Could We Be Living Under Coronavirus Forever?
Global health expert and TED Talk speaker Alanna Shaikh thinks there’s light at the end of the tunnel
As humanity steps into the reality of life with Covid-19, we’re all searching for calm, expert voices to guide us in making sensible decisions for ourselves, our families, and our society. Global health expert Alanna Shaikh — who studies what happens to health systems when diseases move at scale — is one such voice.
On March 6, Shaikh flew from her home in Sri Lanka to Dallas to speak at TEDxSMU about Covid-19. She offered a realistic yet somehow reassuring big-picture perspective that has already garnered more than 5 million views. I’m well acquainted with Shaikh’s comforting pragmatism and thoughtful intelligence because she also happens to be a colleague, friend, and fellow mother.
On March 11, the day her talk posted, my 14-year-old daughter came down with symptoms here in the U.K., a couple of hours ahead of the WHO announcement of pandemic. I canceled everything, packed up my office in Cambridge, isolated ourselves in our home, and wondered what to do next.
I’d stocked up on staples in case of some theoretical future lockdown, but I was not equipped to immediately go into quarantine, much less isolate my daughter from me while nursing her illness at home. Could I go out and get supplies? Should I stay in and protect my neighbors? How could I keep from getting sick myself? I reached out to Shaikh for her take on the situation, hoping for global context as well as personal guidance.
ZORA: As a mother who happens to have knowledge of how diseases spread and their impact on global health systems, what are you doing to prepare for Covid-19?
Alanna Shaikh: I’m worried as a mother, but I’m actually more worried as a daughter. We’re a multigenerational household. My mom, who is going to be 77 in July, is smack in many risk groups for Covid-19. It will be very dangerous for her if she’s…