The frontlines of the war on Covid-19 offer views of a disease that have politics and misinformation scraped away. There are only people suffering and those trying to help.


10 people who shaped how we think about Covid-19 in 2020

A spotlight on 10 deeply-relatable people who helped inform our understanding of Covid-19's place in history.

While the fast-spreading pandemic quickly became politicized in the US, healthcare providers and patients, and the healthcare providers who became patients, were focused on mitigating a slow-rolling disaster as it mushroomed in New York City, went through an expected summer lull, and roared into rural America as the seasons turned.

Over the course of 2020, Inverse reported on people who were informing our understanding of Covid-19, from a moderator of the subreddit dedicated to debunking false claims about the disease, to a Chicago nurse who may never smell or taste again, to the people who make up a "long-hauler" support group, and even a detective searching for the next Covid-19 in animals in Africa.

Below is a look back at some of those singular stories reported on by us this year. We're sharing them again to shine another light on the work of these people as we approach 2021, with the hope their experiences can shape how more people think about, and prepare, for the road ahead.

Solomon George surveying cattle in Liberia.

1. Solomon George, Vet "Detective", Liberia

In June, Inverse reported on Solomon George, an intrepid veterinary epidemiologist roaming the farms, markets, and jungles of Liberia searching for the next Covid-19. Stretched thin with minimal funding, George and other vet "detectives" are running interference between humans and the next zoonotic disease outbreak.

“People do not really try to really see it as urgent when you say animals are dying,” George told Inverse.

“But when you talk about a loss of a human life, you claim attention. Before a single human life is lost, we could have avoided that situation if we address it from the animal.”

Read the full story here.

Darlene Bhavnani, a contact tracer based in Texas, has been teaching other public health professionals how to deal with compassion fatigue.

2. Darlene Bhavnani, Contact Tracer, Texas

In August, Inverse reported on Darlene Bhavnani, an epidemiologist and contact tracer in Texas tracking down the spread of coronavirus in her local community. Contact tracers, Bhavnani explained, experience a serious emotional toll as they perform an underappreciated public service that saves lives.

“It can be really emotionally draining on our tracers to listen to the stories and then not be able to fully help meet all those needs that go unmet," Bhavnani told Inverse. "There are some needs that are beyond our control, and it can be difficult and emotionally stressful to listen to that."

Bhavnani is training other contact tracers in combating compassion fatigue and finding a sustainable way to keep up the work.

Read the full story here.

Gloria Lee playing violin during 2020's coronavirus pandemic.

3. Gloria Lee, Violinist and Human Challenge volunteer, New York City

In May, as Covid-19 battered New York City, Lee signed up to participate in a human challenge trial. The Covid-19 human challenge trial never kicked off, but if she had been selected, Lee would be intentionally infected with Covid-19 by scientists looking to test a vaccine.

“During the lockdown, it was very odd to go out and see New York completely dead and no bustling, no concerts," Lee told Inverse.

"The fact that life has stalled so much has allowed me to really think about what I can do to contribute.”

Read the full story here.

Emerson Boggs moderates misinformation on one of the most popular coronavirus in the world: R/CORONAVIRUS.

4. Emerson Ailidh Boggs, virologist and moderator of Covid-19 subreddit, Pittsburgh

Boggs is the moderator of one of the biggest and most active Covid-19 forums on the internet: r/coronavirus. On the subreddit — which has 2.3 million members and counting — Boggs and her team aim to keep people safe and informed by offering reliable information throughout the pandemic.

"Being able to moderate and makes me feel like I'm contributing or have a sense of purpose in a situation where otherwise I'm completely out of control," Boggs told Inverse.

Read the full story here.

Long-hauler Jody Britt is raising awareness and advocating for treatment options for long-haulers who feel isolated and misunderstood.

5. Jody Britt, long-hauler and advocate, Brooklyn, New York

Since becoming infected with Covid-19 in March, Britt has faced painful or uncomfortable symptoms nearly every day. These range from brain fog to full-body tremors. Banding together with long-haulers across the country, Britt is advocating for more treatment options and support.

"These are the most courageous people I have ever met in my life," Britt told Inverse.

"What's coming out is this ability to — as a community — be vulnerable, and yet at the same time, stand up for what we need, which is care."

Read the full story here.

To wrench control back, Tim Wils donated plasma to potentially help other Covid-19 patients.

6. Tim Wils, plasma donor and student, New York City

After Wils faced and beat Covid-19, he couldn't shake a feeling of helplessness. Then he heard that he could donate his plasma to potentially help treat other patients with Covid-19.

"I realized I'm just the kind of person who can feel helpless and hopeless in a situation like this," Wils says. "It gives me my power back to help other people, which this pandemic really stole from me."

Read the full story here.

Christina Alexander lost her sense of smell from Covid-19 but hopes she can be a helpful case study to assist other people losing their senses due to Covid-19.

7. Christina Alexander, nurse practitioner and Covid-19 survivor, Chicago

Due to her Covid-19 illness, Alexander lost her sense of smell for over eight months. She explained to Inverse what it's like to lose such a fundamental sensory function, and is now working with doctors to unwind the effects of this mysterious virus. She's a powerful living example of how the novel coronavirus influences the young.

"I get really frustrated when people in their twenties are reckless because I'm 26-years-old and completely healthy, and this happened," Alexander told Inverse.

"There is a reason to be wearing a mask because this is 100 percent real. It's not a hoax. People get it and they have lifelong symptoms."

Read the full story here.

The Pfizer vaccine being administered.

Joe Raedle / Staff

8. Julie Pfeffer, vaccine trial participant, New Orleans

Pfeffer, one of 43,000 vaccine trial participants, has been left wondering when she can get vaccinated after offering her body for testing in Pfizer's Phase 3 clinical trial. If she received the placebo shot in the trial, Pfeffer hopes she will have the chance to get the vaccine.

“I think for any trial like this, you want to demonstrate to the world at large, that you're treating your trial participants well,” Pfeffer told Inverse. “If they can show that they're doing right by the volunteers I think that goes a long way to getting volunteers in the future."

Read the full story here.

Dr. Derek Farley wearing his makeshift scuba PPE.

9. Derek Farley, an osteopathic physician treating Covid-19 patients, Little Elm, Texas

With a serious scarcity of personal protective equipment, doctors like Farley are converting common objects like scuba gear into makeshift PPE. Despite inadequate resources, health care providers tirelessly care for patients — often at their own risk.

"The policymakers didn't foresee this or put any readily actionable plan that would help us out," Farley told Inverse, reference the PPE shortage.

"You're asking us to intubate these folks and expose ourselves without the proper equipment. It feels like we've been hung out to dry."

Read the full story here.

Virtual daters show the pandemic can't kill romance.

Simone Golob

10. Sofia*, an entrepreneur and online dater, Cape Town, South Africa

Even though the pandemic makes dating harder than ever, people like Sofia managed to find — and keep love — through virtual dating.

“I think it’s so cool that you can be on the other side of the world and you meet someone who is a complete match for you,” Sofia told Inverse.

While coronavirus has shut down typical aspects of social life, people like Sofia and her partner show romance doesn’t have to die because we’re all stuck at home.

Read the full story here.

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