Pandemic Panic

Pandemic Panic

Christine Van Geyn (CA)

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In October 2022, the economist Emily Oster wrote a plea for a “pandemic amnesty”. After detailing various ill-conceived public health policies throughout the pandemic, Oster concluded that “The standard saying is that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. But dwelling on the mistakes of history can lead to a repetitive doom loop as well.” She reasoned that many admittedly poor, public health decisions were made in an information vacuum and that the salubrious thing to do going forward would be to forgive and forget.

Oster was concerned about the fraying social fabric because of polarizing online discourse and urged the need to move forward. However, our anecdotal experience has shown a second common response to pandemic mishaps- going blank entirely on what occurred during the pandemic. We have observed a phenomenon of the surreal, sometimes inane, often unprecedented and unusual public health measures taken over the roughly three-year pandemic period being “memory holed”, where the mind completely fogs over. Many times in the course of writing this book, we have messaged one another upon unearthing one public policy absurdity upon another: the City of Toronto taping off cherry blossoms, Quebec requiring unvaccinated people to be chaperoned in plexiglass carts through the essential aisles of big-box stores.

We are not psychologists, but no doubt there is an evolutionary benefit to allowing a collective trauma to dissolve into the slip-stream: it’s unproductive to dwell on how we got by and how our government coped in real-time. Our memories are warped, first, by the “primacy effect”— our tendency to remember “firsts” exemplified by people universally naming George Washington when asked to recall former U.S. presidents. Most people have a crystal clear memory of the moment their plague year started in earnest— for us and many others; it was March 11, 2020, the day the NBA suspended games for the rest of the season.

Product details

ISBN-13: 9780888903495

Number of pages: 280

Format: Paperback / softback Trade paperback (US)

Imprint: Optimum Publishing International

English en