Contributed by Ron Baecker, who is an Emeritus Professor of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, co-author of The COVID-19 Solutions Guide and author of Computers and Society: Modern Perspectives (OUP, 2019).
The Second Edition of The COVID-19 Solutions Guide will be published and available this Friday.
We had not anticipated writing a second edition so soon. Yet events this fall suggested that it was important that we do so. Our goal is to make current the story we tell about the pandemic, the problems it is causing, and the solutions we recommend. What we describe below has happened in part because of the unwise actions of politicians with little understanding or respect for science, and a willingness to sacrifice human life for political ends. Another cause has been the poor judgment of young people, whose natural desire for partying and close physical contact has contributed to a substantial extension of the first wave of the virus. Also, some clergy have placed their insistence on congregate worship above public health advice, adding to the viral spread.
The area of our book that continues to change the most rapidly is Chapter 1, which deals with the medical aspects of COVID-19. We have updated this chapter to include the latest scientific information about phenomena such as the spread of the virus through aerosols, the technology of testing, the protective effect of antibodies, and the search for a vaccine.
There is not much new with respect to Chapter Two’s topic of obtaining healthcare, other than the continued unavailability of non-virus-related procedures and the increasing pressures being placed on the medical and nursing professions. These continue to pose substantial new dangers to human health and life.
Chapter Three has been updated to describe the heart-breaking complexity of decisions on how to restart education that have been made at all levels ranging from early childhood education to universities. We discuss the challenges of virtual teaching and learning; we outline how doing this successfully requires a partnership among teachers, parent, and students.
Chapter Four discusses the challenges being faced by many businesses and the devastating loss of jobs. We present case studies under the label “Pivot or Die”— stories of entrepreneurs and small business owners who have creatively devised ways to stay afloat, while many of their peers have gone bankrupt. We then document ways in several important kinds of modern software enable effective remote telework by geographically distributed teams.
The financial situation looks bleaker now then what we imagined six months ago; we detail how and why this is true in Chapter Five. Increasingly, we read of more and more bankruptcies. More and more people worry about whether or not they will ever find work again, and where they will get the funds to buy groceries, as governments, even those with compassion, struggle to decide how long they can print money to get through to the other side.
Chapter Six discusses how to survive despite the ravages of the pandemic. Aspects of our lifestyle such as obtaining groceries and dining are nowhere close to the old normal. Professional sports have resumed, but athletes are in danger, and fans are nowhere to be seen. The better funded and visionary performing arts organizations are trying to survive by monetizing events that can only be viewed using streaming media, but most performing artists have little work and no income. The most critical issues deal with our relationships with other individuals and communities, and with how we feel about ourselves and about our life. We pay particular attention to increasing psychological distress—anger, stress, depression, and loneliness.
Families continue to struggle at home, which is the topic of Chapter Seven. Couples with children who do not attend school full-time struggle to juggle the demands of working at home, caring for their children, helping to school their children, maintaining their relationship, dealing with financial uncertainty, and trying to find a little time to enjoy life. The resulting stress is one reason why domestic violence is increasing at an alarming rate.
Chapter Eight on seniors has been expanded to focus more generally on vulnerable populations. We now know how badly we have supported seniors through the pandemic. Unfortunately, governments have reacted more with accusations and inquiries than with solutions. The chapter also now includes sections on other populations that have suffered unduly under COVID-19 — deaf individuals, the homeless, people in prisons, migrant workers, and refugees.
The most important change makes this book a better guide to solutions that our readers can apply. At many points in the book — on most of the pages — we summarize lessons learned in a box tagged with one of four icon descriptors:
DO , DON’T , WATCH for , and THINK about .
FOR THINKING AND DISCUSSION
What have you read about COVID-19 and its effects that has been the most insightful and useful for you, and why?
Please write and tell us about it.