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Two years into the pandemic, the lessons we've learned from COVID-19

VCU Health's Dr. Gonzalo Bearman reflects on lessons learned and the path forward in a recent Richmond Times-Dispatch column.

Dr. Gonzalo Bearman VCU Health infectious disease specialist Dr. Gonzalo Bearman is an expert on COVID-19.

By Gonzalo Bearman, M.D.

Travel bans. School closings. Social distancing and mask mandates. COVID-19 upturned our lives two years ago.

To date, there are roughly 6 million deaths globally, with nearly 1 million in the United States alone.

As we approach the two-year anniversary of the pandemic, it’s important to reflect on the lessons we’ve learned and how we begin to chart a path forward.

As the chief of the division of infectious diseases at VCU Health, I’ve collaborated on critical efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic on research, clinical and operational fronts, and I want to share the top six lessons from the pandemic.

  1. Pandemics are recurrent in the history of mankind.

Human history is filled with epidemics and pandemics. These include smallpox, the bubonic plague, yellow fever, cholera and tuberculosis. In the last 100 years, there was the great flu pandemic of 1918, the swine flu (H1N1 virus) and many more.

COVID-19 never is going away entirely. The only infectious disease that has been eradicated in the history of humankind is smallpox. Like measles, polio and so many others, SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay.

It is important for us to learn from these experiences and apply to future outbreaks our advances in diagnostics, infection prevention via nonpharmacologic methods (masks and social distancing), and vaccine and treatment developments. We also should strive to improve public health communication to minimize the erosion of trust.

This column continues on richmond.com.