Educational books

Book sales, open streets and science: some find success in the pandemic

When the pandemic began, Mark Finazzo worked at a brewery in Columbus, Ohio, a job he lost due to lockdowns that plunged him, like many Americans, into terrifying months of isolation, d anxiety and helplessness, with nothing more to do than watch the coronavirus rage on the news.

Today, Mr. Finazzo, 35, is in his first semester at Ohio State University. He graduated with his second bachelor’s degree, this one in microbiology, in hopes of becoming a research scientist – like the people who strive to create a vaccine that he watched and read while sitting on his couch in the darkest early days of the pandemic.

“When I saw pictures of hospital tents erected in Central Park, it was like ‘Wow life is fragile and precious,'” Mr Finazzo said, referring to the field hospitals in the city of New York gathered in the spring of 2020. “” I should probably do something to help besides brewing a delicious poison that we love to drink. “

The toll of the virus cannot be overstated: it has stolen more than 800,000 American lives and millions around the world. Efforts to thwart it have swept away livelihoods, altered childhood, and left lasting emotional scars. At the start of a new year of Covid-19 among us, with its latest variant rising, there is a familiar hunch for many.

But all along, in the Valley of the Virus’s shadow, there has been remarkable resilience. This can be seen in the lightning-fast creation of vaccines that have largely destroyed Covid-19, and in recent findings that the methods used now may hold promise in the fight against HIV and AIDS. It’s in every pivot made by a savvy entrepreneur who saved a business, and every government agency that pushed innovative change during a time of chaos.

And it is in individuals, like Mr. Finazzo, who in the face of seismic societal upheavals did not shatter, but moved too.

“The pandemic experience has shown that we are more resilient than conventional wisdom suggests,” said George A. Bonanno, professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University Teachers College and author of “The End of Trauma,” a book on psychology. of human resilience.

And while many continue to struggle with grief and trauma, the key to resilient outcomes in the face of disaster is threefold, Dr Bonanno said: First, distill exactly what is causing the distress, then come up with a possible solution. Finally, stay flexible to find a new cure if that doesn’t work.

“I see time and time again that people are resilient,” he said. “The pandemic has shown it in spades. “

In the field of medicine, the onslaught of the sick has stretched hospitals and burned many health professionals. But it has also revolutionized parts of the field, said Dr Rita A. Manfredi, clinical professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and co-author of “The Silver Liners of COVID-19: Uplifting Effects. of the pandemic “in” Academic Emergency Medicine “, a medical journal.

One example: Telemedicine, for which authorities significantly extended permissions during the pandemic, has made care easier for many people, Dr Manfredi said. He’s likely to stay here.

“In any great tragedy, there is always a positive side,” said Dr Manfredi. “The negative side is obvious, but there is always a positive side. “

The coronavirus vaccine itself, made under conditions of war, may continue to fight other incurable diseases: A study published in December successfully used the same mRNA technology used by the coronavirus vaccine to reduce the risk of infection with an HIV-like virus in rhesus macaques – perhaps a beacon of hope in the fight against AIDS.

“This is a promising new finding,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and co-author of the study, in an interview.

“We are infinitely better off now than in 2020,” continued Dr Fauci. “If it was 2020 and we had this kind of Omicron push superimposed on a Delta push, we probably should have shut down the whole country because we wouldn’t have any other tools to prevent the spread. Now we believe that we can continue to function as a society. “

He added: “Things will get better. This is not going to last forever. “

For some people with disabilities, the cultural changes imposed by the pandemic, such as flexible and remote working – for which they have long advocated – have already improved their lives: the employment rate of people with disabilities is currently at an all time high, although that it remains profoundly inferior to people without disabilities, according to the nonprofit Kessler Foundation, which tracks data on people with disabilities.

For Jon Novick, who suffers from achondroplastic dwarfism, office settings can be overwhelming. Mr Novick, 30, said his small size was not suitable for standard chairs and desks. Due to his physique, he must have a professional dress custom made, often at an additional cost. In the fall, he got a new job at a Manhattan-based creative agency, but can work from his apartment in Astoria, Queens.

“I live in a world that isn’t quite right for me,” Mr. Novick said. “My perfect office is my home. “

With the benefit comes the frustration of many people with disabilities like him that it has taken a pandemic to make something their community has long been calling for – and frequently denied – a standard.

“People with disabilities can make a huge contribution to the workforce; we can contribute even more when the playing field is level, ”said Novick.

Altered habits have forced entire metropolises to change: To give residents of hard-hit New York City a space to mingle with social distancing, in May 2020, the city’s Department of Transportation began temporarily shutting down public buildings. streets to cars in more than 250 locations. The program has come under criticism that street closures create traffic and remove parking spaces. But for many, the open streets, as they are called, were a welcome new use for the city’s thousands of miles of sidewalk when locked in their homes. The program is now permanent.

On 120th Street in Harlem, Tressi Colon, a retired New York Police Department sergeant, helps oversee programming on the open street which includes outdoor community dinners and free talks from neighbors who work in the academia on topics such as gentrification. “We intended that in the midst of this pandemic something good will come out of it,” Ms. Colon said. “It was the key.”

In many industries, necessity has forced standards to change, often for the better. In the fashion world, where resale was once synonymous with used or unwanted clothing and unsold merchandise that is sometimes burnt, congestion in supply chains and the growing conversation around sustainability has led some designers to reuse fabrics. long abandoned on store shelves.

Burberry, for example, which before the pandemic had problems when it was revealed in 2018 that it had cremated around $ 37 million in unsold product, has now partnered with a rental and resale platform. luxury brand to affix its seal of approval to older clothing and accessories. customers, rather than losing them in the used market or letting them be thrown away. For her spring 2022 collection, the French designer Marine Serre, champion of upcycling, transformed old table linen, napkins or even cutlery into neat costumes and jewelry that were one of the hits of Paris Fashion Week. .

Book sales increased in the pandemic’s first year of lockdown, but today, even with schools open and more entertainment options, reading habits appear to have stalled: January through November 2021, sales of mainstream books increased 13% over the same period of the year before, according to the Association of American Publishers. At least 172 new independent bookstores opened in 2021, the American Booksellers Association said.

When Jason Innocent was put on leave from his job as a restaurant kitchen manager, he began reading for fun for the first time in his adult life, passing through “1984”, “Macbeth”, “A Raisin in the Sun “and more. Now back to work, he has kept the habit and has practiced reading new words. Days before New Years Eve, Mr. Innocent, 26, was lining up in downtown Manhattan while waiting for a coronavirus test, studying vocabulary.

“A lot of people, the pandemic has upset them, but I took a bad situation and turned it into a positive one,” Mr. Innocent said, going through his vocabulary list. “Even if another shutdown occurs, I will find a way to survive.”

After watching a TV show about new N95 mask sterilization technologies to tackle a nationwide shortage, Mr Finazzo, the former brewery worker, applied for a job with the company. The satisfaction of having helped cemented his growing interest in a scientific career.

“I was like, would I like to go tell my children or grandchildren that I survived the 2020 Covid pandemic by sitting alone in my apartment getting drunk? Said Mr. Finazzo. “Or did I want to take this opportunity to be able to help people?” “

Vanessa Friedman and Elizabeth a harris contributed reports.