Fear and loneliness in the time of coronavirus

March 16, 2020, 11:13 PM UTC

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Good afternoon, readers.

We have a tendency to focus on physical ailments when we talk about public health, especially in the sort of situations we currently find ourselves in with the coronavirus outbreak.

But, just as we wouldn’t ignore the downstream effects of a crisis like this in the business supply chain, it’s important to take the downstream mental health effects of social distancing and isolation into account.

What public health agencies had been warning us about for weeks is coming true—widespread disruptions to daily life that require people to isolate themselves in some form or another. And it’s happening at a rapid pace.

This isn’t to say that you should ignore advice about social distancing (you absolutely should not). You may not really have an option given the bar, restaurant, and public facility closures that have been announced in just the past two days.

But it also isn’t fun to spend time alone for an extended period. Humans are social animals. And I’ve been hearing from my own friends and family members about how this current coronavirus situation is, well, sort of driving them stir crazy as they’re locked up in their homes.

Loneliness is a condition in and unto itself, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). It’s an issue we’ve seen linked to everything from the opioid crisis to the rise of suicides.

So if we’re really hunkering down for the next few months as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, it’s important to keep in mind what we can do for one another while also remaining responsible.

Reach out to your friends and loved ones. And if you know somebody who doesn’t have a person to interact with directly, maybe give them a call, text, or video chat.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


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The mystery behind CureVac's coronavirus vaccine. Germany is up in arms over a coronavirus vaccine scandal. CureVac, a German biotech focusing on, well, vaccines, is at the center of it—and the story is pretty insane. We'll have a whole lot more in the coming days, but to sum it up, there appears to be an intense battle between the U.S. and German governments over an experimental vaccine for this virus and where it would be available. I encourage you to read Christiaan Hetzner's piece(Fortune)


Coronavirus dominates Democratic debate—and raises questions about health policy. If you tuned in to the Democratic debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders last night, you may have noticed a theme: Coronavirus. Health care already separated these two candidates along ideological lines—Medicare for All, or expansion of the Affordable Care Act? But the debate revealed even more differences. For instance, Sanders argued that a universal health care system would do far more to help people in a pandemic situation than incremental advances; Biden retorted that countries like Italy, which have also been facing major problems, have such systems and yet haven't contained the situation. We'll be exploring this issue in more detail in the coming days.


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