The coronavirus pandemic has already infected millions of people and killed over 200,000 — and we’re still just seeing the tip of the iceberg. It is important to mourn the losses, to learn the lessons that need to be learned, and plan for the future.
But it’s also important to praise the heroes who help us get through this ordeal.
Li Wenliang, MD, is without a doubt a hero. The Chinese ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital warned his colleagues in December 2019 about a possible outbreak of a mysterious illness. The illness, Wenliang wrote, resembled severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). This would later be acknowledged as COVID-19. Instead of heeding his warning, Chinese authorities censored him and threatened to jail him. Wenliang became a whistleblower and a hero — both in China, and beyond. He died from the disease on 7 February 2020, at age 33. Li Wenliang is probably the first hero of the coronavirus pandemic. But he is not nearly the last.
Without a doubt, the biggest heroes are the millions of health workers all around the world, putting their lives (and sanity) on the line every single day. Doctors, nurses, technicians, hospital staff, first responders, emergency personnel, trainees — everyone working tirelessly to keep the coronavirus flood under control has offered invaluable service to the community. We also need to mention the immensely important work carried out by doctors in Lombardy, Italy, who were the first to tell the world what to expect.
It’s not just health workers, either. All around the world, society has been forced to reconsider who “essential” workers are. The farmers working to grow our food, the drivers distributing everything and keeping everything moving, the cashiers showing up to work every single day, the chefs, the bakers, garbage collectors, the seamstresses — without them, any semblance of normality from our life would disappear. Everyone working through these trying times to keep the world running is a hero in their own right.
To the inventors and engineers developing new solutions, 3D-printing ventilators, and constantly working on innovative solutions that save lives, to the artists and booksellers helping to keep us sane through this whole thing, and to the manufacturers that still produce the items we use every day without even thinking about it — thank you.
While some politicians fumbled their response or tried to downplay the risks, we must recognize those who took the necessary precautions. Those who put people’s wellbeing above political gain, who followed the best scientific guidance and just that which suited them also deserve praise.
Lastly, to all of you who work hard and care for your loved ones every day, who keep it together in this trying time, and who are doing your best to stay informed — we salute you.