It was on a rainy Thursday morning in April that COVID-19 became quite real to me. My parents had tested positive several days earlier and my mom was calling from the parking lot of a local hospital, where she’d just left my father at the curb of a newly created entrance for coronavirus patients. She hadn’t experienced any symptoms (“maybe I had a little bit of a scratchy throat last week”) but dad was in rough shape, unable to eat or talk.
What he wasn’t, we soon learned, was sick enough to be admitted. The nurses administered an IV full of fluids and basically carried him back to the car. But on the phone, before his return, my mom ping-ponged between dread and confusion. There was a “could this really be how it ends?” undercurrent that I willed myself not to hear.
It took a month and three more hospital visits, but dad recovered. Some 320,000 Americans did not. Let’s remember them, and the families who have suffered painful losses, before we attempt to wrap a happy holiday bow around this garbage barge of a year.
Better times are ahead. They’re not here yet. Let’s beat this thing together.
This week’s Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing is 1,358 words and will take you six minutes to read.
For all the low humanity we’ve been exposed to during the last nine months – the maskless processions through Target, the prioritization of politics over public health – the best of us has similarly been on display. Physicians and other healthcare providers worked themselves ragged. Scientists executed an unprecedented turnaround on vaccines (note the plural). Grocery store clerks and correctional officers and meatpackers went to work every day at great risk to themselves and, ultimately, their families. They pushed forward, because what other choice was there?
- McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News revisit their most read and most important stories of the year. Given that care facilities have been COVID hot zones since the start of the pandemic, the McKnight’s journalists covering the industry can’t be praised enough for the diligence and compassion of their reporting.
- MM+M’s My 2020 video series chronicling life and work amid the pandemic ends with entries from Alcon’s Melissa Thompson and Ogilvy Health’s Ritesh Patel, as well as from MM+M staffers themselves.
- The multitalented Jack Sonni wrote this guide to well-deserved holiday cocktails for Medical Bag’s audience of physicians, but I suspect he’d be okay with the rest of us indulging in a sip or 17. Medical Bag offers up some gift ideas, as well.
- In PRWeek, Natasha Bach views the year in communications technology through the COVID lens. Also in PRWeek, SourceCode’s Rebecca Honeyman explains how COVID has prompted brands to focus less on KPIs and more on people.
- Campaign’s Mariah Cooper weighs in on the year’s best holiday ads. A definite thread of graciousness-during-impossible-pandemic-circumstances runs through the list. Campaign also showcases five of the agency world’s most fun holiday cards.
- We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: It’s been an impressive year for data visualization. It can’t go down as a silver lining for obvious reasons, but it’s a great trend for journalism going forward.
- Unofficial Coronavirus Briefing pollster CivicScience checks in with research around in-person holiday celebrations, re-gifting in the age of COVID and holiday presents for pets. The overall worry? That this year’s holidays are going to look a lot like last year’s holidays, which is going to send infection rates through the roof. Once more, with feeling: Be safe and smart, people.
The takeaway: Heroes have not been in short supply. There is plenty for which to be thankful.
The first recipients
A buddy of mine, an emergency room physician, received the vaccine the first day it was available. When we took the kids sledding over the weekend, he still wore a mask. Whether or not you’re in the first wave of vaccine recipients or the 18th, be like my friend.
- President-Elect Biden got the shot. Vice President Pence got the shot. Dr. Fauci got the shot. Kudos to all leaders who go out of their way to instill confidence in the vaccination process, no matter where they sit on the political spectrum.
- New Jersey missed a deadline to provide the federal government with information about its registered long-term care facilities, so vaccinations in its nursing homes won’t commence until December 28, Danielle Brown reports in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. The lack of urgency, even in states that “got it right” in most other areas, is equal parts baffling and enraging.
- More and more Americans say they’re ready to receive the COVID vaccine, according to a recent poll. Some organizations are advocating to pay people for doing so, if it comes to that.
- That’s it. That’s the tweet.
The takeaway: There have been hiccups, as witnessed by the New Jersey story immediately above. But all in all, it feels like we’re off to a good start.
The longer haul
Given that the future has been changing every few hours since March, I’m hesitant to make any predictions about the stretch that lies immediately ahead of us, much less 2021 writ large. So let’s go with “the Chiefs are going to win back-to-back Super Bowls” and call it a wrap on all prognostication-related activities.
- It took several months longer than anyone would’ve liked or expected, but Congress has passed a second COVID-19 relief bill. Provisions include direct payments of $600, support for the ailing live-music business and a tax deduction for… business meals? The latter will apparently support restaurants. Okay, then.
- In Cancer Therapy Advisor, Christina Bennett reports on new recommendations around cancer care and research issued by the American Society of Clinical Oncology in the wake of COVID-19.
- McKnight’s Senior Living’s Amy Novotney unpacks a New York Times report noting that most Americans haven’t tapped into their retirement plans during the pandemic.
- Medical Bag’s Colleen Stinchcombe spells out how physicians are treating COVID long-haulers.
- In MM+M, John Newton writes about the most recent iteration of the “Little Lungs” animated anti-smoking campaign – and about overcoming the challenges confronting non-COVID-related health education and awareness efforts.
- Writing in Campaign, Starcom chief executive Nadine Young identifies 10 COVID-era phrases that need to remain in heavy rotation post-pandemic.
- STAT serves up an explainer on the new strain of the coronavirus currently running amok in England. How many words in the English language are scarier than “mutation”? Not many.
The takeaway: Here’s hoping that a year from now, there won’t be any pressing reason for newsletters to materialize in your emailboxes every week. But let’s stay in touch nonetheless, okay?
- From The Onion, a slideshow of the 4 Other Human Beings We Saw This Year and a look at State-By-State COVID-19 Restrictions. Long live The Onion.
- Apparently things happened during January and February this year, too. Beyond Kobe, it’s all a blur to me now.
- In this era more than any other, it is often necessary to separate the art from the artist. Or at least the art made during the 1960s and 1970s.
…and some songs.
That’s it for this final 2020 edition of the Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing… and that’s it for the Briefing itself, at least in this incarnation. On Wednesday January 6, we’ll be back in your emailboxes with The Vaccine Project, the newsletter component of a larger communications effort exploring the logistical, behavioral and informational challenges that come with vaccinating the world population. We strongly suspect that there will be no shortage of material to cover and insights to share, and we’ll do it in the same style that you’ve come to enjoy – we hope – in the Coronavirus Briefing.
Many thanks for reading and especially for your support and encouragement over the course of the last nine months. Wishing those who celebrate a Merry Christmas and a Happy Kwanzaa, and here’s to a 2021 that we never once describe as “unprecedented.”