Brother Ronald D. Henderson, Ph.D. (Alpha Beta, '66)
Shelter in place, telework, mask, new normal, toilet paper shortage, social distancing, epidemic, super spreader, loneliness, boredom, isolation, quarantine, and depression are a sample of the language that gained prominence during the pandemic. The mental model that emerges after reading this list is the context for this summary of Covid-19’s impact.
Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the lives of everyone since January 2020. The full extent of the effects will take years to recover from and understand. Relationships within and outside the family are essential to human functionality.
An illustration of the novel coronavirus. Image
by Fusion Medical Animation/Unsplash
"Social support is a very essential part of being a human, and therefore when social relationships break down or are damaged, it can have an immense impact on mental heal and well-being," says Northwestern Medicine Psychologist Sheehan D. Fisher, PhD, who is a relationship expert. We all rely on a network of social support that entail a variety of relationships - from associates, to friends, to romantic-all contribute to your well-being and quality of life. This type of human exchange has been taken for granted. Around March 2020 until winter 2021 inhabitants of the US and most of the world in varying ways have been curtailed from normal relationship due Covid-19. (https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/5-benefits-of-healthy-relationships)
This brief depiction highlights three areas of relationship outcomes of Covid-19 on Black Americans- family, faith based, and member organizations. To set the background a brief timeline of the current Covid-19 pandemic is provided.
· January 20, 2020, first case of Covid-19 reported in Washington State.
· February 6, 2020, first death from Covid-19 in the USA.
· March 11, 2020 travel from Europe to USA restricted.
· March 12, 2020, US government Telework Flexibilities Guidance issued by Office of Management and Budget.
· May 2020 states and local municipalities began quarantine and stay at home policies.
· December 2020 vaccine distribution begins.
· June 3. 2021 new Covid-19 cases dropped to lowest level since March,2020.
· August 2, 2021, the percentage of U. S. adults with a least one shot was 70%.
The Covid-19 fueled pandemic has the following outcomes worldwide 249 million cases and 5 million deaths (https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/health/coronavirus-maps-and-cases/). The US has slightly over 46 million cases and 750 million deaths (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#trends_dailycases}.
The massive impact of Covid-19 has been far reaching through all aspect of life. Probably the most profound effect has been on the family. Examples are as follows:
· Coronavirus is disruptive on relationships in general and family dynamics specifically. The hardships and suffering in families are loss of income, access to resources, planned and spontaneous family activities or celebrations. The debilitating effect of not being able to see siblings, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, and extended family members has been profound. The scope and depth of the outcome(s)) will unfold for years.
· Limitations or prohibitions on visits to hospital and long-term care facilities. This has been emotionally draining for aging parents and family members. Families of very sick or dying patients were not allowed to visit for fear of spreading the virus.
· Schools being closed had consequences; parents adapting to the role of helping with virtual learning, assisting with subject matter that may be challenging, and monitoring their child to pay attention to the computer screen.
· Some children were forced to be in home environment 24/7 that have addictions and violence. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7265214/)
· Interactions with family was limited to social media or telephone. Widely accepted and natural forms of interaction and affection between family members outside of your household such as hugging, handshaking, kissing, etc. were prohibited.
The effect of isolation to just your household members was exacerbated by the loss or greatly reduced access to outside relationships within membership organizations (Masons, Divine 9 Black Sororities & Fraternities, 100 Black Men, Links, etc.).
· At times relationships outside the family can be helpful when proper support is not provided within the family.
· When things are stressful within the family outside groups can be a stress reliever.
· Telework eliminated the presence of workplace colleagues that may provide value add to success in your vocation and interpersonal relationships.
Membership groups in-person meetings were cancelled for most of 2020 and 2021. The substitute has been meetings via computer. Vaccine availability has allowed the recent emergence of hybrid meeting-attendance in person and computer. Virtual settings cannot substitute for face-to-face meetings. Membership and other social groups can have a positive impact on individual members in several areas
· Groups can provide individuals feelings of security, feeling of belonging, and sense of safety.
· Groups can provide opportunities to develop & maintain relationships,
· Groups help members accomplish goals or complete tasks that would be difficult to do alone.
· Another important area group membership can convey to individuals is the inherent value of the group and the functions that are provided for members. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4764092/)
Isolation of families and the quarantine in senior facilities or other living facilities experienced for approximately 9 months has improved, but the impact is still being felt. The ability to participate fully in membership groups or informal groups is slowly returning.
Faith-based organizations another key source of support doors was shut by April 2020. Black American unlike most population groups still rely heavily on faith-based organizations as a source of social, psychological, health behaviors positive outcomes(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2962581/). Some small churches have struggled with being fiscally solvent and to stay open, but many congregations have been very creative in trying to meet members needs via digital tools-Zoom, Facebook live, You Tube, Periscope, etc. to provide worship services, education, funeral services, and other church activities. The who, what, where, when, and how, of faith-based organizations post-Covid-19 is hard to predict but indicators of a possible resurgence emerged during the pandemic.
· Goggle searches for prayer increased with beginning of the pandemic and swelled as the number of cases accelerated.
· Over a quarter of Americans reported their faith increased during the pandemic.
· History is often a predictor. In the weeks after 9/11 over 90% of U.S. citizens coped by turning to religion.
· The smart, creative, and innovative faith-based organization will in all probability be opportunistic and thrive. (https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/responses/how-is-covid-19-impacting-religion-in-america) (https://news.usc.edu/176318/faith-spirituality-religion-believers-churches-covid-19-pandemic-usc-experts/
When will we reach the pandemic finish? Most readers will have items to add to this list.
· Hard to estimate when we will return to the “old normal” because of new variants;
· Factors beyond vaccinations such as prior infection immunity, impact of seasons and time spent outdoors vs. indoors, and individual behavior-social distancing and mask wearing; (https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/05/06/pandemic-herd-immunity/)
· The public debate on vaccination shifts from being a political issue to public health concern.
“After nearly two years, I don’t blame anyone for feeling done with the Covid-19 pandemic,” Don Herrington, interim director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, wrote in a blog post last week. “The unfortunate truth, however, is the pandemic isn’t done with us.” (https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-cases-rise-in-pockets-of-north-and-west-halting-delta-variants-decline-in-u-s-11636898401?mod=itp_wsj&mod=djemITP_h)