PhD , a behavioral neurologist and neuropsychiatrist, believes the number of mental health disorders that were on the rise before the pandemic is surging as people grapple with such matters as juggling work and childcare, job loss, isolation, and losing a loved one to COVID-19.

The CDC reports that the percentage of adults who reported symptoms of anxiety of depression in the past 7 days increased from 36.4 to 41.5 % from August 2020 to February 2021. Other reports show that having COVID-19 may contribute, too, with its lingering or long COVID symptoms, which can include “foggy mind,” anxiety , depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder .

 “We’re seeing these problems in our clinical setting very, very often,” Dr. Fesharaki-Zadeh says. “By virtue of necessity, we can no longer ignore this. We're seeing these folks, and we have to take them seriously.”

Lesson 6: We have the capacity for resilience

What happened: While everyone’s situation is different­­ (and some people have experienced tremendous difficulties), many have seen that it’s possible to be resilient in a crisis.

What we’ve learned: People have practiced self-care in a multitude of ways during the pandemic as they were forced to adjust to new work schedules, change their gym routines, and cut back on socializing. Many started seeking out new strategies to counter the stress.

“I absolutely believe in the concept of resilience, because we have this effective reservoir inherent in all of us—be it the product of evolution, or our ancestors going through catastrophes, including wars, famines, and plagues,” Dr. Fesharaki-Zadeh says. “I think inherently, we have the means to deal with crisis. The fact that you and I are speaking right now is the result of our ancestors surviving hardship. I think resilience is part of our psyche. It's part of our DNA, essentially.”

Dr. Fesharaki-Zadeh believes that even small changes are highly effective tools for creating resilience. The changes he suggests may sound like the same old advice: exercise more, eat healthy food, cut back on alcohol, start a meditation practice, keep up with friends and family. “But this is evidence-based advice—there has been research behind every one of these measures,” he says.

But we have to also be practical, he notes. “If you feel overwhelmed by doing too many things, you can set a modest goal with one new habit—it could be getting organized around your sleep. Once you’ve succeeded, move on to another one. Then you’re building momentum.”

Lesson 7: Community is essential—and technology is too

What happened: People who were part of a community during the pandemic realized the importance of human connection, and those who didn’t have that kind of support realized they need it.

What we’ve learned: Many of us have become aware of how much we need other people—many have managed to maintain their social connections, even if they had to use technology to keep in touch, Dr. Juthani says. “There's no doubt that it's not enough, but even that type of community has helped people.”

Even people who aren’t necessarily friends or family are important. Dr. Juthani recalled how she encouraged her mail carrier to sign up for the vaccine, soon learning that the woman’s mother and husband hadn’t gotten it either. “They are all vaccinated now,” Dr. Juthani says. “So, even by word of mouth, community is a way to make things happen.”

It’s important to note that some people are naturally introverted and may have enjoyed having more solitude when they were forced to stay at home—and they should feel comfortable with that, Dr. Fesharaki-Zadeh says. “I think one has to keep temperamental tendencies like this in mind.”

But loneliness has been found to suppress the immune system and be a precursor to some diseases, he adds. “Even for introverted folks, the smallest circle is preferable to no circle at all,” he says.

Lesson 8: Sometimes you need a dose of humility

What happened: Scientists and nonscientists alike learned that a virus can be more powerful than they are. This was evident in the way knowledge about the virus changed over time in the past year as scientific investigation of it evolved.

What we’ve learned: “As infectious disease doctors, we were resident experts at the beginning of the pandemic because we understand pathogens in general, and based on what we’ve seen in the past, we might say there are certain things that are likely to be true,” Dr. Juthani says. “But we’ve seen that we have to take these pathogens seriously. We know that COVID-19 is not the flu. All these strokes and clots, and the loss of smell and taste that have gone on for months are things that we could have never known or predicted. So, you have to have respect for the unknown and respect science, but also try to give scientists the benefit of the doubt,” she says.

“We have been doing the best we can with the knowledge we have, in the time that we have it,” Dr. Juthani says. “I think most of us have had to have the humility to sometimes say, ‘I don't know. We're learning as we go.’"

Information provided in Yale Medicine articles is for general informational purposes only. No content in the articles should ever be used as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. Always seek the individual advice of your health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition.

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5 lasting changes from the COVID-19 pandemic

The world has changed and it will remain different in many ways.

COVID-19 has completely changed life, and while many hope those changes are temporary, the pandemic has unearthed weaknesses in the status quo. After every major crisis, humanity is forced to identify those weaknesses and evolve accordingly. The 2020 pandemic, in its aftermath, is set to change life for a very long time. Here are five fundamental ways.

1. Employment: More automation

The pandemic has helped identify work roles that can be downsized or replaced with technology as a technique to mitigate infection risk while retaining productivity.

“Online [ordering] has become the lifeline both for consumers looking for products [and] also for retailers looking for cash,” says Marc-André Kamel, who leads Bain's Global Retail practice. A survey by McKinsey & Company showed that more Americans expect to make their purchases online post-COVID-19 compared to pre-pandemic, with 30-49% of people expecting to increase their online grocery shopping. Naturally, this will result in a decrease in man hours required of certain jobs, such as cashiers in companies with an electronic ordering option.

However, with this problem comes a solution: retraining. Companies are currently not hiring at prior rates and unemployment rates in the U.S. are high at 10.2%, as of July 2020. Companies like Linkedin and Shaw Academy are offering skill-based virtual training to help prospective employees find appropriate alternative positions.

2. Health care: Increased telemedicine

There's been an explosion of mental health issues during the pandemic from isolation and the transition back to normal life. Compared to 2019, depression and anxiety rates have increased by over three-fold .

Patients are seeking online therapy options, as seen in Google search trends. There are a number of companies like Genoa Telepsychiatry and BetterHelp that offer these services, which are likely to have even higher utilization rates in the future. Because the doctor/therapist-patient relationship is rooted in personal connection, there may be a role in virtual reality -based telepsychiatry options in the future if patient mobility or travel becomes an issue.

However, telemedicine applies to more than just psychiatry. While the physical exam remains an important aspect of medical visits, many medical issues can be diagnosed and managed virtually. This is clearly evident in the growth in companies like Teladoc, whose Q2 revenue grew by 85% and total visits increased by 203% this year with the pandemic. Since virtual doctor visits reduce wait times, transport issues and individual mobility concerns, telemedicine is likely to be increasingly incorporated into routine medical care.

3. Travel: Stricter precautions

The pandemic spread so effectively because of the degree of globalization and ease of travel. While travel restrictions are now particularly stringent, with partial capacity planes and masking requirements, it is likely that certain preventative protocols will be in place moving forward. The airline industry lost over $30 billion during the pandemic so far. While precautions like partial capacity flights may be financially unsustainable in the long-term, other interventions like encouraging universal masking are a simple precaution to minimize the easy spread of disease.

And a report by McKinsey & Company notes that hotels will perform more thorough sterilization tactics, incorporate no-touch elements and more stringent limitations in overcrowding -- operational changes likely to persist after the pandemic ends.

PHOTO: A healthcare worker uses a swab to collect a sample from a man at a temporary testing centre for the novel coronavirus in Spanish Basque city of Azpeitia on August 15, 2020 following a new outbreak in the city.

4. Education: Virtual curriculum will grow

Education systems have been hit particularly hard due the pandemic with home school and virtual curriculum options becoming more accepted in recent times. Companies like Khan Academy, Coursera, and Byju’s have helped students receive quality virtual education. While primarily used as a supplement to formal in-person education, public familiarity with these resources has increased. Post-pandemic, it is likely that these virtual education resources will continue to be used, as high quality virtual curricula like these can help bridge differences in the quality of public school education and help students reach their potential. The World Economic Forum sees these changes as global and long-lasting, given the educational disparities present and the growing ubiquity of internet access and mobile data.

However, it is important to recognize that the virtual curriculum will not be a replacement for an in-class curriculum. The CDC recognizes that "routine in-person contacts provide opportunities to facilitate social-emotional development that are difficult, if not impossible, to replicate through distance learning. " To ensure that children grow into well-adjusted people and not just good learners, social interaction is key. As such, a virtual curriculum has great value as a supplemental educational resource to help bolster student learning, but is unlikely to be adopted as the new standard of public education, at least in the near future.

5. Job Staffing: Increasing work-from-home options

The pandemic forced individuals and businesses around the world to shift to working remotely using multiple services, such as Zoom, Skype, Slack, Microsoft Office Suite, and G-Suite applications.The transition is forcing companies to reevaluate their long-term staffing needs.

By continuing to allow work-from-home, a company can reduce infrastructure costs by leasing smaller workspaces, setting up headquarters in lower tax states, and by coordinating a workforce across multiple time zones to maximize daily workflow. Moreover, the benefits of work-from-home are attractive, including increased schedule flexibility and reduced strains with family.

These positive characteristics will need to be offered in a balanced manner to avoid the issues rising from the work-from-home culture, such as loneliness and a reduced sense of comaraderie and company culture. In a global study , over 40% of people who are working from home said their mental health has declined since the COVID-19 outbreak, which may reduce productivity and result in employee turnover. The key is to find the appropriate balance. Regardless, it is clear that work-from-home will be a more prominent option moving forward for employees compared to pre-pandemic policies.

Vinayak Kumar, MD/MBA is a resident physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and a former member of the ABC News Medical Unit who has written multiple online articles on the COVID-19 pandemic with ABC News. Ram Prasad Modalavalasa is a cloud systems engineer and COO of the telemedicine company E-Health Now.

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The COVID-19 crisis and reflections on systems transformation

Subscribe to the center for universal education bulletin, jenny perlman robinson and jenny perlman robinson nonresident senior fellow - global economy and development , center for universal education @jennyperlman molly curtiss wyss molly curtiss wyss senior project manager and senior research analyst - global economy and development , center for universal education.

March 26, 2020

For many of us, it has been a stunning experience to find ourselves adjusting our daily routines to take safety precautions to protect ourselves, loved ones, and neighbors.

In the midst of this global pandemic, we are reflecting in real-time on how systems undergo large-scale transformation—how government, businesses, schools, cities, and communities adapt and make fundamental changes to existing ways of working. This issue of systems change and, more specifically, how education initiatives scale and spread, is a topic that we at the Center for Universal Education (CUE) have been exploring in our Real-time Scaling Labs over the past year. These scaling labs—action research projects led by CUE and undertaken in partnership with local institutions across five countries—are an effort to learn how effective education practices scale across communities and countries. Through learning from, documenting, and supporting the process of expanding and deepening the impact of education initiatives around the world, the labs aim to develop concrete, practical guidance on key drivers that contribute to large-scale transformative change in education.

Prior to the spread of COVID-19, we had been reflecting with our partners on how difficult it is to change a system: Systems prefer the status quo and often require a crisis to transform. We are certainly watching this play out today—many countries have been slow to respond to the global pandemic despite significant data and advice from experts on what measures are needed—and have only leapt into action once the magnitude of the virus was apparent.

As the world grapples with responding to the current crisis, we are struck that some of the same key principles we have been studying in the Real-time Scaling Labs might also be relevant in responding to this pandemic. These include:

  • Iterative, adaptive learning. Flexibility and adaptive capacity are crucial at a time when events unfold rapidly, and households, communities, and leaders must constantly adjust to a new reality on a day-by-day basis. The situation has also brought to the forefront a deeper appreciation of the importance of reliable, high-quality, timely data for decisionmaking, while acknowledging the limitations of existing data in representing the true scope of a rapidly shifting crisis. At the same time, we are witnessing firsthand what behavioral science has long shown—that data alone are not always enough to spur change as attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are deeply ingrained in people and institutions.
  • Engagement of multiple actors. This crisis has underscored the essential role of government in preparing for and responding to a crisis and ensuring that the basic needs of individuals, especially the most marginalized, are met. Now more than ever, the duty of government to provide social services, safety nets, and investments in global public goods is clear. At the same time, COVID-19 has also underscored that government is unable to address this crisis alone; managing a situation of this scope absolutely requires the collective efforts of actors across the system, bringing together non-usual suspects from the private sector, civil society, and community leadership to creatively collaborate. For example, to help millions of students continue to learn remotely while schools are closed due to COVID-19, China launched a national online learning platform for junior and senior high school students and broadcast primary school classes on public television. To make this digital solution work smoothly for millions of children at once, major telecommunications operators and technology companies collaborated with the government to back up servers and ensure sufficient bandwidth. And even before the platform was rolled out, Chinese tech companies had already been offering students free online courses.
  • Knowledge sharing and peer-to-peer learning. If ever there was a time to learn from one another and avoid repeating mistakes, it is now. We often say we are a global community, but the crisis has made these words all the more real. In some ways, COVID-19 has leveled the playing field; wealthy countries are unable to insulate themselves from a virus that does not respect borders or discriminate based on socio-economic status, gender, race, or religion. High-income countries have much to learn from the experiences of lower-income countries that have previously coped with the realities of massive displacement and crises such as the devastating Ebola outbreaks. At the same time, while COVID-19 can affect anyone, we do know its impact absolutely will discriminate. Those who are already furthest behind or marginalized are most at risk of suffering from this crisis—economically, physically, mentally, and educationally. During the Ebola crisis in West Africa, we know it was often girls who suffered the most , with spikes in teen pregnancy, sexual violence, and increased need to support family members, and consequent school dropouts and stigmatization . And we are seeing this play out firsthand in the schools in our own communities. My [Jenny] children in Connecticut were all given Chromebooks to continue their education virtually, while children in neighboring towns risk going hungry or losing critical physical and mental health services in the wake of school closures.
  • Innovation in education. One of the silver linings from this crisis may very well be reimagining what education can and should be in the 21st century. This may include the global community doubling down on investments to ensure continued educational opportunities in situations of instability and crisis, as well as further exploring distance learning possibilities. While technology will certainly play a role in reconsidering the possibilities for teaching and learning, especially in support of virtual learning opportunities, we also know that technology alone isn’t a panacea for future crises—and the risks of technology further exacerbating inequities must be addressed. The current situation provides an opportunity to think outside the box about how our education systems can best deliver quality learning opportunities for our children to survive and thrive in today’s rapidly changing and uncertain world.

The COVID-19 crisis is already having and will continue to have devastating consequences for individuals and communities across the globe, which must not be underestimated. At the same time, the crisis also provides a critical opportunity for us to learn more about the essential principles underpinning large-scale transformative change, as is needed in many education systems around the world. The hope is that we can come out on the other side of this pandemic with more evidence and lessons learned about how to expand the impact of effective social interventions and introduce new ways of working within our education systems to provide quality learning opportunities to all. In future posts, we will share stories from our scaling lab partners from around the world on how they are innovatively coping during this crisis to ensure that millions of children continue to receive an education.

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Updated at 9:28 a.m. on September 21, 2021.

For nearly two years now, Americans have lived with SARS-CoV-2. We know it better than we once did. We know that it can set off both acute and chronic illness, that it spreads best indoors, that masks help block it, that our vaccines are powerful against it. We know that we can live with it— that we’re going to have to live with it —but that it can and will exact a heavy toll.

Still, this virus has the capacity to surprise us, especially if we’re not paying attention. It is changing all the time, a tweak to the genetic code here and there; sometimes, those tweaks add up to new danger. In a matter of weeks, the Delta variant upended the relative peace of America’s early summer and ushered in a new set of calculations about risk , masking , and testing . The pandemic’s endgame shifted.

Do vaccines work as well as they need to? Who is now most vulnerable? What new variants might emerge? Our lost summer has layered on new anxieties to pandemic life. But these questions do have some clear answers, which have come up time and again in our reporting and will continue to guide us through the coming months. Even after this latest surge crests and subsides, the new pandemic reality will linger, through fall and winter and into the spring, as vaccination rates rise and the virus continues to change. Here are six principles that are helping us make sense of the pandemic now:

The role of vaccines has changed (again)

The COVID-19 vaccines were originally meant to prevent severe infections . They do so very well. But for a few brief months, we thought they could do even better. Unexpectedly spectacular clinical-trial results from Pfizer and Moderna raised hopes that these vaccines could protect against almost all symptomatic infections and might even be as good as the vaccines against polio and measles, which eliminated transmission of those diseases in the United States .

But, from the very beginning, vaccine experts warned that respiratory diseases are especially tricky to immunize against. The coronavirus first takes hold in the nose, and injections in the arm are just not very good at stimulating immunity in the nose. (They are still good, however, at raising immunity deep in the lungs to protect against severe disease.) Flu shots, for example, tend to be only 10 to 60 percent effective at keeping people out of the doctor’s office. If COVID-19 vaccines end up somewhere similar, they would prevent hospitalizations and death, but the coronavirus would still circulate. Given Delta’s ability to slightly evade vaccines, combined with its extreme transmissibility, this is again looking like the most likely scenario . So we need to adjust our expectations, again.

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Vaccines work more like dimmer switches than on/off buttons, and as their protection fades out, there are three thresholds that we care about: protection against infection, against symptoms, and against severe disease. Protection against infection is always the first to erode—either because of new variants or because of waning immune responses over time. Protection against symptoms goes next, but protection against severe disease is the most durable. (One unknown is how much vaccines prevent long COVID , although a recent study found that full vaccination can decrease the risk of long-lasting symptoms.)

We’ve seen this pattern play out: Breakthrough infections are happening with Delta, but they tend to be mild or even asymptomatic. And especially when case numbers get very high—as they are in many parts of the U.S. now— additional layers of protection , including improved ventilation and masks, are necessary to protect people, such as young children, who are still unvaccinated. Vaccinating as many people as possible as quickly as possible is still the most powerful way to control the virus. We can already see how well the vaccines are working.

The proportion of vaccinated people matters, but who they are and how they cluster also matters

Delta caused a new wave of cases in even the most vaccinated countries in the world, but the wave of hospitalizations that followed there have generally been much more modest. In the U.K., for example, where 66 percent of people are fully vaccinated, cases reached 80 percent of their winter peak this summer. But hospitalizations rose less than 25 percent. As U.K. health officials have declared, vaccines are “breaking the link” between infections and hospitalizations. Again, this means the vaccines are working.

The United States seems to paint a different picture. Overwhelmed hospitals are turning patients away . They’re running out of oxygen . They’re once again cramming beds into conferences rooms and cafeterias. It feels like déjà vu—even though 54 percent of Americans are also fully vaccinated.

The difference between the U.K. and the U.S. isn’t just that fewer Americans are vaccinated. It’s that fewer of the most vulnerable Americans are vaccinated, and they tend to cluster together.

Risk of death and hospitalizations from COVID-19 rises sharply with age, and in the U.K. nearly everyone over 65 is vaccinated. A New York Times analysis found very few areas in the U.K. where more than 2 percent of residents are 65 and not fully vaccinated. In contrast, that number is above 10 percent in many counties in the American South and Mountain West. Even small differences in these rates can determine the level of crisis: A community where 10 percent of residents are unvaccinated seniors has essentially five times as many people who might need an ICU bed than a community where that number is only 2 percent.

Vaccine coverage also varies dramatically from county to county in the U.S. The more unvaccinated people are concentrated, the more easily the virus can find its next victim. Imagine three out of four people in every household are vaccinated; the unvaccinated person is unlikely to spread the virus very much at home, says Graham Medley , an infectious-disease modeler at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Now imagine three out of every four households are completely vaccinated; the virus will spread through the unvaccinated households. The overall vaccination rate is the same, but the results are very different. This unevenness also means that …

The people at greatest risk from the virus will keep changing

Since the pandemic’s early days, vaccines have shifted the risk the virus poses to us, at a community level. Older people and health-care workers were among the first in line for the shots—a practical move to protect the people whose underlying conditions or jobs ranked them among the most vulnerable. But younger members of the community had to contend with a slower schedule, and vaccine makers are still figuring out the correct dosages for the youngest among us. That’s all shifted the virus’s burden down to uninoculated children . At the same time, the virus has been evolving into speedier and speedier forms; by the time Delta slammed the world this spring, many of its most viable hosts were at risk not because of their age or circumstances, but in spite of it.

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Kids still seem relatively resilient against SARS-CoV-2 compared with adults, as they always have been. But compared with the variants that came before it, Delta is a faster spreader, and therefore a larger threat to everyone who is unvaccinated—which means children are now at greater risk than they were before .

Relative risk will keep shifting, even if the virus somehow stops mutating and becomes a static threat. (It won’t.) Our immune systems’ memories of the coronavirus, for instance, could wane—possibly over the course of years, if immunization against similar viruses is a guide. People who are currently fully vaccinated may eventually need boosters. Infants who have never encountered the coronavirus will be born into the population, while people with immunity die. Even the vaccinated won’t all look the same: Some, including people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised , might never respond to the shots as well as others. The assumptions we first had about whom the virus might hit hardest will keep changing, as will the population of people who fall ill at all.

As vaccination increases, a higher proportion of cases will appear in vaccinated people—and that’s what should happen

In July, after a COVID-19 outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a Washington Post headline noted that three-quarters of the people infected were vaccinated. Throughout the summer, many stories have reported similar figures, always with the same alarming undercurrent: If vaccines are working, how could vaccinated people make up such a large proportion of an outbreak?

The answer is simple: They can if they make up a large proportion of a population . Even though vaccinated people have much lower odds of getting sick than unvaccinated people, they’ll make up a sizable fraction of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths if there are more of them around.

Let’s work through some numbers. Assume, first, that vaccines are 60 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infections. (There’s a lot of conflicting information about this, but the exact number doesn’t affect this exercise much.) Vaccinated people are still less likely to get infected, but as their proportion of the community rises, so does the percentage of infections occurring among them. If 20 percent of people are fully vaccinated, they’ll account for 9 percent of infections; meanwhile, the 80 percent of the population that’s unvaccinated will account for 91 percent. Now flip that. If only 20 percent of people are unvaccinated, there will be fewer infections overall. But vaccinated people, who are now in the majority, will account for most of those infections—62 percent.

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That is why this particular statistic—the proportion of vaccinated people in a given outbreak—is so deeply misleading. “The better the vaccine uptake, the scarier this number will seem,” wrote Lucy D’Agostino McGowan, a statistician at Wake Forest University . By extension, the safer communities become, the more it will seem like the sky is falling—if we continue focusing on the wrong statistics.

“If you’re trying to decide on getting vaccinated, you don’t want to look at the percentage of sick people who were vaccinated,” McGowan wrote. “You want to look at the percentage of people who were vaccinated and got sick.”

Note percentage. In July, an NBC News article stated that “At Least 125,000 Fully Vaccinated Americans Have Tested Positive” for the coronavirus. In isolation, that’s an alarming number. But it represented just 0.08 percent of the 165 million people who were fully vaccinated at the time. More recently, Duke University reported that 349 students had tested positive in a single week—a figure that represents just 2.5 percent of the more than 14,000 students who were tested. The denominator matters.

The denominators in these calculations also change, dragging the numerators higher along with them. As surges grow, so too will the number of infected people, which means the number of breakthrough infections will also grow. Even if the percentage of breakthroughs stays steady, though, vaccines will feel less effective if the pandemic is allowed to rage out of control, because …

Rare events are common at scale

Throughout the past year and a half, commentators have downplayed a variety of pandemic-related risks because they were “rare”—deaths, long COVID (which isn’t actually rare), infections and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, and more. But infectious diseases spread , and if they do so widely enough, events that are relatively rare can rack up large numbers: A one-in-a-thousand event will still occur 40,000 times when 40 million people are infected. Such events can’t be written off, especially when they involve decades of lost health or life.

As outbreaks spread, more types of rare events become noticeable as well. A wider pandemic is also a weirder pandemic. Many aspects of COVID-19’s mystique—the range of symptoms and affected organs , the possibility of persistent illness , reinfections —are common to other viral illnesses, but go unnoticed because most illnesses don’t sweep the world in a short span of time. Similarly, as this current post-vaccine surge continues, breakthrough infections will feel more common, newspapers will have more stories to run about them, and more people will know someone who had one.

Our reaction to such events must account for both the denominator and the numerator—both how relatively common they are and how much they cost each affected individual. And that assessment will change as the pandemic waxes and wanes, and as the virus itself continues to mutate.

There is no single “worst” version of the coronavirus

As in every game, who the most formidable opponent is depends on who else is playing, and the nature of the field. Right now Delta, a super-transmissible variant that hops into human airways, copies itself, and blazes back out, is especially well poised to rip through the world’s mostly unvaccinated, mostly immune-naive population—which is exactly what it’s doing. Laxness around masking, distancing, and other infection-prevention measures, in the United States especially, has given Delta plenty of opportunities to hop from human to human, further fueling its rise. The variant, for now, has about as good a home-field advantage as it can get.

But the ideal strategy , from the perspective of the virus, might look drastically different for a population with a lot more immunity. Strong, speedy immune responses will keep the virus from getting by on swiftness alone. In these environments, a stealthy version of the virus that can slip by antibodies unnoticed might be the one that wins out. The virus’s goal will still be to spread, just through different means: Mutations that make the virus less visible will help it stick around in airways longer, and potentially transmit to more people in the process. As the world gradually acquires immunity, variants like Delta might eventually be succeeded by these wilier morphs. But these transitions will likely happen at different rates in different countries, depending on who gets access to vaccines. The definition of most threatening will splinter along borders. (There is, by the way, little incentive for the virus to get deadlier along the way . Viruses want to spread, not kill. Still, some pathogens can get symptomatically nastier as a by-product of transmissibility, or if those symptoms facilitate their spread.)

All variants, though, will have some common weakness: They can be stopped through the combined measures of vaccines, masks, distancing, and other measures that cut the conduits they need to travel. When viruses spread faster, they can be tougher to control. But they can’t persist without us, and our behavior matters too.

This article previously misstated the percentage of Duke students who tested positive for COVID-19 during the week of August 29.

The Atlantic ’s COVID-19 coverage is supported by grants from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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COVID-19: Current Challenges and Future Perspectives

Peter a. leggat.

1 World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Vector-borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases, College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia

2 School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg 2000, South Africa

3 Centre for Emerging Zoonotic and Parasitic Diseases, National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Johannesburg 2131, South Africa; az.ca.dcin@fnhoj (J.F.); az.ca.dcin@bellicul (L.B.)

Lucille Blumberg

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Not applicable.

This Special Issue focuses on recent global research on the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The disease is caused by a novel virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) [ 1 , 2 ]. The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) named the virus SARS-CoV-2, as it is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003 [ 2 ]. While related, the two viruses are quite different in their behaviour. At the time of submission for publication (7 January 2022), COVID-19, named by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 February 2020, had caused more than 296.5 million cases and over 5.5 million deaths with over 2.6 million new cases in the past 24 h [ 2 ]. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the capacity of health systems providing essential health care [ 1 ], but more than 9.195 billion vaccine doses have been administered as of 10 January 2021 [ 2 ]. There have been 22 papers published upon peer review acceptance in this Special Issue, including one editorial, twelve research papers [ 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 ], three review papers [ 15 , 16 , 17 ] and seven other papers [ 18 , 19 , 20 , 21 , 22 , 23 , 24 ], including one perspective, two case reports, one brief report, two viewpoints and one commentary. They each contribute to a much better understanding of COVID-19.

The contributions of these papers can be summarized as follows for the 12 research papers. The first of the research papers was a study of mortalities due to COVID-19 through a retrospective, observational study that included all inpatients from a major hospital in Nepal. Interestingly, 16% of patients also showed microbiological evidence of secondary infection [ 3 ]. The second of these studies was a cross-sectional survey exploring the knowledge and perceptions of healthcare workers (HCWs) regarding COVID-19 issues during the second wave of the pandemic, in four tertiary care hospitals in Greece. This study reveals some misconceptions and knowledge gaps in HCWs’ everyday practice, especially regarding hand hygiene and antimicrobial use in COVID-19 patients [ 4 ]. The third study looked at COVID-19 vaccination in those aged 75 years and older in Brazil. COVID-19 vaccines were highly effective in reducing the number of COVID-19-related deaths in over 75-year-olds [ 5 ]. The fourth paper studied persistent symptoms in post-COVID-19 patients attending a follow-up clinic at a tertiary care hospital in Nepal. Of these, 97 (82.2%) patients reported that they had at least one persistent/new symptom beyond two weeks from the diagnosis of COVID-19, including dyspnoea, fatigue, chest heaviness, and cough, emphasizing the need to extend the monitoring of symptoms after discharge [ 6 ]. The fifth of these papers was a study to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tuberculosis (TB) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) management in Zimbabwe. Impacts were demonstrated on the management of both diseases [ 7 ]. The sixth of these papers was a similar study conducted in Malawi, where there were similar impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on TB and HIV management [ 8 ]. The seventh of these papers was a similar study conducted in Kenya, where there were similar impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on TB and HIV management [ 9 ]. The eighth was a case series of five clinically- and laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patients from Bangladesh, who suffered a second episode of COVID-19 illness after 70 symptom-free days. The study suggested the need for COVID-19 vaccination and continuation of other preventive measures to further mitigate the pandemic [ 10 ]. The ninth of these papers was a case of Plasmodium falciparum malaria in a patient asymptomatically co-infected with COVID-19, which reinforced the need not to miss the diagnosis of malaria infection [ 11 ]. The tenth of these papers was a study looking for common respiratory viruses amongst HCWs with upper and lower respiratory tract infection symptoms in a major hospital in Manila, Philippines. Of these, 38 (13%) identified positive for another viral etiologic agent, compared with seven (2%) who were positive for COVID-19 [ 12 ]. The eleventh of these papers sought to estimate the seroprevalence of COVID-19 in a cohort of general practitioners working in Catania, Italy, after the first wave of COVID-19, which was low (3%) [ 13 ]. The last paper was a survey by the WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Disease (TDR) and collaborators of health workers trained through the Structured Operational Research and Training IniTiative (SORT IT). This survey was designed to determine whether they were contributing to the COVID-19 pandemic response and, if so, to map where and how they were applying their SORT IT skills. It showed that investing in training ahead of such public health emergencies is vital [ 14 ].

There were three review papers in this Special Issue. The first of these was a review of the literature on the influenza pandemics of the 20th century, and of the coronavirus and influenza pandemics of the 21st century. There are remarkable similarities among them and it was concluded that the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes the basis for delineating best practices to confront future pandemics [ 15 ]. The second was a review of the efficacy and safety of lopinavir–ritonavir (LPV/RTV) in COVID-19. This review did not reveal any significant advantage in the efficacy of LPV/RTV for the treatment of COVID-19 over standard care [ 16 ]. The third review was an evaluation of severity and mortality in COVID-19 patients with underlying kidney and liver diseases. This study found an increased risk of severity and mortality in COVID-19 patients with liver diseases or chronic kidney disease [ 17 ]. There were seven other papers in this Special Issue. The first was a perspective, examining how operational research can improve the delivery of established health interventions and ensure the deployment of new interventions as they become available, irrespective of diseases [ 18 ]. The second was a case report of two cases of heart transplantation with concomitant infections with SARS-CoV-2, with rapid progression to death due to Chagas disease and cytomegalovirus dissemination [ 19 ]. The third was a brief report, which evaluated faecal calprotectin (FC) concentrations in 25 in-patients with COVID-19 pneumonia without gastrointestinal symptoms. Of these, 21 patients showed increased FC and a strong positive correlation between FC and D-dimer [ 20 ]. The fourth was a viewpoint providing an overview of common and different findings for both malaria and COVID-19, with possible mutual influences of one on the other, especially in countries with limited resources [ 21 ]. The fifth was also a viewpoint providing an overview of the potential impact of COVID-19 on TB programs and disease burden, as well as possible strategies that could help to mitigate the impact [ 22 ]. The sixth was a case report involving a patient with severe COVID-19, who was treated with a non-weight-based dosage of tocilizumab to prevent the onset of a cytokine storm. It was concluded that tocilizumab played a substantial role in his ability to avert clinical decline, particularly the need for mechanical ventilation [ 23 ]. The last was a commentary that looked at the challenges faced due to the pandemic, and the steps taken to protect the safety of trial participants and the integrity of the trial in the STREAM Clinical Trial, which is the largest trial for MDR-TB [ 24 ].

The diversity of papers, the depth of the topics and the relative geographical reach of the authors in this Special Issue confirm the continued collective major interest in COVID-19. There are 223 contributors to the 22 papers published in this Special Issue, with affiliations in Europe, Africa, North America, South America and Asia-Pacific. This wide-ranging open access collection contributes to a much better understanding on the epidemiology, presentation, diagnosis, treatment, prevention and control of COVID-19. As the editors of this Special Issue, we trust that you find the content useful, as the authors are pleased to share their knowledge with an international audience.

We currently have another opportunity to update advances in this field through a second Special Issue, “COVID-19: Current Status and Future Prospects”. We encourage you to publish your work in, or propose a Special Issue for, Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease ( https://www.mdpi.com/journal/tropicalmed ).


The Special Issue editors acknowledge all the contributors to this Special Issue.

This research received no external funding.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Informed consent statement, data availability statement, conflicts of interest.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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How the Pandemic Has Changed Our Relationship With Technology

From virtual theater to smartphone-driven distress, covid-19 is changing the digital landscape for what appears to be both better and worse..

father and son technology

When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in the spring of 2020, Americans became more isolated than ever. Suddenly work, social events and live entertainment migrated from the realm world onto digital platforms. Between social media, video calls and entertainment, people around the world began to spend a staggering amount of their waking lives in front of screens.

While the deleterious effects of compulsive technology use are often cited, the same platforms have also allowed many people to stay social, stimulated and productive while stuck at home. In a 2021 Pew Research Center survey , 90 percent of Americans said that the internet has been important or essential to them during the pandemic. A majority of respondents said video calls had helped them stay connected with friends and family. 

Even after the initial wave of COVID-19 waned, Americans continued to use the internet at unprecedented rates. In a second Pew study from last year, nearly half of respondents between 18 and 29 years old reported using the internet “almost constantly.” 

So after two years of excessive screen time, how has our collective internet obsession actually affected our health?

Problematic Use

Long before COVID-19, scientists had already recognized the serious impacts of technology misuse. “Going back 15 years ago, we found that problematic use of the internet was associated with a number of negative health outcomes,” says Marc Potenza, a psychiatrist at Yale Medical School.

In 2019, the World Health Organization adopted the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). It included two emerging disorders that stem from compulsive online behaviors: internet gaming disorder and gambling disorder (predominantly online). Experts argue that online shopping, pornography and social media may cause addictive disorders as well. “During the onset of the pandemic, there seemed to be increases in online engagement for all of these behaviors," Potenza adds.

Currently, there isn’t enough data to make any sweeping generalizations about how the pandemic has affected internet addictions. But the anecdotal evidence is alarming: In the week following the WHO’s official declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, the website PornHub experienced an 11.6 percent rise in traffic worldwide, with a particular increase in use in the wee hours of the morning. “It suggests that there might have been an increase in insomnia and disregulated pornography viewing,” Potenza speculates.

Addiction Versus High-Frequency Use

A long-term study that analyzed problematic gaming and smartphone use in Chinese schoolchildren hints at a more complex story. While compulsive gaming was associated with psychological distress pre-pandemic, the two were not correlated after the onset of COVID-19. The results, published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine last March, support a preliminary theory that gaming might actually provide an avenue to cope with loneliness and emotional stress during periods of isolation. 

Interestingly, the same research noted that problematic smartphone use was increasingly associated with psychological distress after the onset of the pandemic. This result points towards another theory — that social media can exacerbate COVID-19 anxiety . This effect, coupled with the well-documented link between social media and depression, may have led to the outcomes observed in the study.

Overall, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of discerning frequent internet use from addictive behaviors. While many people use the internet extensively during their waking hours, only a small percentage experience the pitfalls of addiction. “For a disorder to be present there needs to be some sort of impairment in a major area of life functioning,” Potenza says. “It’s important to try to disentangle high-frequency use from unhealthy and problematic use.”

Silver Linings

Despite the downfalls of isolation, crises can also inspire creativity. For example, the pandemic spurred a virtual reality boom in the art world.

This technology came in handy in March 2020, when England’s Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) was in the early stages of a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” As the pandemic shuttered venues across the U.K., they were forced to quickly find ways to adapt. The company worked feverishly with partners in tech to create a prototypical VR theater production. Though the complexity of Shakespeare’s original story was boiled down to an eight-person cast and a single narrative strand, the result was highly immersive. “We had to find a way to embody this narrative,” says Sarah Ellis, RSC’s director of digital development 

In the final production, the actors' movements and speech were tracked and projected into a virtual forest. Audience members entered the fictional realm as fireflies and buzzed around the Shakespearean sprites’ heads as they propelled the story to an inevitable conclusion.

The performance reached the widest audience of any RSC production to date. The 65,000 attendees hailed from 92 countries and 76 percent of them were at their first-ever RSC production. Ellis was elated. “We often talk about new audiences, but we don’t talk about new content,” she says. “It was amazing to see the younger generation show up.”

While COVID-19 has stuck around for nearly two years, the broader impacts on our collective habits, mental health and culture remain unclear. But it is evident that the pandemic changed our relationship to technology — for better and worse.

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write your own news article about current issues in this pandemic season

Editor’s note: Longtime Nieman Lab readers know the bylines of Mark Coddington and Seth Lewis . Mark wrote the weekly This Week in Review column for us from 2010 to 2014; Seth’s written for us off and on since 2010. Together they’ve launched a new monthly newsletter on recent academic research around journalism. It’s called RQ1 and we’re happy to bring each issue to you here at Nieman Lab.

Covid-19 news and a new perspective on news avoidance

From the moment the pandemic hit in full force in March 2020, it was clear that its seemingly all-encompassing magnitude was having a seismic impact on many people’s news consumption habits. Conversations on and offline routinely included discussions of how we were either unplugging from the news or being sucked in more deeply than ever. (Or both!) We even began using a new word —  doomscrolling  — to capture the mesmerizing continual intake of fear- and despair-inducing news on our devices.

The pandemic bores on, but the implications of that initial shift in news consumption remain cloudy. How do we fit what happened to news consumption over the past year and a half into what we’ve known about it for the past several decades? And will the changes in our news habits during those overwhelming first few months have any long-term ramifications?

Two studies published this summer look at exactly those questions. Both studies used remarkably similar methods — open-ended qualitative questionnaires conducted early in the pandemic — to study news consumption patterns during the pandemic. In the first,  Dutch scholars Marcel Broersma and Joëlle Swart  were interested in the formation of news habits. We know a lot from prior research about how  habits shape news consumption , but much less about how they’re formed or changed in the first place.

Broersma and Swart wanted to find out whether a major disruption to everyday life could change news habits or form new ones, and what factors could help determine whether that happened. They used an open-ended questionnaire of 1,293 Dutch news users during April and May 2020, then conducted 22 follow-up interviews later that summer and fall.

They found five groups of users based on their responses to the pandemic. Two reduced news consumption —  stable news avoiders  and  followers turned avoiders  — with the latter initially using more news, then avoiding it based on the emotional weight and feeling of helplessness it produced. Two increased news consumption —  frequent news users  and  news junkies  — adding new routines that lasted at least a couple of months. (One group, the  stable news users , didn’t change its habits.)

So, what determined which people ended up in each group? There were several interconnected factors, led by the degree to which the pandemic affected their everyday routines. That is, those for whom the pandemic continued to obtrusively affect their daily lives were more likely to develop new, increased news habits. Social contexts had an effect as well: Those whose friends and family were discussing the pandemic more often were more likely to stick with new news habits.

Emotions played a major role, too, but more ambiguously. Pandemic-induced anxiety led to both less and more news consumption in different cases, and emotional investment in the news more generally led to new habits. Ultimately, people needed more than just a disruptive event to change their news habits; they needed consistent practical and emotional rewards from consuming Covid-related information to give it staying power as a routine.

Beyond this broad overview of changes in news habits, a second study, by  Norwegian scholars Brita Ytre-Arne and Hallvard Moe , dug into patterns of news avoidance prompted by the pandemic and its interplay with news consumption. Ytre-Arne and Moe gave an open-ended questionnaire to 550 Norwegian news users in March and April 2020, looking particularly at their strategies for managing the flood of pandemic news.

Ytre-Arne and Moe found an overall pattern that resembled Broersma and Swart’s  followers turned avoiders  — a brief period of intensified monitoring of Covid-19 news that simply couldn’t be sustained, prompting both information overload and emotional drain.

Ytre-Arne and Moe were most interested in what people did as they came to terms with the unsustainability of their new news consumption habits. They began to pull away from news, but did so strategically, combining avoidance with periods of more intensive news consumption. Some set time-based parameters for avoidance — avoiding the news except for certain times each day — and others set content-based parameters, limiting themselves to government press conferences or the like.

There’s lots more to both these papers (including our first academic definition of doomscrolling in the latter), but the sharpest takeaway may be Ytre-Arne and Moe’s conclusion regarding news avoidance. They challenge the notion that news avoidance is necessarily problematic, arguing that in this case (and likely others), it’s a thoughtful, strategic part of news consumption more broadly, not its irresponsible or anti-democratic opposite.

“We are all, at times, news avoiders,” they conclude. So it’s time to understand this type of situational news avoidance “as meaningful and situated, as inherently human rather than inherently problematic.”

( On a related note regarding news consumption during the pandemic: Seth and co-author Jacob L. Nelson published this summer an article in New Media & Society — “ Only ‘sheep’ trust journalists? How citizens’ self-perceptions shape their approach to news ” — that explored how U.S. news consumers made sense of news during April-May 2020. Through interviews with a broad cross-section of 60 American news consumers, they found that people “believe journalism generally suffers from issues of bias, but that they are savvy and independent-minded enough to see through those biases to find the truth.” This inflated sense of confidence can lead people to do their own fact-checking — because they have such little trust in journalists — even if such efforts lead them worse off informationally in some cases. Ultimately, the authors concluded that “people’s approach to and trust in news is as dependent on what  they  bring to the news as it is on what news brings to them.”)

Research roundup

“What is valuable journalism? Three key experiences and their challenges for journalism scholars and practitioners.” By Irene Costera Meijer, in Digital Journalism.

At a time when news organizations increasingly rely on memberships, donations, subscriptions, and other forms of audience-driven engagement to survive, a critical question looms: What is it about news that is truly  valuable  — that is worth paying for in time, attention, or both?

There is, perhaps, no better scholar to address that question than Irene Costera Meijer, who has done as much as anyone in the field to shape and chronicle the ongoing “ audience turn ” in journalism studies and whose research helps us better understand the subtle nature of  news  experience  — as opposed to a counting-based approach to measuring news  consumption  alone.

In this article, Meijer develops the concept of Valuable Journalism by conducting what she describes as a meta-analysis of more than 20 audience-focused research projects since 2005, which includes input from more than 3,000 respondents. By emphasizing what people experience in news as truly meaningful and valuable — rather than what is recognized as “important” or “quality” or “popular” — Meijer shows how Valuable Journalism can be manifest in three key ways: learning something new, gaining recognition, and enhancing mutual understanding.

What does this mean for journalists? Meijer outlines how reporters and editors, in seeking to facilitate more valuable experiences for readers and viewers, might reflect on what she classifies as “six virtues of audience attentiveness”: accuracy, sincerity, listening, hospitality, being a good friend, and keeping a proper distance.

“Fatigued by ongoing news issues? How repeated exposure to the same news issue affects the audience.” By Gwendolin Gurr and Julia Metag, in Mass Communication and Society.

Keeping with the theme of how audiences experience news — and avoid it as a coping mechanism in some cases — this study considers the impact of extensive news coverage on a particular issue over a prolonged period. What happens when people are exposed to a single, seemingly never-ending news topic for weeks, months, or years?

The authors used a triangulation of methods — involving having people record their feelings in diaries as well as interviews with the same people — to explore how Swiss news consumers experienced the ceaseless coverage of Brexit in 2019. The results reveal just how maddening the experience of Brexit drama was for many news consumers (and I’m sure many of us can relate): the redundancy of the coverage led to feelings of annoyance, anger, and boredom that led to negative evaluations of the news media (for lacking depth or novelty, for its sensationalized quality, etc.). These reactions, in turn, were associated with behaviors such as news avoidance.

The authors conclude that such news fatigue from overly repetitive coverage can have downstream consequences on political engagement, such as what people know about politics and how willing they are to trust the press.

“Writer movements between news outlets reflect political polarization in media.” By Nick Hagar, Johannes Wachs, and Emőke-Ágnes Horvát, in New Media & Society.

The question of political polarization in digital news consumption has long been a hot-button question surrounding so-called filter bubbles and how to “burst” them by tweaking algorithms, developing improved recommendation systems, or encouraging different user behavior (even as  evidence , we should point out, strongly indicates that social media filter bubbles aren’t really so concerning as conventional wisdom would suggest). This study takes an intriguing twist by sidestepping questions of media consumption or distribution and instead focusing on production: namely, “structural production forces driving partisan leanings.”

Analyzing thousands of stories from 13 digital news outlets (some left-leaning, others right-leaning, etc.), the authors track the “movement patterns” of contributors (journalists, freelancers, and political actors who wrote the stories) as well as the nature of the content they produce. “By constructing a cross-outlet network purely based on contributor movement patterns,” they write, “we show a clear partisan divide within the digital news ecosystem.” Even for journalists who ostensibly adhere to professional codes of impartiality, they often stay true to the partisan bounds of the organizations they are writing for, the authors find.

Why does this occur? “Somewhere within the editorial process of pitching, selecting contributors, assigning stories, and producing news coverage,” the authors suggest, “a dynamic arises that structurally prefers contributors whose publishing histories ideologically align with a publication’s own. This may arise from institutional policies, from individual editors’ preferences, or from the pitching process of individual contributors.”

Among other intriguing findings: much like  Yochai Benkler and colleagues discovered , the authors here encountered a similar network structure of news media — “a loosely connected group of left- or center-leaning outlets, a dense core of right-leaning outlets, and a very little activity between.” And, they found that topics less related to politics were more common for contributors who moved between various clusters, which might suggest that more politically neutral topics could be a more effective entry point for eventually facilitating more cross-cutting political exposure.

“Independent or a political pawn? How recipients perceive influences on journalistic work compared to journalists and what explains their perceptions.” By Magdalena Obermaier, Nina Steindl, & Nayla Fawzi, in Journalism.

Journalists in most Western democracies believe they are largely autonomous; in their view, there are rather few political or economic agendas shaping their coverage. But do audiences see it the same way? There is evidence to suggest that many readers and viewers actually assume the reverse: that journalism is driven by political interests or a desire to make money. In such a situation, it’s little wonder trust in media is so low.

This study evaluated the degree to which audience members perceive influences on what journalists do, how those attitudes compare to those of journalists, and which variables might explain such (mis)understandings. A survey of German news consumers, in combination with the Worlds of Journalism study that maps journalist attitudes across many countries, indeed found that audiences imagine stronger effects on reporting than journalists do, especially with regard to economics and politics.

Interestingly, these differences between news audiences and journalists “became more distinct as recipients displayed higher levels of anti-elitism, selective exposure and media literacy.” This suggests that a variety of influences — one’s anti-elite populist attitudes, or a preference for self-confirming media sources — can play a part in how one comes to skeptically perceive the press and its relative autonomy.

“The familiarity paradox: Why has digital sourcing not democratized the news?” By Aviv Barnoy and Zvi Reich, in Digital Journalism.

“Making sources visible: Representation of evidence in news texts, 2007–2019.” By Mark Coddington and Logan Molyneux, in Journalism Practice.

“Sourcing pandemic news: A cross-national computational analysis of mainstream media coverage of Covid-19 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.” By Claudia Mellado, Daniel Hallin, Luis Cárcamo, Rodrigo Alfaro, Daniel Jackson, María Luisa Humanes, Mireya Márquez-Ramírez, Jacques Mick, Cornelia Mothes, Christi I-Hsuan Lin, Misook Lee, Amaranta Alfaro, Jose Isbej, and Andrés Ramos, in Digital Journalism.

We conclude with a three-part look at the nature of news sources — how they have changed (or not) in the digital era as well as in the recent pandemic period.

First, Barnoy and Reich take up a question that remains unresolved in the research literature: Amid all the transformations brought on by social media, smartphones, and other digital developments, to what degree do journalists rely on new types of sources? And, if so, are these sources verified in new kinds of ways, and with what kind of consequences? (Etc.)

The authors present what they call first-of-its-kind longitudinal evidence about the role that digital news sources have played during the past 15 years. (“To be considered digital, a source must follow two requirements: (1) it must be an informative entity that cannot be identified as a specific person (by the reporter)  and  (2) this entity is accessed via the Internet [the world-wide-web, email, social networks etc.].”) Their study focuses on reconstructions of 1,594 news items, produced by a representative sample of Israeli journalists, and categorizes the more than 5,000 sources in those stories.

The result: “We found that digital sourcing did not open the gates for alternative voices. Moreover, digital sources are verified less than non-digital ones and are mentioned less often in final publications.” But — and this is important — follow-up interviews with journalists found that this was because of “the traceable footprints of digital sources that can protect journalists against future attacks, thus making these sources reliable.” Ultimately, they suggest that until journalists overcome a “familiarity paradox” that leads them to prioritize longstanding elite sources, it is unlikely that technology alone will lead to meaningful widespread change in democratizing news sourcing.

The next article, by Mark and co-author Logan Molyneux, examines a related but rather different question about sourcing in the digital age: How much of it is aggregation versus other types of so-called “original reporting,” and how have things changed over time? They conduct a content analysis that compares newspapers to digital-native news sites at three time points (2007, 2013, and 2019), and find that while “non-mediated attributed speech” (i.e., interviews) remains the most widespread form of evidence, it has become less and less common over time — even among newspapers that so commonly rely on interviews for data.

What is increasing is the use of mediated speech appearing elsewhere (e.g., social media, documents, press releases, etc.). “The result,” they write, “is a news text that is more visibly assembled from other published texts. Given this greater distance from evidence, journalistic claims of originality are more contested than in the recent past.”

Interestingly, they find that newspapers and digital news sites, once quite different from each other in sourcing habits, are increasingly behaving like the other: e.g., newspapers more readily cite social media posts as evidence, and digital sites are mimicking newspapers’ use of firsthand and secondhand evidence as opposed to heavy aggregation of other news organizations as sources.

Finally, the article by Mellado and colleagues examines how sources were used in coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic, based on an analysis of social media posts by mainstream news organizations in several countries (Brazil, Chile, Germany, Mexico, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S.). Mellado’s team conducted a computational content analysis of nearly 1 million posts published to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter by 78 sampled news outlets during 2020.

One important question they sought to address had shades of the Barnoy and Reich study above: “whether news organizations might pivot towards greater pluralism in the kind of voices represented in their posts in social media, adapting to a more popular, participatory logic commonly assumed to characterize social as opposed to traditional media.”

The answer, it turns out, was no. “One finding,” they write, “stands out as particularly striking: the dominance of political sources across countries and platforms,” reinforcing a longstanding orientation toward elites as well as a strong role for the state in influencing pandemic-related news. Health sources were also prominent, and the composition of sourcing varied by country and in connection with pandemic intensity. Notably, a “significant diversity of sources, including citizen sources, emerged as the pandemic went on.”

Photo by Jayana Rashintha on Unsplash.

Cite this article Hide citations

Coddington and Seth Lewis, Mark. "How the pandemic (sort of) changed the way we consume news." Nieman Journalism Lab . Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, 24 Aug. 2021. Web. 29 Jan. 2024.

Coddington and Seth Lewis, M. (2021, Aug. 24). How the pandemic (sort of) changed the way we consume news. Nieman Journalism Lab . Retrieved January 29, 2024, from https://www.niemanlab.org/2021/08/how-the-pandemic-sort-of-changed-the-way-we-consume-news/

Coddington and Seth Lewis, Mark. "How the pandemic (sort of) changed the way we consume news." Nieman Journalism Lab . Last modified August 24, 2021. Accessed January 29, 2024. https://www.niemanlab.org/2021/08/how-the-pandemic-sort-of-changed-the-way-we-consume-news/.

{{cite web     | url = https://www.niemanlab.org/2021/08/how-the-pandemic-sort-of-changed-the-way-we-consume-news/     | title = How the pandemic (sort of) changed the way we consume news     | last = Coddington and Seth Lewis     | first = Mark     | work = [[Nieman Journalism Lab]]     | date = 24 August 2021     | accessdate = 29 January 2024     | ref = {{harvid|Coddington and Seth Lewis|2021}} }}

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Emerging issues that could trouble teens

Stanford Medicine’s Vicki Harrison explains the forces impacting youth mental health today, and why it’s so important to involve teens in solutions.

write your own news article about current issues in this pandemic season

Image credit: Getty Images

One of the most alarming developments across the United States in recent years has been the growing mental health crisis among children and adolescents.

The already dire situation is evolving 2024 already presenting a new set of challenges that Vicki Harrison, the program director at the Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing , is closely monitoring and responding to.

Stanford Report sat down with Harrison to find out what concerns her the most about the upcoming year. Harrison also talked about some of the promising ways she and her colleagues are responding to the national crisis and the importance of bringing the youth perspective into that response.

Challenging current events

From the 2024 general election to evolving, international conflicts, today’s dialed-in youth have a lot to process. As teens turn to digital and social media sources to learn about current events and figure out where they stand on particular issues, the sheer volume of news online can feel overwhelming, stressful, and confusing.

One way Harrison is helping teens navigate the information they consume online is through Good for Media , a youth-led initiative that grew out of the Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing to bring teens and young adults together to discuss using social media in a safe and healthy way. In addition to numerous youth-developed tools and videos, the team has a guide with tips to deal with the volume of news online and how to process the emotions that come with it.

Harrison points out that the tone of political discourse today – particularly discussions about reining in the rights a person has based on aspects of their identity, such as their religion, race, national origin, or gender – affects adolescents at a crucial time in their development, a period when they are exploring who they are and what they believe in.

“If their identity is being othered, criticized, or punished in some way, what messages is that sending to young people and how do they feel good about themselves?” Harrison said. “We can’t divorce these political and cultural debates from the mental health of young people.”

Harrison believes that any calls for solving the mental health crisis must acknowledge the critical importance of inclusion, dignity, and respect in supporting the mental health of young people.

Talking about mental health

Adolescence is a crucial time to develop coping skills to respond to stressful situations that arise – a skill not all teens and youth learn.

“It hasn’t always been normalized to talk about mental health and how to address feeling sad or worried about things,” Harrison said. “It’s not something that all of us have been taught to really understand and how to cope with. A lot of young people aren’t comfortable seeking professional services.”

The Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing is helping young people get that extra bit of support to deal with problems before they get worse.

This year, they are rolling out stand-alone “one-stop-shop” health centers that offer youth 12-25 years old access to a range of clinical and counseling services with both trained professionals and peers. Called allcove , there are three locations open so far – Palo Alto, Redondo Beach, and San Mateo. More are set to open across the state in 2024.

“If we can normalize young people having an access point – and feeling comfortable accessing it – we can put them on a healthier track and get them any help they may need,” Harrison said.

Another emerging issue Harrison is monitoring is the growing role of social media influencers who talk openly about their struggles with mental health and well-being.

While this is helping bring awareness to mental health – which Harrison wants to see more of – she is also concerned about how it could lead some teens to mistake a normal, stressful life experience for a mental disorder and incorrectly self-diagnose themselves or to overgeneralize or misunderstand symptoms of mental health conditions. Says Harrison, “We want to see mental health destigmatized, but not oversimplified or minimized.”

“We can’t divorce these political and cultural debates from the mental health of young people.” —Vicki Harrison Program Director at the Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing

Eyes on new technologies

Advances in technology – particularly generative AI – offer new approaches to improving teen well-being, such as therapeutic chatbots or detecting symptoms through keywords or patterns in speech.

“Digital solutions are a promising part of the continuum of care, but there’s the risk of rolling out things without the research backing them,” Harrison said.

Social media companies have come under scrutiny in recent years for inadequately safeguarding young adult mental health. Harrison hopes those mishaps serve as a cautionary tale for those applying AI tools more broadly.

There’s an opportunity, she says, to involve adolescents directly in making AI applications safe and effective. She and her team hope to engage young people with policy and industry and involve them in the design process, rather than as an afterthought.

“Can we listen to their ideas for how to make it better and how to make it work for them?” Harrison asks. “Giving them that agency is going to give us great ideas and make a better experience for them and for everyone using it.”

Harrison said she and her team are hoping to engage young people with policy and industry to elevate their ideas into the design process, rather than have it be an afterthought.

“There’s a lot of really motivated young people who see potential to do things differently and want to improve the world they inhabit,” Harrison said. “That’s why I always want to find opportunities to pass them the microphone and listen.”

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12 Ideas for Writing Through the Pandemic With The New York Times

A dozen writing projects — including journals, poems, comics and more — for students to try at home.

write your own news article about current issues in this pandemic season

By Natalie Proulx

The coronavirus has transformed life as we know it. Schools are closed, we’re confined to our homes and the future feels very uncertain. Why write at a time like this?

For one, we are living through history. Future historians may look back on the journals, essays and art that ordinary people are creating now to tell the story of life during the coronavirus.

But writing can also be deeply therapeutic. It can be a way to express our fears, hopes and joys. It can help us make sense of the world and our place in it.

Plus, even though school buildings are shuttered, that doesn’t mean learning has stopped. Writing can help us reflect on what’s happening in our lives and form new ideas.

We want to help inspire your writing about the coronavirus while you learn from home. Below, we offer 12 projects for students, all based on pieces from The New York Times, including personal narrative essays, editorials, comic strips and podcasts. Each project features a Times text and prompts to inspire your writing, as well as related resources from The Learning Network to help you develop your craft. Some also offer opportunities to get your work published in The Times, on The Learning Network or elsewhere.

We know this list isn’t nearly complete. If you have ideas for other pandemic-related writing projects, please suggest them in the comments.

In the meantime, happy writing!

Journaling is well-known as a therapeutic practice , a tool for helping you organize your thoughts and vent your emotions, especially in anxiety-ridden times. But keeping a diary has an added benefit during a pandemic: It may help educate future generations.

In “ The Quarantine Diaries ,” Amelia Nierenberg spoke to Ady, an 8-year-old in the Bay Area who is keeping a diary. Ms. Nierenberg writes:

As the coronavirus continues to spread and confine people largely to their homes, many are filling pages with their experiences of living through a pandemic. Their diaries are told in words and pictures: pantry inventories, window views, questions about the future, concerns about the present. Taken together, the pages tell the story of an anxious, claustrophobic world on pause. “You can say anything you want, no matter what, and nobody can judge you,” Ady said in a phone interview earlier this month, speaking about her diary. “No one says, ‘scaredy-cat.’” When future historians look to write the story of life during coronavirus, these first-person accounts may prove useful. “Diaries and correspondences are a gold standard,” said Jane Kamensky, a professor of American History at Harvard University and the faculty director of the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute. “They’re among the best evidence we have of people’s inner worlds.”

You can keep your own journal, recording your thoughts, questions, concerns and experiences of living through the coronavirus pandemic.

Not sure what to write about? Read the rest of Ms. Nierenberg’s article to find out what others around the world are recording. If you need more inspiration, here are a few writing prompts to get you started:

How has the virus disrupted your daily life? What are you missing? School, sports, competitions, extracurricular activities, social plans, vacations or anything else?

What effect has this crisis had on your own mental and emotional health?

What changes, big or small, are you noticing in the world around you?

For more ideas, see our writing prompts . We post a new one every school day, many of them now related to life during the coronavirus.

You can write in your journal every day or as often as you like. And if writing isn’t working for you right now, try a visual, audio or video diary instead.

2. Personal Narrative

As you write in your journal, you’ll probably find that your life during the pandemic is full of stories, whether serious or funny, angry or sad. If you’re so inspired, try writing about one of your experiences in a personal narrative essay.

Here’s how Mary Laura Philpott begins her essay, “ This Togetherness Is Temporary, ” about being quarantined with her teenage children:

Get this: A couple of months ago, I quit my job in order to be home more. Go ahead and laugh at the timing. I know. At the time, it was hitting me that my daughter starts high school in the fall, and my son will be a senior. Increasingly they were spending their time away from me at school, with friends, and in the many time-intensive activities that make up teenage lives. I could feel the clock ticking, and I wanted to spend the minutes I could — the minutes they were willing to give me, anyway — with them, instead of sitting in front of a computer at night and on weekends in order to juggle a job as a bookseller, a part-time gig as a television host, and a book deadline. I wanted more of them while they were still living in my house. Now here we are, all together, every day. You’re supposed to be careful what you wish for, but come on. None of us saw this coming.

Personal narratives are short, powerful stories about meaningful life experiences, big or small. Read the rest of Ms. Philpott’s essay to see how she balances telling the story of a specific moment in time and reflecting on what it all means in the larger context of her life.

To help you identify the moments that have been particularly meaningful, difficult, comical or strange during this pandemic, try responding to one of our writing prompts related to the coronavirus:

Holidays and Birthdays Are Moments to Come Together. How Are You Adapting During the Pandemic?

Has Your School Switched to Remote Learning? How Is It Going So Far?

Is the Coronavirus Pandemic Bringing Your Extended Family Closer Together?

How Is the Coronavirus Outbreak Affecting Your Life?

Another option? Use any of the images in our Picture Prompt series to inspire you to write about a memory from your life.

Related Resource: Writing Curriculum | Unit 1: Teach Narrative Writing With The New York Times

write your own news article about current issues in this pandemic season

People have long turned to creative expression in times of crisis. During the coronavirus pandemic, artists are continuing to illustrate , play music , dance , perform — and write poetry .

That’s what Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell, an emergency room doctor in Boston, did after a long shift treating coronavirus patients. Called “ The Apocalypse ,” her poem begins like this:

This is the apocalypse A daffodil has poked its head up from the dirt and opened sunny arms to bluer skies yet I am filled with dark and anxious dread as theaters close as travel ends and grocery stores display their empty rows where toilet paper liquid bleach and bags of flour stood in upright ranks.

Read the rest of Dr. Mitchell’s poem and note the lines, images and metaphors that speak to you. Then, tap into your creative side by writing a poem inspired by your own experience of the pandemic.

Need inspiration? Try writing a poem in response to one of our Picture Prompts . Or, you can create a found poem using an article from The Times’s coronavirus outbreak coverage . If you have access to the print paper, try making a blackout poem instead.

Related Resources: 24 Ways to Teach and Learn About Poetry With The New York Times Reader Idea | How the Found Poem Can Inspire Teachers and Students Alike

4. Letter to the Editor

Have you been keeping up with the news about the coronavirus? What is your reaction to it?

Make your voice heard by writing a letter to the editor about a recent Times article, editorial, column or Opinion essay related to the pandemic. You can find articles in The Times’s free coronavirus coverage or The Learning Network’s coronavirus resources for students . And, if you’re a high school student, your school can get you free digital access to The New York Times from now until July 6.

To see examples, read the letters written by young people in response to recent headlines in “ How the Young Deal With the Coronavirus .” Here’s what Addie Muller from San Jose, Calif., had to say about the Opinion essay “ I’m 26. Coronavirus Sent Me to the Hospital ”:

As a high school student and a part of Generation Z, I’ve been less concerned about getting Covid-19 and more concerned about spreading it to more vulnerable populations. While I’ve been staying at home and sheltering in place (as was ordered for the state of California), many of my friends haven’t been doing the same. I know people who continue going to restaurants and have been treating the change in education as an extended spring break and excuse to spend more time with friends. I fear for my grandparents and parents, but this article showed me that we should also fear for ourselves. I appreciated seeing this article because many younger people seem to feel invincible. The fact that a healthy 26-year-old can be hospitalized means that we are all capable of getting the virus ourselves and spreading it to others. I hope that Ms. Lowenstein continues spreading her story and that she makes a full recovery soon.

As you read, note some of the defining features of a letter to the editor and what made these good enough to publish. For more advice, see these tips from Thomas Feyer, the letters editor at The Times, about how to write a compelling letter. They include:

Write briefly and to the point.

Be prepared to back up your facts with evidence.

Write about something off the beaten path.

Publishing Opportunity: When you’re ready, submit your letter to The New York Times.

5. Editorial

Maybe you have more to say than you can fit in a 150-word letter to the editor. If that’s the case, try writing an editorial about something you have a strong opinion about related to the coronavirus. What have you seen that has made you upset? Proud? Appreciative? Scared?

In “ Surviving Coronavirus as a Broke College Student ,” Sydney Goins, a senior English major at the University of Georgia, writes about the limited options for students whose colleges are now closed. Her essay begins:

College was supposed to be my ticket to financial security. My parents were the first ones to go to college in their family. My grandpa said to my mom, “You need to go to college, so you don’t have to depend on a man for money.” This same mentality was passed on to me as well. I had enough money to last until May— $1,625 to be exact — until the coronavirus ruined my finances. My mom works in human resources. My dad is a project manager for a mattress company. I worked part time at the university’s most popular dining hall and lived in a cramped house with three other students. I don’t have a car. I either walked or biked a mile to attend class. I have student debt and started paying the accrued interest last month. I was making it work until the coronavirus shut down my college town. At first, spring break was extended by two weeks with the assumption that campus would open again in late March, but a few hours after that email, all 26 colleges in the University System of Georgia canceled in-person classes and closed integral parts of campus.

Read the rest of Ms. Goins’s essay. What is her argument? How does she support it? How is it relevant to her life and the world?

Then, choose a topic related to the pandemic that you care about and write an editorial that asserts an opinion and backs it up with solid reasoning and evidence.

Not sure where to start? Try responding to some of our recent argumentative writing prompts and see what comes up for you. Here are a few we’ve asked students so far:

Should Schools Change How They Grade Students During the Pandemic?

What Role Should Celebrities Have During the Coronavirus Crisis?

Is It Immoral to Increase the Price of Goods During a Crisis?

Or, consider essential questions about the pandemic and what they tell us about our world today: What weaknesses is the coronavirus exposing in our society? How can we best help our communities right now? What lessons can we learn from this crisis? See more here.

As an alternative to a written essay, you might try creating a video Op-Ed instead, like Katherine Oung’s “ Coronavirus Racism Infected My High School. ”

Publishing Opportunity: Submit your final essay to our Student Editorial Contest , open to middle school and high school students ages 10-19, until April 21. Please be sure to read all the rules and guidelines before submitting.

Related Resource: An Argumentative-Writing Unit for Students Doing Remote Learning

Are games, television, music, books, art or movies providing you with a much-needed distraction during the pandemic? What has been working for you that you would recommend to others? Or, what would you caution others to stay away from right now?

Share your opinions by writing a review of a piece of art or culture for other teenagers who are stuck at home. You might suggest TV shows, novels, podcasts, video games, recipes or anything else. Or, try something made especially for the coronavirus era, like a virtual architecture tour , concert or safari .

As a mentor text, read Laura Cappelle’s review of French theater companies that have rushed to put content online during the coronavirus outbreak, noting how she tailors her commentary to our current reality:

The 17th-century philosopher Blaise Pascal once wrote: “The sole cause of people’s unhappiness is that they do not know how to stay quietly in their rooms.” Yet at a time when much of the world has been forced to hunker down, French theater-makers are fighting to fill the void by making noise online.

She continues:

Under the circumstances, it would be churlish to complain about artists’ desire to connect with audiences in some fashion. Theater, which depends on crowds gathering to watch performers at close quarters, is experiencing significant loss and upheaval, with many stagings either delayed indefinitely or canceled outright. But a sampling of stopgap offerings often left me underwhelmed.

To get inspired you might start by responding to our related Student Opinion prompt with your recommendations. Then turn one of them into a formal review.

Related Resource: Writing Curriculum | Unit 2: Analyzing Arts, Criticizing Culture: Writing Reviews With The New York Times

7. How-to Guide

Being stuck at home with nowhere to go is the perfect time to learn a new skill. What are you an expert at that you can you teach someone?

The Times has created several guides that walk readers through how to do something step-by-step, for example, this eight-step tutorial on how to make a face mask . Read through the guide, noting how the author breaks down each step into an easily digestible action, as well as how the illustrations support comprehension.

Then, create your own how-to guide for something you could teach someone to do during the pandemic. Maybe it’s a recipe you’ve perfected, a solo sport you’ve been practicing, or a FaceTime tutorial for someone who’s never video chatted before.

Whatever you choose, make sure to write clearly so anyone anywhere could try out this new skill. As an added challenge, include an illustration, photo, or audio or video clip with each step to support the reader’s understanding.

Related Resource: Writing Curriculum | Unit 4: Informational Writing

8. 36 Hours Column

For nearly two decades, The Times has published a weekly 36 Hours column , giving readers suggestions for how to spend a weekend in cities all over the globe.

While traveling for fun is not an option now, the Travel section decided to create a special reader-generated column of how to spend a weekend in the midst of a global pandemic. The result? “ 36 Hours in … Wherever You Are .” Here’s how readers suggest spending a Sunday morning:

8 a.m. Changing routines Make small discoveries. To stretch my legs during the lockdown, I’ve been walking around the block every day, and I’ve started to notice details that I’d never seen before. Like the fake, painted window on the building across the road, or the old candle holders that were once used as part of the street lighting. When the quarantine ends, I hope we don’t forget to appreciate what’s been on a doorstep all along. — Camilla Capasso, Modena, Italy 10:30 a.m. Use your hands Undertake the easiest and most fulfilling origami project of your life by folding 12 pieces of paper and building this lovely star . Modular origami has been my absolute favorite occupational therapy since I was a restless child: the process is enthralling and soothing. — Laila Dib, Berlin, Germany 12 p.m. Be isolated, together Check on neighbors on your block or floor with an email, text or phone call, or leave a card with your name and contact information. Are they OK? Do they need something from the store? Help with an errand? Food? Can you bring them a hot dish or home-baked bread? This simple act — done carefully and from a safe distance — palpably reduces our sense of fear and isolation. I’ve seen the faces of some neighbors for the first time. Now they wave. — Jim Carrier, Burlington, Vt.

Read the entire article. As you read, consider: How would this be different if it were written by teenagers for teenagers?

Then, create your own 36 Hours itinerary for teenagers stuck at home during the pandemic with ideas for how to spend the weekend wherever they are.

The 36 Hours editors suggest thinking “within the spirit of travel, even if many of us are housebound.” For example: an album or a song playlist; a book or movie that transports you; a particular recipe you love; or a clever way to virtually connect with family and friends. See more suggestions here .

Related Resources: Reader Idea | 36 Hours in Your Hometown 36 Hours in Learning: Creating Travel Itineraries Across the Curriculum

9. Photo Essay

write your own news article about current issues in this pandemic season

Daily life looks very different now. Unusual scenes are playing out in homes, parks, grocery stores and streets across the country.

In “ New York Was Not Designed for Emptiness ,” New York Times photographers document what life in New York City looks like amid the pandemic. It begins:

The lights are still on in Times Square. Billboards blink and storefronts shine in neon. If only there were an audience for this spectacle. But the thoroughfares have been abandoned. The energy that once crackled along the concrete has eased. The throngs of tourists, the briskly striding commuters, the honking drivers have mostly skittered away. In their place is a wistful awareness that plays across all five boroughs: Look how eerie our brilliant landscape has become. Look how it no longer bustles. This is not the New York City anyone signed up for.

Read the rest of the essay and view the photos. As you read, note the photos or lines in the text that grab your attention most. Why do they stand out to you?

What does the pandemic look like where you live? Create your own photo essay, accompanied by a written piece, that illustrates your life now. In your essay, consider how you can communicate a particular theme or message about life during the pandemic through both your photos and words, like in the article you read.

Publishing Opportunity: The International Center of Photography is collecting a virtual archive of images related to the coronavirus pandemic. Learn how to submit yours here.

10. Comic Strip

Sometimes, words alone just won’t do. Visual mediums, like comics, have the advantage of being able to express emotion, reveal inner monologues, and explain complex subjects in ways that words on their own seldom can.

If anything proves this point, it is the Opinion section’s ongoing visual diary, “ Art in Isolation .” Scroll through this collection to see clever and poignant illustrations about life in these uncertain times. Read the comic “ Finding Connection When Home Alone ” by Gracey Zhang from this collection. As you read, note what stands out to you about the writing and illustrations. What lessons could they have for your own piece?

Then, create your own comic strip, modeled after the one you read, that explores some aspect of life during the pandemic. You can sketch and color your comic with paper and pen, or use an online tool like MakeBeliefsComix.com .

Need inspiration? If you’re keeping a quarantine journal, as we suggested above, you might create a graphic story based on a week of your life, or just a small part of it — like the meals you ate, the video games you played, or the conversations you had with friends over text. For more ideas, check out our writing prompts related to the coronavirus.

Related Resource: From Superheroes to Syrian Refugees: Teaching Comics and Graphic Novels With Resources From The New York Times

11. Podcast

Modern Love Poster

Modern Love Podcast: In the Midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic, People Share Their Love Stories

Are you listening to any podcasts to help you get through the pandemic? Are they keeping you up-to-date on the news? Offering advice? Or just helping you escape from it all?

Create your own five-minute podcast segment that responds to the coronavirus in some way.

To get an idea of the different genres and formats your podcast could take, listen to one or more of these five-minute clips from three New York Times podcast episodes related to the coronavirus:

“ The Daily | Voices of the Pandemic ” (1:15-6:50)

“ Still Processing | A Pod From Both Our Houses ” (0:00-4:50)

“ Modern Love | In the Midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic, People Share Their Love Stories ” (1:30-6:30)

Use these as models for your own podcast. Consider the different narrative techniques they use to relate an experience of the pandemic — interviews, nonfiction storytelling and conversation — as well as how they create an engaging listening experience.

Need ideas for what to talk about? You might try translating any of the writing projects above into podcast form. Or turn to our coronavirus-related writing prompts for inspiration.

Publishing Opportunity: Submit your finished five-minute podcast to our Student Podcast Contest , which is open through May 19. Please read all the rules and guidelines before submitting.

Related Resource: Project Audio: Teaching Students How to Produce Their Own Podcasts

12. Revise and Edit

“It doesn’t matter how good you think you are as a writer — the first words you put on the page are a first draft,” Harry Guinness writes in “ How to Edit Your Own Writing .”

Editing your work may seem like something you do quickly — checking for spelling mistakes just before you turn in your essay — but Mr. Guinness argues it’s a project in its own right:

The time you put into editing, reworking and refining turns your first draft into a second — and then into a third and, if you keep at it, eventually something great. The biggest mistake you can make as a writer is to assume that what you wrote the first time through was good enough.

Read the rest of the article for a step-by-step guide to editing your own work. Then, revise one of the pieces you have written, following Mr. Guinness’s advice.

Publishing Opportunity: When you feel like your piece is “something great,” consider submitting it to one of the publishing opportunities we’ve suggested above. Or, see our list of 70-plus places that publish teenage writing and art to find more.

Natalie Proulx joined The Learning Network as a staff editor in 2017 after working as an English language arts teacher and curriculum writer. More about Natalie Proulx


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  1. Impact of COVID-19 on people's livelihoods, their health and our food

    Reading time: 3 min (864 words) The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human life worldwide and presents an unprecedented challenge to public health, food systems and the world of work. The economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic is devastating: tens of millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty ...

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