Does COVID-19 feel close?

By: Nadia N. Abuelezam

One of the questions we ask on the Survey for Arab Health in America (SAHA) is whether COVID-19 feels close or far from you, personally. This may seem like a strange question to ask on a healthy survey, but it is a question we as a research team have been interested in for a while.

In the era of physical and social distancing it may seem like people are being asked to stay far away from each other and keep a physical distance. But in reality, COVID-19 has consumed all of our lives in ways that feel rather close and personal. Two of the study investigators, Dr. Sandro Galea and I have written about this in a piece in Elemental.

In the essay we discuss how disease has been something we’ve always tried to keep far away from us. We put sick people in the hospital far from their homes. We also try to keep disease away from us physically and socially as much as possible – especially for diseases that are stigmatized like HIV.

What we propose in the essay is that we must deal with COVID-19 with compassion and empathy to ensure that we don’t keep COVID-19 at a distance but engage with it and address it in every way possible. We hope you’ll take some time to read our work. Please let us know what you think!

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