587 days have passed since the WHO declared COVID a global pandemic. 587 days of “Remind me again, what day is it today?”, “You’re muted, we can’t hear you!”. 587 days of mental and physical fatigue. And perhaps most devastatingly, 587 days without Nonna’s homemade lasagna.
Early one January morning, I hurried out of bed and dashed to the front curb, worried that I would be late to take out my garbage and recycling in time for the collectors. Still in my pajamas with unbrushed teeth and hair, I hadn’t noticed a woman nearby rummaging through my neighbours’ recycling bags to collect bottles for consignment. She approached me to ask for any refundable bottles from my bag. Suppressing my discomfort at the idea of a stranger examining my waste, I opened my bag to allow her to investigate. She sparked a conversation about her distrust of the COVID-19 vaccine and warned me to avoid it at all costs. When I asked her why, she replied that the government had implanted a tracking device in the vaccine so that they could monitor us at all times. She told me that since we had never needed this vaccine before, it is suspicious for the government to insist on it now. I was so completely dumbfounded that I hardly knew how to respond.
With the COVID-19 pandemic persisting for close to a year now, our daily routines and habits have changed dramatically. Those of us working from home have only a short commute from our beds to our desks, which may be convenient, but also reduces our exposure to different environments and blurs boundaries between work and leisure. Those who have lost their jobs or are shouldering childcare responsibilities on top of their work are facing numerous other challenges and changes to their lives, all of which may have lasting consequences. Most obviously, the change in routine due to public health restrictions has resulted in the visible dwindling of our social interactions. Could it be that the pandemic-related shift in our normal routines is also fundamentally changing the way we think and behave as human beings? It might be too early to tell but it’s definitely an interesting question to speculate about.
Although physical distancing does not necessarily mean social distancing, as it was first referenced in the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are often one and the same. Being social usually means spending time with others in a shared physical space, which is undeniably different than the virtual interactions that have become the accepted norm. Seeing our friends and family from behind a monitor is especially dissatisfying when we are only kilometers apart, and while having hundreds of social media “friends” means that we are in many ways more connected than ever, greater use of social media has actually been linked to increased loneliness.
There is a growing movement in the scientific community known as open science that aims to make scientific research fully transparent, reproducible, collaborative, and accessible to all people at all levels of society. In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of open science is clearer than ever, and its feasibility is undeniable.
COVID-19 has shaken our whole world upside down. Our minds are racing with stress and anxiety as we read the news, worry about our loved ones, and feel pressure to stay productive during this unusual time. Coping with this new situation is extremely taxing and resource-consuming, especially for early-career researchers, as we face increasingly unpredictable futures.