Although the first known COVID-19 case was documented in late January of 2020, most U.S. cities were reporting cases by the end of February. Three years ago this time, the country was in full pandemic mode. We had no comprehension of what was coming. None. As we’ve slowly come out of the fog, what have we learned that can benefit humanity going forward?

To date, the worldwide numbers stand at nearly seven million deaths and a little over 761 million confirmed cases. According to the Center for Disease Control, cases in this country have topped 106 million with nearly 1.2 million losing the battle to the formidable virus.

The United States likes to beat its chest about being the most powerful, most intelligent, most resourceful country in the universe. From the jump, it always held the top spot for the most cases and the most deaths for the coronavirus. This country did poorly, even compared to developing countries like China and India who have almost three times the population as the U.S.

With new cases on the decline, we have some breathing room to look at our behaviors, our values and our systems. Were we stuck on stupid? More interested in taking political and economic advantage of the situation than responding in a sophisticated, humane way? Too individualistic to care about anyone other than our own families?

We saw that companies readily put profits over the safety of their workers, often forcing them to work without adequate protections from the virus. They exploited the situation by creating demand for products to raise prices. We saw people fighting over toilet paper. When people got evicted because they couldn’t work and lost their jobs, storage companies tripled their rental fees to house the modest belongings.

The sitting so-called president showed contempt for science and refused to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation. We burned through first responders, hospital workers, teachers and other frontliners because we refused to wear masks and get vaccinated, which helped to skyrocket the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Having said this, we also proved to be resilient versatile. We learned that we can be kind, disciplined and creative. We heard and saw countless incidents of humans bringing food, medicine and joy to others - masked up and socially distanced. We found ways to use Zoom beyond the dreaded meetings for the job, like setting up virtual musical concerts with people around the world.

In times of isolation and silence, we tapped into unexplored realms of our being and discovered new relationships, new hobbies and new careers. We learned how essential family, friends and nature are to our overall well-being. We understood our inter-connectedness in deep and practical ways.

There are still plenty of unknowns. Nearly 35 percent of small businesses didn’t survive the pandemic and another hefty percentage is still struggling for viability. We don’t know what the implications of “long COVID” will be on individual families or the economy, particularly the labor market and the healthcare system.

Millions of students were thrown into virtual learning and virtually learned little; the impact of their arrested academic development is still to be determined. Our young people are showing signs of stress and a predisposition to violent behavior.

COVID-19 has all but faded from the headlines, buried beneath the stories of military invasions, Hollywood’s latest scandal and high prices at the grocery store. The emotional, social, economic and political toll will sit with us for years. How will we adjust to the new normal? What’s gonna’ change?

We can’t let the government off the hook because we pay them to serve and protect us. It must be held accountable for what it does or does not do in our best interests. We can’t hope that the corporations will tackle this in the name of humanity. Capitalism will do what capitalism does.

The People will have to take matters into our own hands. We have to make sure that history does not repeat itself. We must organize to take care of our communities. We should welcome all those honest allies who want to join us in taking on the systems that maintain the race and class inequities that result in our pain and suffering.

Our promise to one another is never to let our loved ones go through the trauma and grief of the last three years. Never again.

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member and Columnist, Jamala Rogers, founder and Chair Emeritus of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis. She is an organizer, trainer and speaker. She is the author of The Best of the Way I See It – A Chronicle of Struggle. Other writings by Ms. Rogers can be found on her blog jamalarogers.com. Contact Ms. Rogers and BC.

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