Penn Pandemic Diary Penn Pandemic Diary, Entry #6: Coming Together - How A Nation Embroiled in Crisis Recovers

April 2, 2020
By Ali Khambati | Penn Pandemic Diary

Ali Khambati is a sophomore at the Wharton School majoring in Economics with a double concentration in Finance and Decision-Making and a Perry World House Student Fellow.

The coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19, has gripped much of the world in paralyzing fear these past few weeks. Hospitals have been inundated, the national guard has deployed, and the stock market has entered a period of historical volatility and uncertainty: our lives are rapidly changing before us.

Coming from a privileged background in Dallas, a city largely untouched by the epidemic, I expected minimal disruptions in my daily routine. I had a cavalier attitude to social distancing and self-quarantining. After all, I am 19 with a strong immune system. Thus, when Dallas county announced non-essential shelter-in-place rules a few days after I had returned from Penn, I was quite vocal in my displeasure. I didn’t want to be cooped up in my house for 14 days.

However, a couple days passed, and a new reality and awareness began to set in. First, I learned a best friend’s dad has just been diagnosed with the virus. Then, I learned there was a high chance my mother’s practice might have to be shut down due to her inability to see patients in-person. While I had always assured myself the long-term implications of this virus would be negligible, I started think beyond my own personal world. For example, I’ve worried about people who were already living paycheck to paycheck. How would they cope?

I now know this disease is more important than any individual and I now understand the importance of acting quickly before we started down an unavoidable path to a gloomy future ravaged by the coronavirus. While I might, and probably will, be fine, it isn’t about that. It’s about the people who might not be fine, and as a collective nation, it is our responsibility to think about those people every time we make a choice.

As a result, for all the terrible things that have come from coronavirus, I think there is potential for a positive to emerge. Coronavirus may require us to follow social distancing, but it can still bring our nation closer together. Politics could stop being about petty partisan bickering, and instead about doing what’s best to the people America and the wider world.

We have already started to see this in glimpses. They’re the positive changes happening now. Elon Musk shut down production of Tesla and pledged to help Mayor Bill DeBlasio and the city of New York with their shortage of ventilators. In making that decision, Musk wasn’t thinking about his own well-being, but the well-being of the nation.

We know not what the future holds for us. Maybe we will enter a deep recession, which could affect many undergraduate’s ability to find employment post-graduation. There are countless other hypotheticals we could endlessly ponder over. That misses the point. Rather than focus on unknowns, we should focus on what we do know: the fact that absent collective global action, this problem will persist.

The views expressed in the Penn Pandemic Diary are solely the author’s and not those of Penn or Perry World House.