Editor’s Note: This week for “We’ve got your Weekend,” we are spotlighting Kayla Cutno’s piece on the Netflix documentary series Pandemic: How to Prevent An Outbreak. If you are like the 167 million subscribers to Netflix, you are deep in the trenches of searching for new shows. If you’ve already watched The Tiger King more than you ever wanted to (or are avoiding it completely), then you might be ready for something more topical. With orders to continue a “shelter in place,” here’s Cutno’s take on the Pandemic series that hits close to home while were staying at home. And remember, if you are looking for more “at home” weekends, check out week one, week two, week three, and week four of the weekend for “shelter in place.”
The coronavirus has shifted life as we know it abruptly and has changed each person’s perspective on the world around them. We all have been asking questions of whether this coronavirus pandemic could have been preventable, but according to the new 2020 Netflix documentary series Pandemic: How to Prevent An Outbreak, another pandemic like the deadly influenza of 1918 was only bound to happen again in society. The episode with the most value to our current circumstances is the first episode because of its introduction and breakdown to the complexities of a pandemic and our global health system. Here are a few things we can learn from this Netflix documentary series, the importance of documentation on our current crisis, as well as what we can do going forward.
Pandemic’s first episode explores the severe impact a pandemic can have and describes how quickly viruses and bacteria can kill us. Dr. Syra Madad says that “What worries me is that it just takes one person to start an outbreak. We’re basically human incubators, we can host a number of different diseases.” Dr. Madad describes the virus as being far more fatal than conventional warfare because we cannot physically see the virus. Next, we meet Dr. Holly Grocke, who is a small-town doctor in Jefferson County, Oklahoma. Grocke explains her love for being a small-town physician and the intimate relationships she builds with patients that a large city doctor doesn’t ever get to experience. She explains that to be a small doctor can be stressful, tiring, and a big sacrifice due to lack of funding and staff. Grocke believed that if there was ever to be a pandemic, her small-town hospital would be one of the last to receive aid because of the class discriminations of small town versus big cities. Lastly, we are presented with possible hope from doctors Jake Glanville and Sarah Ives of Distributed Health, who are working a universal vaccination to cure all influenza. Glanville reminds us that creating something like this is very risky, timely, and costly. As the series continues, we see the work of scientist Glanville and Ives, but I won’t spoil it for you! You must go watch the continuing episodes to see how it ends.
Something that stood out to me that we are seeing now is the disproportionate effects influenza can have on first responders, nurses, and doctors. Our first responders put their lives and families live on the line every day to help fight off diseases, and in our current pandemic state, we can see the strain it puts on themselves, their family’s relationships, as well as the possible death. Nevertheless, they do this every day and we should be nothing but grateful. We should also not take their work for granted or in vain for personal pleasures such as small gatherings and wanting to be around friends. To continue to strain our physicians and essential workers far more than they already will not be our only problems if we don’t take a pandemic seriously.
The film also explains that we will see severe issues with infrastructure operations (ex. power plants and workforce), disruptive impact on food supplies — dying from not just influenza but modern preventable deaths with a long-term pandemic. Because no one is immune, we should not tread lightly to how all our everyday essentials are powered and produced by other human beings who also put their lives on the line. Because they’re not able to social distance like the rest of us, they’re also more likely to be infected by the virus. As they continue to be exposed, this leaves for a smaller number of people to operate, and ultimately a smaller supply on basic needs.
What we should take away from the Netflix documentary series is not to be fearful, but to be conscious and aware of what’s going on in everyday life. Pandemic has let us know that the coronavirus isn’t the end of the world but will disrupt and change our society forever. The next step to navigating our current state is to document the current effects we see from Coronavirus. These documentations, like any form of historical documentation, will aid us in the future. Our stories will shape how we deal with the next pandemic of the future. It will teach us where we have done well, as well as where we can improve. We as individuals should look at the different ways we can help stop the spread by simply social distancing, but also small ways we can volunteer or use our talents to aid those around us. Whatever the case is, to do your part and aware will be part of the way we win the battle with the coronavirus.