An outbreak of a brand new disease that was first identified in December 2019—named by the World Health Organization as "coronavirus disease 2019" or "COVID-19" for short (often referred to as a "coronavirus outbreak"note due to it first being publicized before the disease's identification as a new strain of coronavirus related to SARS and MERS, named "severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2" or "SARS-CoV-2")—was recognized as a pandemic by the WHO on March 11, 2020. As of May 2021, it has infected over 161.9 million people, with over 3.3 million deaths. The disease's outbreak and its subsequent progress and effects on the world were and are, without a question, the defining event of 2020 (and one of the main reasons why the year was "the worst" for many people), and may well end up defining the decade that is to follow.
Also see The Spanish Flu, a major influenza pandemic which happened about a century before COVID-19 with similar patterns.
Overall history of the pandemic:
- "Essential worker": Someone working a position considered necessary for social function. Definitions of what is "essential" varied based on national or local values: Medical personnel, police, firefighters, deliverers of goods like truck drivers and sailors, people in food-processing operations such as meat packers, farmers, and grocery store employees, and some other functions such as journalists and support personnel. Other occupations were restricted to varying degrees depending on the severity of the infection rate and, ultimately, the decisions of public officials.
- "Flattening the curve": An epidemiological slogan referring to the importance of reducing physical contact with others to limit the spread of infection, encouraging those not at great personal risk of severe illness to think in the interests of those that are.
- "Lockdown": A near total requirement for all persons to remain at home and not travel except for essential work or emergencies. In practice, there were usually limited exceptions even in the strictest of lockdowns, allowing people to shop for food or possibly exercise outdoors.
- "Social/physical distancing": A requirement that people maintain at least two meters/six feet distance from other people (except family members) and wear a mask or face covering when in public areas where other contact with people might occur or when in an enclosed public space (like when using public transportation or inside buildings).
- "Superspreader event": A gathering of 25 or more people where attendees are not practicing social distancing and/or not wearing masks, leading to the risk of mass infections.
The pandemic led to increased public concerns about personal health and food hygiene, with social distancing being enforced. Business, education, and non-essential trade in many countries were suspended; it was estimated that more than 1.7 billion students globally were affected by school suspension, as classes shifted online to varying degrees of success. The aviation and tourism industries were hit especially hard, as many countries enacted travel bans and lockdowns. By the end of March 2020 it had spread to the rest of the economy, with the U.S. losing an unprecedented 10 million jobs in the last two weeks of March. The previous highest single-week job loss was 685,000 jobs in 1982. The last week of March, 2020 managed 10 times that loss. By April 16th, the US had lost over 22 million jobs in just a month. For comparison, it took 3 years for The Great Depression to lose 25 million jobs.note By the end of May 2020, the job losses were exceeding 40 million. Many economists believe that the global economy has spiraled into a deep recession that has been called the "Great Lockdown" and the "Great Shutdown", with the economic loss having already become far greater than the Great Recession of the late 2000s.
The pandemic has also caused supply shortages across the globe from hand sanitizers, food, toilet paper, hand soaps, surgical masks, protective gear, and even hair dye (primarily due to mass panic buying in the early months), thus forcing grocery stores to ration produce and goods. The food shortages are made even worse when farmers are forced to destroy their own crops and produce despite the significantly increased demand for food from grocery stores and food banks.note
The United States ended 2020 with the most infections and deaths in the world. To date, over 33 million people infected and over 590,000 deathsnote have been recorded in the US alone. Most of the infections and deaths came from the Northeast from March to May 2020, and later, from the southern States and California.note
As of early January 2021, emergency-approval-granted vaccines are entering deployment, but despite hundreds of millions of doses having already been produced and used, billions more need to follow suit, and the timeline for widescale immunisation efforts range from anywhere between mid-to-late 2021 to early 2023 depending on the country. Considering the virus was known only in late 2019, this is still the fastest that a vaccine has been developed for any disease and the first time a vaccine has been successfully developed for any coronavirus. While this has led some to suspect the vaccines have been "rushed" and might not be safe, in reality it seems to simply be a matter of medical science being more advanced than in the past. It also helped that much of the research into SARS-CoV-1 (the virus behind the 2002 SARS outbreak) was useful in creating vaccines for the related SARS-CoV-2, not to mention that the modern ubiquity of online communication allowed for more rapid pooling of scientific resources that allowed work to progress at a much more efficient rate than in previous decades. However, the threat of a treatment-resistant mutation constantly lingers overhead (owing to the lack of available scientific literature on how the virus mutates or how vaccines respond to mutations), meaning that physical distancing and mask wearing to prevent further spread and chance of mutations remains critical for the foreseeable future.
Elsewhere in East Asia, neighboring countries were able to successfully contain the virus. Despite initial fears of massive outbreaks because of their urbanized populations and proximity to China, the nearby Asian countries kept the pandemic under control with nearly all citizens wearing masks and governments carrying out intensive testing for quarantining carriers. Mask-wearing was particularly crucial as the tightly-packed nature of cities like Tokyo and Singapore make it nearly impossible for social distancing. Even more remarkable is how the Asian countries were so well-equipped for the pandemic that they didn't even need to go into lockdown to set up the necessary health care infrastructure; many observers have attributed this readiness to previous experience with disease outbreaks like the SARS and MERS. However, while countries like Vietnam have mostly limited the virus' spread, case and death counts in once-"secure" countries like Japan and South Korea began to rise in late November, forcing those countries to go into lockdowns. Japan, in particular, is reeling significantly from the economic opportunity costs wasted by their previous preparations for the postponed 2020 Olympics, which has already experienced cost overruns. Not helping matters is that Japanese politicians and the International Olympic Committee are pushing ahead with the games despite concerns from Japanese scientists regarding the increasing number of cases and a low vaccination rate.
India currently has the world's second-highest number of cases, after the US. It was a Hope Spot when it came to combatting COVID, initially; the government locked down quickly with relatively low case rates and deaths, albeit with millions of Indians left stranded when public transportation was closed. Then, 2021 saw an abrupt spike with average daily new cases jumping from around 10,000 in February to well over 400,000 by April, leading to an uptick in deaths that's becoming harder to keep track of. The deluge overwhelmed India's already-beleaguered healthcare system to the brink with hospitals running out of beds and oxygen tanks while pyres are burning 24/7. It in turn forced other nations to donate vaccines, medical workers, and other supplies to India as a way to save lives in the short term and mitigate the risk of future virus mutations. Not only this, India was forced to halt vaccine supplies, threatening the global vax drive in poor countries whose healthcare systems are chronically ill-equipped. The spike can be traced to lax social distancing rules at large public events and a new "double mutant" variant that emerged in late 2020. Like Trump and Bolsonaro, India's prime minister Narendra Modi (widely polarizing even before the pandemic) has been panned for focusing more on the upcoming local elections, exploiting the pandemic to quash dissent, ignoring medical experts' advice (who have warned that this spike will be more brutal than the first), and his slow response to the second wave, which is spreading faster to rural areas, where quality access to hospitals is poor and the jab rate is low due to vaccine hesitancy. Many think the tally is a severe undercount as India's healthcare system is quite unreliable at monitoring outbreaks even before the pandemic. Further complicating the crisis is an outbreak of mucormycosis (Black Fungus) infections that appeared in patients taking anti-inflammatory COVID treatments. As with Brazil, countries have imposed travel bans on South Asia out of fears that the region is a new ground zero for more dangerous variants of the virus.
Among Middle Eastern countries, Israel is a rather unusual case. While the country did lockdown early and has one of the highest vaccination rates (more than 80% as of this writing), the pandemic further damaged the reputation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Already controversial before the pandemic, Netanyahu was heavily criticized for the high lockdown-induced unemployment rates and inconsistent policies; most notably, his lax enforcement of COVID restrictions among Ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are his strongest supporters, lead to religious gatherings becoming superspreader events. Not helping matters is how Palestinians received lower vaccination rates and less financial support, leading to further inflamed tensions. Some of Netanyahu's critics have even accused him of exploiting the pandemic to suppress dissent and distract from corruption charges against him. Subsequently, his premiership in 2020 experienced some of the largest protests in Israeli history, which only intensified following harsh crackdowns by the police and military. Not even the successful vaccination campaign managed to save Netanyahu's career with the 2021 election resulted in his party losing seats and yielding a hung parliament.
The United States and CanadaOne reason for the disastrous U.S. situation is that lockdown measures caused widespread protests and unrest in the United States, with President Donald Trump's administration demanding that various state governors end the lockdown measures and stay-at-home orders and "reopen the economy" as opposed to encouraging/helping people to stay home and keep businesses closed via financial aid. Trump faced criticism for his pandemic responses, which included claiming that the virus itself was comparable to the flu which, even if valid, should have the "from hell" qualifier and promoting dangerous hoax treatments (such as chloroquine, oleandrin, and bleach). Trump's comments about injecting bleach prompted the CDC and disinfectant manufacturers to state these products are unsafe to ingest in any shape or form. Trump's Secretary of the Navy was also criticized for firing US Navy captain Brett Crozier for whistleblowing on infected sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Even wearing a surgical mask to slow the spread of the virus became a particular flashpoint issue, in part due to Trump's vocal distaste for it, which caused his supporters to see masks as at best useless because they aren't 100% effective and at worst mind-control devices on the basis that the type of mask typically used isn't unwieldy gas masks. Many accused the Trump administration's attacks on the World Health Organization and decision to withdraw from it of being an attempt to distract from their own mishandling of the pandemic. Many "essential" workers who are not subject to stay-at-home measures (medical workers, grocery store clerks, etc.) argue they are not being properly protected and/or compensated for their continued work as is, and are only put more at risk by relaxations of safety measures further highlighting the continued class and racial disparities at work in the U.S. and the failures of the government to provide for the common good in a crisis.
Due in part to pressure from both Washington and their residents, many states started easing up on stay-at-home orders by or on Memorial Day weekend, only to see people often defying any social distancing/mask-wearing restrictions that remained, resulting in a dramatic uptick of cases and new shortages of protective equipment for workers at hospitals. Matters only worsened as waves of unrest after the death of George Floyd launched that summer, which many attributed in part to the pandemic, since there was so little to distract people from viral news stories about Police Brutality and similarly large anti-lockdown protests of the spring had met little resistance. Even with many demonstrators wearing masks and attempting to distance themselves from each other in the open air, the size of the protests helped lend credence to the idea that it was time for the country to reopen. There followed a number of potential "superspreader" events related to the "reopen the economy" movement e.g. Walt Disney World reopening in July as infections in Florida were reaching record levels, K-12 schools and colleges being pushed to reopen the following month after attempts at online "distance learning" largely failed (especially for poor families), and even/especially Trump's 2020 Presidential campaign rallies, which often discouraged/ignored masks and social distancing.
Tellingly, a second wave of COVID-19 emerged that summer directly contrasting predictions that the virus would be less prevalent as a result of the hotter weather affecting young adults more heavily than before and leading to the pandemic again becoming the top point of focus in the news cycle and public discussion, eclipsing the protests. Many analysts pin the second wave more on the mass reopenings, particularly in the southern states and California where most of the infections and deaths occurred, as a result of people participating in them being much less likely than the protesters to adhere to protective practices.
In one of the most dramatic or, to many, so predictable that the only surprise is that it didn't happen sooner twists in an already-dramatic period, Trump and many of his associates caught the virus in late September. Trump's case was severe enough he had to be hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center for a few days. Even after this, he continued to downplay the severity of the pandemic, arguing people could not let it "dominate" their lives and even claiming he was immune to it as he returned to maskless campaigning. What was generally regarded as a third wave began in the back half of October, now with virtually the entire country seeing huge upticks in cases and hospitalizations as colder weather set in (discouraging outdoor gatherings, dining, etc.) and many continued to flout social distancing and mask rules. The Trump administration shifted its focus to managing the pandemic rather than ending it, putting its emphasis on the development of vaccines and treatments rather than reinforcing rules, reintroducing lockdowns, and/or providing economic aid to hurting families and business owners. Public frustration and disapproval with Trump's handling of the pandemic was likely the key factor in Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election, though the final results were delayed by several days due to states adjusting their systems to the wave of mail-in voting. There was also a surge in gun sales and a run on the market in precious metals due to the fear of potential societal collapse due to the coronavirus outbreak and uncertainty over how the election would pan out.
Trump's final days in office were far more focused on trying to overturn the election results than work on anything related to the pandemic, even as the slower-than-hoped rollout of vaccines and additional economic stimulus further frustrated Americans and daily death tolls regularly topped 4,000; indeed, Trump continued to claim without evidence that the Democrats used the pandemic to enable postal voter fraud. Trump's efforts to overturn the election itself created a superspreader event when he instigated a mob to storm the US Capitol during the election certification which resulted in five deaths; during the storming, many of the rioters and even evacuating Republican Congresspeople refused to wear masks in the tight shelters, resulting in many Capitol Hill police and elected officials becoming infected, including a cancer survivor.
The new Biden administration focused its first efforts on responding to COVID, in a noticeable change of direction from the previous administration. Biden signed executive orders to make mask-wearing mandatory in federal buildings and given the reins to medical officials to respond to the pandemic; multiple holdovers from the prior administration have openly expressed relief and delight to the press for no longer being actively contradicted or questioned by the sitting president. The vaccine rollout continued to be slow in January, largely due to a lack of an inherited distribution plan. Not helping matters is how intense snowstorms in early February resulted in power failures that further hampered vaccination efforts in many states. Fortunately, vaccine distribution picked up speed over the next few weeks, topping 3 million per day, and Biden announced that the nation will have produced enough vaccines for every American adult by May. Biden also signed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that Democrats pushed through Congress without Republican support. However, some state governors have already begun to ease or completely end COVID restrictions and mask mandates in moves criticized by health experts as premature. Additionally, despite the endorsement of the vaccines by the majority of the nation's leaders, even Trump, the widespread proliferation of "anti-vax" conspiracies that predated the pandemic by several years and accelerated during the pandemic have led many to decline getting vaccinated. By April of 2021, the US case load was running at a plateau of 50-70,000 cases a day, primarily among young people not yet eligible for vaccines, as the rapid rollout of vaccines blunted but didn't completely eliminate a 4th wave, with certain regions especially badly hit, with Michigan as an exceptional standout.
North of the U.S., Canada has had much better success in containing the virus to an extent, due in part to bipartisan cooperation from various politicians on all levels of government that set aside differences to flatten the curve. Notably, Ontario Premier Doug Ford (a conservative) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (a liberal), who have butted heads in the past, worked famously together to handle the pandemic. Thanks to their efforts, the curve was stabilized to a cautiously optimistic level in August of 2020, but in October the second wave of infections began, resulting in more lockdowns. Federally, the government was forced to institute unprecedented social programs for those who were now unemployed by the pandemic, measures that were seen by many Canadians as being a critical lifeline. The pandemic also shined a light onto the failures of the systems as they were, and forced the government to resolve them into a "21st-century system." Some of these social programs included the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) note , a reduction of requirements for Employment Insurance benefits, and benefits for sickness, maternity, and saving graces for gig economy and self-employed people. As a result of these and a careful strategy to dealing with the pandemic, Canada has been reported to be recovering better economically and otherwise than its southern neighbour.
On a related note, the pandemic has also caused a slight souring of relations between some sections of people within the United States and Canada—the shared border between the two countries was closed for all but essential travel, with all travelers into Canada (citizen or not) required by law to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. While this has mostly been seen as a reasonable measure to slow the spread, especially given the abysmally bad infection rate south of the shared border, some particularly selfish Americans have taken advantage of the highway route between Washington state and Alaska, which passes through Canada note , to skirt the rules. Reports of harassment of people with American plates in Canada (many of whom are legal residents of the country) have been common since the border was closed, and opinions on Americans have dipped slightly in Canada as a result of these cases.
Ironically, it seems like it's Canada's turn to bumble the pandemic response during the vaccination phase. By March 2021, Canada has vaccinated only a little over two million, about the same as the United States is doing daily. Canada's low vaccination rate could be attributed to the government's decision to rely almost entirely on Europe for vaccines, fearing that the US would issue export bans. However, the EU enacted its own export bans, leaving Canada scrambling for any vaccines to make up for its shortages.
Mexico and Central AmericaMexico did a better job at enforcing lockdowns and curfews when the first COVID carriers were identified inside the country. However, Mexico's poor healthcare system outside of cosmopolitan cities caused many clinics and hospitals to get quickly overwhelmed during the eventual surge in infections. The fact that a considerable portion of Mexico's population live in poverty and in highly populated (sometimes tight-knit) communities caused huge surges in infections that the local governments couldn't keep up without help from the federal government or foreign volunteers. This got to the point at the end of 2020 in which Mexico would have a mortality rate of almost 9% one of, if not the, highest in the world.
In March 2020, the President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, made international headlines when he mandated the most strict lockdown and curfew on the continent and forbid both the entry into and exit from the country. His plan seemed to work at the beginning as the other Central American countries began reporting infections while El Salvador remained COVID-free. However, many nationals coming from Europe, the U.S, and Asia managed to enter the country by using hidden paths in the border with Honduras (mostly because they feared they would be put in forced 30-days long quarantine). Some of those national were infected and ended up bringing the virus into the country and in no time infections were reported by the dozens every month. Honduras and Guatemala also imposed strict curfews and social distancing rules eventually.
In Italy, another hard-hit area of the pandemic with the sixth highest death toll after the US, Brazil, India, Mexico, and the UK, there has been growing discontent among some Italians with the European Union due to the slow response to the pandemic, Italy's already difficult economic turmoil from the previous decade and an erroneous (and often deliberately manufactured) but widespread perception that other countries such as Cuba, Russia, and China were offering greater or faster assistance than fellow EU members. A few fringe right-wing Italian mayors and politicians (such as Italian vice-president of Chamber of Deputies Fabio Rampelli) replacing EU flags and with Italian flags, and some Italians on social media resorted to burning EU flags. Northern Italy and its key economic region, Lombardy, have the highest mortality rate in Europe and have experienced firsthand the lockdown that is being adopted in other European countries. The lockdown has unfortunately slowed their production. In Southern Italy the virus is seeing far less casualties, but the lockdown has frozen its already rocky economy, with unemployment and poverty raising concerns about how local mafias will use the lockdown to tie impoverished families to its gears if/when the state fails to take proper initiative.
Among Northern European countries, Sweden emerged as a surprise hotspot despite having one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Unlike the other Nordic countries, Sweden opted for a partial lockdown (i.e. restricting large gatherings but not closing gyms and restaurants) with its government arguing that a total lockdown would harm the economy and that personal responsibility of its citizens and herd immunity would be more effective in limiting the disease. Unfortunately this approach backfired with Sweden having a fatality rate of 138 deaths per 100,000 people as of May 2021; by comparison, that is approximately 10 times higher than that of neighboring Norway, which went into a total lockdown. As for averting a recession, the Swedish economy ended up contracting anyway and many analysts predict that its economic recovery will be bumpier than that of Norway's. To make matters worse, when the Nordic countries began reopening their borders for travel, they excluded Swedish residents due to the country's high number of cases with Denmark going so far as deploying physical barriers and border guards. Similarly damming are recent revelations that the Swedish government discouraged wearing life-saving masks even among health care providers in an attempt to downplay the pandemic, which only placed more people in harm's way. While Sweden's second wave arrived a bit later than that of the rest of Europe, owing to expanded testing and contact tracing, the country became a cautionary tale.note
Russia currently has the second highest number of cases in Europe and the sixth highest worldwide at more than 4.9 million. While the Russian government confirmed its case number, its government agencies offered conflicting mortality numbers that drew skepticism from the international community. Most notably, the Ministry of Health reported around 115,000 deaths whereas Rosstat (the government's statistic agency) reported around 225,000 deaths. Some suspect that the Ministry of Health is fudging the actual death toll statistic by only counting deaths caused explicitly by COVID. The country managed to create its own vaccine Sputnik V whose efficacy is confirmed by the international community despite initial skepticism. However, while the vaccine was quickly mass-produced and exported to many countries, state-run polling shows that less than half of Russian citizens are willing to take the vaccine.
As time went on, the UK became one of the hardest-hit of all European countries, with a confused governmental response at first counting on herd immunity, before hastily switching to the same lockdown measures as elsewhere when shown projections of the catastrophic consequences would ensue from their original strategy. This was further worsened by the UK's complicated and increasingly hostile break from the EU, which has isolated it from shared European recovery efforts, dividing the nation and further damaging its economy at the worst possible moment. The pandemic was especially disastrous for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the pandemic not only derailed the post-Brexit talks but Johnson became infected and hospitalized after shaking hands with COVID patients to prove it wasn't contagious. Johnson's inconsistent efforts to contain the virus garnered much public outrage from his efforts to prematurely end lockdowns to news that his advisors like Dominic Cummings were breaking the very lockdown rules he imposed, for which Boris Johnson refused to sack him (though Cummings was later bizarrely sacked for what amounted to an office spat). Not helping matters is that the government's attempt to promote in-person dining via the "Eat Out to Help Out" program lead to a rise in cases. Then a rise in cases and the emergence of a more contagious variant of the virus in November 2020 forced the UK to go back into another national lockdown, just over seven months after they had gone into their first lockdown. It didn't help matters that the new lockdowns were announced just the week before Christmas when the government previously promised said lockdown measures would be eased that day.
The UK also gained attention for the immense corruption the government engaged in over this period, using the COVID crisis as an excuse to hand out large contracts to people connected to the Tories, such as donors or relatives. Their Test-and-Trace system became particularly mocked for costing 37 Billion pounds and not even working. One of the most prominent Conservatives, Jacob Rees-Mogg, had his investment firm Somerset Capital Management tell investors that they could make "super normal returns" during this period due to the dive in the stock market.
Australian borders were closed to all non-residents from 20 March; all returning travelers are required to undergo two weeks' quarantine in hotels. From March onwards, many states and territories also closed their internal borders, with similar quarantine requirements for exempt travelers. A breach of quarantine in Melbourne hotels led to the state of Victoria, especially Melbourne, experiencing a second wave and returning to strict lockdown measures from July through to October. The Australian National Cabinet's stated pandemic policy goal is "zero community transmission," in contrast to the mitigation policies of most other Western countries.
New Zealand reported its first case on 28 February 2020 from a citizen who had arrived from Iran. The New Zealand Government introduced a four-level alert system to manage the COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand. On 25 March, the country moved into Alert Level 4, placing the country in a nationwide lockdown and closing its borders. While mass gatherings were banned and schools and most businesses were closed, essential services such as supermarkets, petrol stations, and health services remained open. Due to successful efforts to eliminate the pandemic within New Zealand's borders, the alert level system was progressively lowered in the subsequent months, with lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures being eased at each stage. Between May and August, the country reported no new community transmissions. By June, New Zealand entered into Alert level 1, where remaining restrictions on economic activities and daily life were eliminated but the country's borders remained closed to most international travelers. While a few new cases have sprung up from week to week, the country's overall exemplary response to the virus has all but contained most outbreaks and prevented any reported deaths from COVID since September.
- The disease is spread via airborne distribution through respiratory droplets* . As such, all an infected person needs to do to release the virus — and all a healthy person needs to do to catch it — is breathe* .
- While it needs a live host, it can survive for a few hours in the air in the aforementioned droplets which can reach as far as twelve feet away from the infected person and maintain a concentration capable of reliably transmitting the virus up to six feet barring no external factors* . It can survive for two to three days on a surface, and, though it's rarer than the respiratory infection vector, people who touch those surfaces can be infected if the virus finds a way past the skin barrier* . It also jumps between species with relative ease, with several identified cases of pets and livestock testing positive after their owners.
- There is a very slow incubation period; it takes up to two weeks for the virus to become symptomatic, and some people never develop symptoms at all despite being infected by the virus.
- An infected person is already contagious during this incubation period, resulting in asymptomatic carriers. Combined with the slow incubation period, this means the virus has up to two weeks head-start between infecting others, and making itself known outside direct testings, making it nigh-impossible to contain. There's even evidence that people can be contagious for some time after apparent recovery, though much less so than in earlier stages of the disease.note
- Although the mortality rate in symptomatic cases is around 2%, which may not seem so bad* , the disease's rapid spread and ease of transmission means that each day the hundreds of thousands of new infections still result in thousands of deaths. On the same token, the higher the number of cases, the higher number of cases that require hospitalization; this can potentially overwhelm health systems, causing shortages of PPE* and ICUs* , in addition to the heavy toll and strain put on the medical personel, all these in turn causing even more deaths that could have been prevented.
- Although it is commonly believed that only sickly, elderly, or immune system compromised people are at risk of dying from the disease, reality is that the factors that affect the outcome of it are not fully understood yet. There are cases of very old people recovering from it (in fact, the oldest person to have caught it, who was 117, recovered), and of healthy and fit people in their 20's or 30's that have died or ended up with life-long health problems. Research has uncovered a link between infection severity (and therefore mortality rate) and Vitamin D deficiency, with many high-profile specialists including Dr. Anthony Fauci advising people to supplement their diets with it. note
- Whether or not an infected person acquires antibody immunity against further infection, and if so for how long, has been a hotly debated topic. As of September 2020, COVID-19 reinfections have been confirmed in Belgium, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and the US state of Nevada. A person who gets infected again, due to the lasting and long-term effects of the disease, is weaker to fight it again. And even if they recover from the disease completely, they can still have long-term signs and symptoms from which they may never recover due to permanent damage to many vital organs (i.e. lungs, heart, kidney, brain, etc.).note The body's inability to reliably recover from the virus and build long-term immunity is why the herd immunity strategy of getting as many people infected doesn't work.
- Relatedly, much of the evidence currently available suggests that the main problem with the virus is that it is a blood infection as much as it is a "lung" infection; thickened or unusual blood is a very common report for severe COVID patients, and while the lungs are often heavily affected by this (being one of the most blood-rich organs in the body, natch) this is what causes the virus to play havoc on virtually every organ in the body, since the virus' effect on one's blood has knock-on effects in every organ or organic system the victim possesses.
In particular, point number 4 has been cited as the main reason for the outbreak's severity; take a moment to internalize that anyone you meet while going about your life can potentially infect everyone around them despite appearing completely healthy, and also that you are no exception! — you might be infected as you read this, but without being tested you cannot know for certain. Because of this, the need for widespread testing is much greater than for other diseases, but many governments either lack the resources to conduct the needed tests or waited until the person has developed symptoms already to proceed with the test, and by then the patient may have already infected an unknown number of people.
Live theater and music will likely take years to recover, and likely not fully, in North America and Western Europe. Cirque du Soleil declared it was filing for bankruptcy in July due to all but one of their productions (ironically a Chinese resident show) being unable to reopen so long as social distancing/large gathering orders are in place and laid off thousands of performers, Broadway theaters in New York City will not reopen until mid-2021 at the earliest, and many smaller companies and venues face outright ruin. It came to the point that the U.K. government launched a campaign encouraging artists to reconsider their career choices and retrain for "useful" jobs in October 2020, to much public disgust. It also had a devastating effect on the comic/pop culture convention market, with signature events like San Diego Comic-Con and DragonCon declaring their first cancellations in years if not ever, though they staged online-based alternative events as substitutes. Live music has been crippled, with musicians, venues and big festivals all badly affected. As anyone who isnt an A-list act generally makes most of their money through ticket sales and merchandise, not being able to go on tour has been catastrophic for thousands of acts.
Practically every sports league on the planet around the start of the pandemic, from the highest professional leagues down to local amateur suburban leagues, were either delayed from starting, forced to finish earlier than anticipated, had their seasons canceled outright, or just ended things prematurely (with American football leagues that started in the fall being the only relatively lucky ones there), with public attendances severely curtailed, if not outright banned altogether by then. Some sporting seasons that started in 2020, but went into 2021 had to either delay their starting points (sometimes significantly) and/or had to enforce drastic changes just to make them work at all. One extreme example had the 2020 Summer Olympics moved onto 2021 as a result of the outbreak, after it forced many sports tournaments and qualifiers involved with the Olympics to be canceled. This makes it the first Olympiad to be postponed in history (though with the "2020" branding intact for "reasons"), and the fourth games to be disrupted in the Olympic cycle (the 1916 Olympic games were canceled due to World War I, while World War II forced the cancellation of the 1940 and 1944 games, also making the 2020 Olympics the only one to be disrupted for a reason other than war). The International Skating Union chose to hold their 2021 World Championships and World Team Trophy as usual and on time, and some national skating federations (Russia and Japan, for example) also held their national championships as scheduled, despite criticism about the federation and host countries' poor pandemic response, ineffective "bubble" policies, and spike in cases.
While the tourism and hospitality have taken a massive blow owing to travel restrictions, the cruising industry became one of the biggest casualties of the pandemic. During the beginning of pandemic, the Diamond Princess cruise ship became a major outbreak site owing to its proximity to Wuhan, the cramped conditions, and lack of sanitary regulations, which led to 20% of all people on board becoming infected. The news of the outbreak dampened enthusiasm for cruising and led stock prices of cruise lines to tank by 70% in just two months. Many cruise lines were barred from bailouts by the US government as they are registered in foreign countries to avoid higher taxes and regulations. Even if the pandemic ends, many industry analysts doubt that the cruising will ever make a comeback, given how the tightly packed nature of cruise ships makes them highly susceptible to disease outbreaks.
Compared to other entertainment mediums, video games are thriving amidst the pandemic — at least at first glance. As game studios already allow working remotely, and playing video games doesn't involve physical interaction with others, the industry saw record revenue during the first few months of the pandemic with relatively few layoffs. Most notably, Nintendo saw its profits soar by more than 428% in the April-June quarter thanks to the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons around the same time mass lockdowns were happening. However, the cancellation of major trade shows like E3 has been a blow for indie developers who rely on conventions for exposure. As the pandemic dragged on, video game production began experiencing setbacks as social distancing rules slowed production at hardware supply chains and remote working limited developer access to equipment normally found in studios. The pandemic also coincided with the launch of the Ninth Console Generation, meaning that several developers have to port their games to multiple platforms with fewer available resources. Combined with high demand induced by a new round of lockdown orders, these problems led to the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S selling out at launch. Alongside the consoles, PC Gaming on computers has exploded during the pandemic, with crippling shortages of CPUs and graphics cards by the end of 2020, with manufacturers failing to meet demand. For now, the video game industry are faring better than its film and theater peers, but there is still some doubt whether the current path is sustainable.
However, despite the delay or cancellation of multiple events worldwide, the international lockdown was made more bearable than it could have been mere decades ago thanks to the widespread availability of the Internet, providing many with easy access to sophisticated telecommunications, home entertainment, and education to help make the required physical distancing that much easier, as it has enabled many to not only work from home but also ensured that the streaming medium has flourished under the circumstances, with services like YouTube, Netflix, Disney+, and Tik Tok, to say nothing of online media retail like Google Play and Apple TV taking up the slack. Indeed, major film companies have taken the opportunity to make a virtue out of a necessity to try releasing major films online directly, such as Universal's DreamWorks Animation's Trolls: World Tour, to promising financial results. In some cases, pre-existing works involving themes of characters becoming sick were temporarily pulled from rotation so people wouldn't be reminded of the pandemic, such as Disney Channel pulling an episode of Amphibia in which Anne pretends to be sick from its lineup.
In fact, with theatrical presentation heavily restricted under the circumstances and regular television on the decline, Disney has announced it will be reorienting its media production with online streaming being the primary presentation medium (confirmed that December with the announcement of many new direct-to-streaming films and series). This was then one-upped by Warner Bros. and HBO in a move announced on December 3rd, 2020: all of WB's 2021 movie slate would go live on the HBO Max streaming service the very same day as its theater release (or lack of theater release, COVID-related problems depending) and would only require a subscription to HBO Max, rather than per-movie fees. This is without much exaggeration the biggest seismic shift in motion picture distribution since the widespread adoption of television: brand new tentpole films sent straight to streaming with absolutely no delay (cutting out traditional television networks and traditional home video entirely) meaning that theaters now will solely rely on the experience they can offer rather than exclusivity of content; moreover, WB and HBO evidently banked on increased subscriptions to HBO Max making up for potential lost box office proceeds. How permanent this arrangement will be remains to be seen, but it represented a colossal shift in distribution and marketing, all largely driven by the realities of COVID and pandemic life. It is not likely that movie theaters will fully recover, with many chains declaring bankruptcy and independent theaters pleading for financial aid; on the creative end, American studios will likely have to reconsider their hyper-focus on extremely expensive Summer Blockbusters, as limited theatrical releases and streaming revenues prove insufficient to make films like Wonder Woman 1984 profitable.
The 2020 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest (to be held in Rotterdam, The Netherlands) was canceled because of the pandemic, just two months before it would have happened, marking the first time the long-running competition had ever been canceled since its inception in 1956. It was later decided that the prospective 2021 edition would return to Rotterdam with heightened health and safety precautions, as well as contingency plans to prevent a second cancelation if the virus is still a global issue by that point. While many of the acts who would have participated have confirmed their plans to return for 2021, all of their 2020 entries were deemed null and void (due to competition rules) and will need to select new songs to present. (The slogan for the 2020 edition, Open Up, became an ironic downer in the wake of its cancelation.)
After a brief period in March of just shooting without audiences, the television industry began to visibly adapt its forms of presentation to conditions. Some newscasters and most talk show hosts and live-episode reality show talent quickly adapted rooms, garages or patios in their homes into makeshift mini-studios - with guests also appearing by teleconference. SNL also finished its season with three at home episodes taped in this manner. Series like Holey Moley and The Masked Singer incorporated animated segments to replace ones they couldn't film. Several new shows were also created with teleconferencing as a primary feature to replace those not in production.
By fall 2020, production resumed on an adapted basis with socially distanced panel/contestant placement, audiences of teleconference monitors or cardboard cutouts (as previously done by pro sports), use of mannequins and spouses for kissing scenes - as well as less visible measures such as reduced hair/makeup, robotic cameras, masked crews and regular testing. However, news/talk guests often continued to appear primarily via teleconference. The beginning of the Fall 2020 TV season was effectively shifted to either November or January, depending on the network. However, globally-oriented reality shows The Amazing Race and Survivor fully halted production of future seasons until feasible.
Misinformation and conspiracy theories have been widespread during the pandemic (such as claims of the virus being man-made or a bioweapon, or accusations that the death tolls were inflated to push a political agenda, or even that the entire pandemic has been fabricated and there's no virus at all). It has gotten to the point that various social media websites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Google had to work with the World Health Organization to combat the spread of misinformation (which had the unfortunate consequences of censoring many creators who just mentioned the virus by its name, forcing them to find ways around it such as referring to the pandemic as the "Backstreet Boys Reunion Tour"). The other wiki has more information on this.
As a knock-on effect of the COVID-19 outbreak, global stock markets began to enter a correction in late February and then outright crashed in the week between March 9 and March 13, with Monday and Thursday of that week being called "Black Monday" and "Black Thursday" respectively as a result. Stocks only continued downhill from there, with the Dow Jones dropping below 20,000 for the first time since it climbed above that threshold in 2017. As it is, some businesses are seeing their stocks skyrocket, none more dramatically than Zoom, an online video conferencing service that has proven most useful for business, entertainment, social or even religious meetings in this public health crisis. However, that platform also faced criticism for its security flaws as a phenomenon called "Zoombombing" emerged, with many hackers, Internet trolls and delinquents intruding on video conference calls, then speaking or sharing racist, antisemitic, and/or otherwise Not Safe for Work content, usually forcing Zoom sessions to prematurely end.
One notable negative social effect of the pandemic is heightened xenophobia and racism against people perceived as being from areas that are heavily affected by the virus, such as East and Southeast Asians (especially ethnic Chinese). There has also been heightened racism against foreigners (particularly Africans) in China due to fears of a "second wave" of coronavirus outbreaks coming from foreignersnote . Scientists feared horseshoe bats and pangolins would become even more endangered as a result of hunting due to their being believed to be initial carriers of the disease, and Wuhan's public image was near-irreparably damaged as a result of being the center of the pandemic's first major outbreak. Calls for tighter restrictions on open-air markets have also become louder in response to the outbreak.
Countries that have begun to make preparations to reopen their borders have announced they will not allow citizens from countries with high infection rates into their countries. Due to the U.S. having the highest rate of infection worldwide, this has severely limited American citizens from international travel (which is a tremendous reversal from the post-World War II status quo previously enjoyed by virtually every American). Notably only 9 countries in the world are open to U.S. citizens with no restrictions, all others require medical proof or enforce a quarantine protocol in order to allow them into their countries, and even a Canadian poll has determined that 81% of the Canadian citizens polled wish for their U.S. border to remain closed at least through the end of 2020.
Another side-effect of the pandemic is the increased mistrust of politicians and governing agencies. The World Health Organization received much criticism for failing to quickly contain the virus, not alerting other nations in time, and ignoring Taiwan's successful response to the crisis, the leading to accusations of the agency having a pro-China bias. Several world leaders like Trump and Bolsonaro held political rallies and attempted to prematurely end lockdowns, which only lead to surging cases. Some countries used the pandemic as a distraction to clamp down on civil rights with Hungary passing transphobic laws and Poland enacting abortion restrictions; likewise, India used stay-at-home orders to ban demonstrations against the ruling BJP party. Even staunchly authoritarian countries like Russia and China saw citizens expressing disapproval on state-run surveys and social media. Not helping matters is that several political figures promote false cures, and rival government agencies gave contradictory cherry-picked figures in an attempt to downplay the pandemic. The incompetence of politicians created a distrustful environment that lead to the spread of conspiracy theories while also leading to several ordinary people refusing to comply with vaccination and public safety guidelines, potentially prolonging the pandemic.
Effects of the pandemic on mass media:
- Channel Hop (theatrical films that were released direct-to-streaming due to the pandemic)
- Delayed Release Tie-In (merchandise for media works that were delayed due to the pandemic)
- Release Date Change (other works of media which had delayed releases due to the pandemic)
Fictional depictions of the pandemic:
- Cells at Work!: The final arc involves a coronavirus infection.
- Dilbert: During the strips happening during the pandemic, characters are either video-chatting at home or masked up in the office.
- Doonesbury: An anthropomorphic virus particle representing COVID-19 appears at a hangout for the Anthropomorphic Vices, said to have a 300k year. Mr. Butts thinks he won't have any staying power.
- Luann: When the pandemic hit, creator Greg Evans said that he didn't want it to dominate the strip, but also said that he would start making concessions in storylines for situations that might prove (in his words) "problematic." As a result he found ways to indirectly reference it. A non-canon Sunday Strip showed Luann in a mask, and eventually he found various reasons to move each of the main characters away from Moony University's dorm environment.
- One Mother Goose and Grimm strip has the lockdown ease enough so that the main characters can play catch in the park. However, the ball was replaced with a virus particle.
- The Steven Universe Human AU fanfic Being Human mentions the pandemic as having occurred a few years back. Thus, the fanfic takes place in a post-COVID world.
- A Twitter account called @QuarantineFras imagines the characters of Frasier brought forward to the pandemic era. The characters behave and interact the way they do in the show's earlier seasons, e.g. Frasier hates Eddie, Niles is still married to Maris.
Frasier: Niles, every day my listeners call with the same COVID anxieties, but the pandemic hasnt changed. I can only offer the same old platitudes - I feel like Im not actually helping anyones mental health.Niles: And how exactly is that different from your show before the pandemic?
- While it's not part of the story's setting (since COVID doesn't exist in Thedas), the pandemic gets referenced in the opening Note From Ed in the second full volume of the Twice Upon an Age series. Varric shatters the fourth wall harder than usual to explain to the readers that the author deliberately started posting the sequel in April 2020 to provide some measure of distraction during the global lockdowns.
"The way I understand it, as this is being brought to the light of day, something pretty awful is going on in your world. And as you probably know, I firmly believe that theres power in stories, especially when the days are dark. Stories bring us together. They chase some of the clouds away. They give us hope."
- Digimon Adventure tri. fanfic Playing Pretend brings Yamato and Taichi's early adulthood forward from 2010 (as canonically portrayed in Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna, where they were 22-year-olds about to graduate university) to 2020, with all characters locked down in their apartments for just over a month at the start of the fic.
- A The Secret Show fanfic, Stuck with You, centers around Victor and Anita being forced to quarantine together during the pandemic.
- Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, the first film with mainstream exposure to address the subject, more precisely how people in the USA live through it and how the Trump administration handles it. That mockumentary wasn't intended to be about it since it started filming before the outbreak, but the inevitable circumstances prompted Sacha Baron Cohen to include it.
- Corona, an upcoming Canadian drama thriller film about a group of people trapped in an elevator during the pandemic. The film was written and directed by Mostafa Keshvari, and made in part to address xenophobia and racism related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Covid Zombies, a comedy horror film directed by Charles Band. It stars Cody Renee Cameron as Barbie, a woman who finds herself facing an outbreak of zombies infected by the pandemic.
- Songbird takes place in 2024 and follows a couple that tries to meet during the still ongoing pandemic and lockdown. This version of the virus has considerably mutated, with a mortality rate of 50%. Production started in May 2020.
- Totally Under Control is a documentary by Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, that details the Trump administration's response to and handling of the pandemic in America.
- Shudder original supernatural horror film Host was set in April 2020, during the early weeks of the UK's first lockdown. It is about a group of young women who accidentally summon a demon over a Zoom call.
- Connectés ("Connected"), the first French film related to the pandemic, filmed in June 2020 and released on Prime Video. It is a riff on Unfriended where a group of friends is having an aperitif party on Zoom during the lockdown. Suddenly, one of them is threatened by a masked man. Said man happens to know all of their secrets.
- Doug Liman's Locked Down, released on HBO Max in January 2021. Stars Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor as a quarreling couple who make peace in order to take advantage of the pandemic and pull off a jewellery heist at the Harrods department store.
- Lockdown all'italiana ("Italian-Style Lockdown"), written and directed by Enrico Vanzina. An instant-movie about Italy's March-June 2020 lockdown, a comedy/dramedy about two couples (an upper-middle class one and a working class one) cheating on each other, and being forced to live under the same roof after the implementation of the quarantine to curb the virus' spread.
- Likely referenced in The Suicide Squad where Harley Quinn jokingly tells the hostage that if he coughs without covering his mouth, he'll die, which is obviously one of the biggest reasons for rapid transmissions.
- Aiden Tyler, Quaran-Teen takes place between February and June 2020 and follows the title character over the early months of the pandemic. Originally released as a weekly podcast serial, it was written and edited in real time to reflect changes as they happened.
- All Rise was one of the first scripted dramas to acknowledge the pandemic in-universe, filming a replacement season finale (airing in May) where the main characters conducted their first bench trial over videoconference. The whole episode was filmed at the actors' homes with webcams, interspersed with aerial footage of Los Angeles for establishing shots. When the show returned with new episodes in November, most of the characters were shown wearing face masks or shields, and capacity in the gallery greatly reduced.
- Bull also dealt with the impact of COVID as a plot point in its season premiere, "My Corona". Bull ends up having to adapt in a case where he would have a remote jury who could only be heard, and not seen. In the end, however, it ends up being a nightmare experienced by Bull, who wakes up in a hospital recovering from the virus, and is informed that in-person jury trials would be resuming in New York City with precautions (which did not end up being as extreme as Bull feared). This is promptly followed by a Sudden Musical Ending that shows off some of the behind the scenes safety protocols.
- Casualty: After a four-month hiatus when the pandemic disrupted the filming schedule, the show returned in January 2021 with an episode showing via flashback how badly Holby ED was hit by the disease. It begins with the department close to cracking and clinical lead Connie Beauchamp on the verge of a breakdown; we quickly learn that numerous staff members were infected and one of them is dying and has to be taken off life support. After several Red Herrings, this turns out to be Noel, the receptionist, who as the first point of contact for most patients had been a fairly prominent supporting character since 2008, and was friends with more or less everyone on staff.
- Whilst the other two series in the Chicago franchise paid nods to the pandemic and acknowledged its existence - it did not feature in any major storylines - Chicago Med very much incorporated it into the storylines. The hospital has a COVID ward, one major character was confirmed to be recovering from the disease, and all patients are said to being tested.
- Coastal Elites, a HBO Made-for-TV Movie about five people navigating through the pandemic in several big US cities. It stars Bette Midler, Sarah Paulson and Daniel Levy.
- Connected is a show that premiered on NBC in October 2020, and centered around a group of friends trying to stay in touch during the pandemic.
- The Conners has incorporated the pandemic into their episodes, with the titular family having financial problems having opened a restaurant at the worst possible time and Darlene and Becky getting jobs at Wellman Plastics, that having reopened due to supply-chain issues from China.
- Dragula had a feature-length all-stars episode titled Resurrection that was filmed entirely during the pandemic, with many cast members discussing the impacts of the outbreak on their lives. The central premise of the episode, with the Boulet Brothers visiting the contestants rather than inviting them all to Los Angeles, was also influenced by the pandemic. In fact, the Boulets mentioned that the format probably wouldn't have worked during normal times.
- Emmerdale was the first British television soap to address the pandemic by filming six episodes showing what various characters had been doing during the UK lockdown, before resuming storylines in a post-COVID world.
- Being a medical drama, the seventeenth season of Grey's Anatomy incorporated the pandemic in the storyline where the characters deal with the usual issues that many health workers are facing. Then in the third episode, Meredith herself ends up being COVID-positive.
- Happy Endings returned for a special quarantine reunion episode produced remotely through Zoom and released online, with the main cast all reprising their roles from the series. The special doubled as a fundraiser for COVID relief and was followed by a cast Q&A.
- Love in the Time of Corona, a romantic comedy miniseries created by Johanna Johnson. It stars Leslie Odom Jr., Nicolette Robinson, Tommy Dorfman, Rainey Qualley, Gil Bellows, Rya Kihlstedt, Ava Bellows, and L. Scott Caldwell.
- MacGyver (2016)'s season 5 began airing in December 2020, and explicitly takes place Next Sunday A.D. and referencing the pandemic as being resolved and over with. The sole exception is the episode "Quarantine + N95 + Landline + Telescope + Social Distance", which takes place during the lockdowns of March and April and has the main cast dealing with social isolation and cabin fever.
- Monk had a special webisode that was streamed by Peacock, involving Adrian Monk and his friends dealing with the COVID quarantine. And with the notoriously germophobic Monk being who he is, he's unsurprisingly very (overly) cautious and prepared for this whole situation.
- The three series in the NCIS franchise each adopted a different approach.
- The original series jumped back to pre-COVID era to fill in some gaps during the previous season and starting S18 E7, has started addressing the pandemic.
- NCIS: Los Angeles decided to take place in a post-COVID-19 world, with the pandemic being in the past.
- NCIS: New Orleans began its seventh season right at the beginning of the outbreak's arrival in the United States.
- For sensitivity reasons, New Amsterdam skipped a season 2 episode that involved a flu outbreak in New York City (requiring additional scenes to be added in the next episode to introduce a new character who made their first appearance in said episode). When it returned in March 2021 for season 3, the premiere acknowledged the pandemic as still ongoing via a Time-Compression Montage in the season premiere. It was largely pushed to the background until the third episode "Safe Enough", where the titular hospital deals with concerns from current and prospective patients over the safety of normalcy.
- The New Year's special of Not Going Out acknowledged that the virus had kept the characters apart in the preceding year, and was a single-room Bottle Episode as a result of the restrictions.
- Parks and Recreation: "A Parks and Recreation Special" was a reunion special filmed online, featuring Leslie Knope checking in on the cast in lockdown.
- The second season premiere of Prodigal Son, which aired in mid-January 2021, made several references to the pandemic. Jessica Whitly tells her son Malcolm she learned to play piano while in lockdown with his sister; Officer Dani mentions she's under a lot of stress because of the global pandemic (and systemic racism); and Dr. Whitly earns his transfer from Rikers Island back to Claremont Correctional because he "helped the largest prison system on the East Coast avoid the worst of Coronavirus."
- The first season of the Saved By The Bell revival ends with the gang getting a notification on their phones about the first case of the coronavirus sending everyone in a panic attack.
- Sesame Street: "Elmo's Playdate" has Elmo holding a virtual playdate with his friends. Throughout the call, the characters occasionally discuss topics related to the pandemic with each other such as doctors.
- The final season of Shameless coincided with the pandemic and acknowledged its effect on local businesses in the lower income parts of Chicago, eventually leading Veronica and Kevin to sell the Alibi so they could move with her mother to St. Louis.
- Staged, featuring Good Omens (2019) costars David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Adam Westing mode. The two were supposed to put on a play that was put on hold due to the pandemic, and are now video calling each other while going stir-crazy in their homes.
- Superstore: The pandemic is incorporated into season 6, with the store's floor employees, now frontline workers, having to cope with lackluster corporate guidelines and uncooperative shoppers. In addition, Amy's impending move (prompted by America Ferrera's planned departure from the series) is hampered by the pandemic.
- Taskmaster gained some unexpected global exposure due to the pandemic. While production of the show itself was halted due to lockdown, the show's creator Alex Horne started an online "Home-Tasking" challenge via You Tube and Twitter to give himself and the show's audience something to do. As with the show itself, participants were set various unusual tasks to complete (all of which could be done in a social-distancing/lockdown-friendly fashion) and a deadline to complete them in, with the results being submitted on Twitter and judged by the show's "Taskmaster" Greg Davies. The show itself received a substantial amount of positive publicity and media attention as a result of this (though this did not sadly translate to good ratings when several seasons of the UK show debuted on American television, only to be soon cancelled due to low ratings).
- The tenth season of the show, which debuted on a new network in late 2020, also saw some changes due to the pandemic and lockdown. Most notably is that studio-based parts of the show no longer have a live studio audience and were instead screened to a small audience after filming, and the contestants are seated further apart from each other. Several team-based tasks were also filmed before and after lockdown in the UK, requiring some changes to accommodate social distancing requirements.
- This Is Us: The pandemic is incorporated into season 5, with some characters wearing masks when visiting loved ones. Kate and Toby's potential birth mother, Ellie, wears a Steelers face mask in one scene when she meets with them at a park.
- Upstart Crow returned with a Christmas special set in lockdown England during the plague of 1603 (a Bottle Episode taking place in one room, in real time, and featuring just David Mitchell as Shakespeare and Gemma Whelan as Kate); earlier in the year, a stage play continuing from where the series left off with several members of the show's cast reprising their roles had been forced to close after just a month due to the pandemic.
- The Vicar of Dibley: December 2020 had the four short episodes "The Vicar Of Dibley In Lockdown", which depicted Geraldine — like most Church of England vicars during the pandemic — keeping in touch with her congregation via recorded online services and Zoom sessions.
- In Vincenzo, the existence of COVID-19 has been implied on several occassions.
- In episode 3, the gangsters trying to demolish Geumga Plaza are denied entry to a party being held at the area. The reason? They needed to have their temperature taken first!
- Also in episode 3, Vincenzo had this to say about the pizza prepared by Chef Toto:
Vincenzo:I guess the basil and cheese are practicing social distancing. They don't mix at all. And are the tomatoes quarantined or something? I can't taste them at all.
- Episode 7 has a bunch of thugs deciding to abandon their assignment to beat up another bunch of thugs after one of them gets a phone call en route and finds out he had been in contact with an 'infected person'. The bus transporting said thugs presumably heads off to a medical center so the thugs can all get tested.
- In episode 9, the Ant Group boss has decided to start a 'travel agency' based in Geumga Plaza. One of the residents scoffs at him with the following response:
Hee-soo: A travel agency? At a time like this? Is it a travel agency that sends people to the afterlife?
- The WandaVision episode "Breaking The Fourth Wall" has Wanda refer to her depressive funk as a "quarantine-style staycation". Behind the scenes, this episode was the second filmed after the show resumed filming (after shutting down for six months due to the pandemic), so this is a clearly written reference to COVID-19. Due to the show's premise of jumping through different decades within a Pocket Dimension with Anachronism Stew in full effect, it is unclear when this scene is supposed to take place, though the style and technology place it in the early 2010s.
- Fetch the Bolt Cutters, an album by Fiona Apple produced during the US lockdown that explores themes and imagery of confinement relevant to the pandemic as well as Apple's own personal history.
- Taylor Swift released two surprise albums written and recorded during the pandemic, folklore and evermore. "Epiphany," from folklore, specifically references the struggles of doctors and patients during the pandemic and compares their experiences to that of soldiers during WWII.
- Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts, two albums released by Nine Inch Nails during the pandemic as a show of solidarity with their fans.
- McCartney III, an album single-handedly put together by Paul McCartney during the first UK lockdown.
- While discussing the ongoing Development Hell of his still-upcoming album I/O, Peter Gabriel noted that he had written a new song about the pandemic after the first UK lockdown forced him to delay the record yet again.
- Luke Combs' "Six Feet Apart" was written about all of the things he wants to do but can't because of the pandemic.
- how i'm feeling now, Charli XCX's fourth album, is notable that it was entirely made from scratch during self-isolation while still getting fan feedback through sharing demos, single releases and song ideas. As the title implies, it encapsulates Charli's general headspace while locked down during the pandemic, reminiscing about her loved ones, contemplating her mental health, and desiring for things to return to normal.
- The Rolling Stones recorded the single "Living in a Ghost Town" during, and about, a major lockdown period in the first half of 2020.
- Several Spanish singers worked together to create a new version of Resistiré note , a 1984 song, filming themselves during the lockdown to symbolize the need to withstand the lockdown.
- "Virus of a Modern Time" by Axxis was originally written back in 2006 as part of a theater project and was as a result never formally released. However as a result of the pandemic the group decided to release both the song and the title album in reference to it.
- The winner of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2020, France's "J'imagine" by Valentina, alludes to quarantine and expresses hope that things will get better. The song's themes were especially poignant given that the adult contest was canceled because of the pandemic earlier that year, which had previously never happened in its 60 year-plus history.
- The Chalkeaters released a single titled "Lock Me Up (Quarantine Song)" in 2020, which is from the perspective of a gamer who's stuck at home while the pandemic is ongoing.
- Kero Kero Bonito addressed lockdown life from the song "21/04/20" off their Civilisation II EP, describing a casual, uneventful day where not much happens but is very firmly set in the pandemic, with all the stores being closed, friends and family stuck at home, and everyone is waiting for something new. Interestingly, the song was not actually planned to be about the pandemic and was meant to be a standard Day in the Life (the Civilisation EPs are a broad look into the past, present, and future of humanity), but the pandemic occurring forced it to take on a whole new meaning.
- COVID-19 was briefly parodied on NoPixel in January 2020 when an outbreak of "Hirona virus" occurred that later turned out to be one patient with the regular flu surrounded by a bunch of reactionary idiots. It was parodied again in May 2021 when a server mechanic was added that incorporated viral infection and transmission of the "Hirona virus" from character to character, leading to characters wearing masks and taking preventative measures. Parodies aside, the actual COVID-19 virus itself has stayed out of NoPixel aside from occasional mentions in dialogue; characters throughout 2020 and 2021 frequently gathered together without social distancing or masking.
- GIANTmicrobes has a COVID-19 plush in three sizes plus a version wearing a graduation cap, and a COVID-19 vaccine plush vial.
- Animal Restaurant: Dr. Puppy was added to the game in March 2020, and his appearance and dialogue are a reference to the pandemic. He wears a hazmat suit and goggles and carries a bottle of spray sanitizer.
Dr. Puppy: This is a protective suit, I'm here to sanitize the restaurant. Recently, there has been an infectious virus spreading in the human world.
Eggy: Oh my! Dori, let's call it a day and go home!
Dr. Puppy: Don't worry, at this moment, cats will not contract the virus. However, everyone should take care of their hygiene and wash their hands regularly at all times!
- Antimatter Dimensions's theme has been replaced with a COVID-19 theme on April Fools' Day, with a number of renaming including Antimatter being called Toilet paper which means the game is called "Toilet Paper Dimensions" Tickspeed being called Water Pressure, Infinity being called Costco, Infinity Dimensions being called Mask Dimensions, which produce Hand Santizier, Replicanti being called COVID 19/Infections, Eternity being called Amazon, and Time Dimensions being called Mask Dimensions.
- In Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, Layla's brother asks in an e-mail if the reason she's disappearing for a while is because she's socially distancing from COVID-19, when the reality is that she's looking through Eivor's memories with the help of Shaun and Rebecca.
- COVID '99: Paddle Royale, also known as and located at Covid99.io, is a Battle Royale Game and .io Game hybrid in which you bounce COVID-19 viruses with a paddle and a refillable blast ability to 49 other players. Getting hit with a virus raises your temperature, which causes you to lose if you reach 104 degrees. You can send viruses to others every so often and select how you target the other players.
- Hitman 3 references the pandemic in Berlins' radios, asking people to stay inside and giving a general update of the situation globally, while Dubai target Marcus Stuyvesent references the pandemic in a rant if he is disturbed with a radio while he works on a speech.
- The Idle Class: Some of the emails you get have titles like "FW: Pandemic? Dem-panic: Healthy Patriot Coughs Directly into Salad Bar", "FW: CEOvid-19: How Global Pandemics Hurt Those with the Most to Lose", and "FW: Netflix & Steal: How 'Work from Home' Policies Are Robbing You".
- M.U.G.E.N is a Fighting Game engine where players can create their own characters. Naturally, somebody made a "Coronavirus" character. It tends to be a victim of beatdowns, even though it's capable of fighting back.
- Appears as an Easter Egg in Plague Inc.: Cure Mode: If you play against a virus and name it "COVID-19", you will be literally playing against COVID-19, with the virus adopting its exact symptoms.
- Scream Collector received an update in April 2020 that added a bunker, accessible by clicking on a hatch outside of the house. The usual sources of income are replaced with supplies, which include medicine as well as gloves and masks, and the premium currency as well as the main thing you can click on is toilet paper.
- In the remake of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+ 2, the then ongoing lockdown situation is used to neatly explaine the lack of pedestrians in levels with multiple signs stating that a lockdown in in effect.
- Tsuki Adventure: One of Crush's lines while reading his newspaper is a reference to the pandemic:
Crush: Oh wow these are some crazy times... An entire country on lockdown...
- Vampire: The Masquerade Shadows of New York, which is set sometime around spring 2020, has the protagonist's still-human girlfriend occasionally making oblique references to the virus, such as the fact that her colleagues are worried about getting infected and her job has become work-from-home. Since all the other lead characters are vampires and presumably immune, they rarely seem to give it much thought themselves.
- World of Mines received a sequel called World of Virus in June 2020, which is similar to the original but with a red virus you have to flag with pills and non-virus tiles you have to uncover instead. The game's icon depicts a girl wearing a mask, removing any remaining ambiguity what virus it is.
- Psycholonials begins on April 20, 2020, and the pandemic plays a prominent role in the story. The main character lost her job due to the pandemic lockdown, and COVID-19 is discussed by the characters. Later on in the story, the main character gets COVID and it's revealed that her mother died of COVID.
- How It Should Have Ended: One of the Villain Pub shorts has the pub closed due to the pandemic, followed by Palpatine suffering from Cabin Fever.
- Mi Perro Chocolo: The song "Con Agüita y Con Jabón Se Va El Coronavirus"note takes place during the pandemic and is all about washing your hands so you won't get coronavirus. Chocolo and his friends are seen following the social distancing rules.
- Pinkfong: The "Healthy Habits While Social Distancing" song takes place during the pandemic and has a fish struggling to follow the social distancing rules, including staying at home when sick and keeping a mask on.
- The Sonic for Hire spin-off series "Sonic Says" has Sonic and co. do Zoom calls on various topics.
- Apocalyptic Horseplay: The epilogue of the comic takes place in the year 2020 and showcases what the characters got up to after the events of the story. When it focuses on Pesty, the horsemen of pestilence, it's shown that he was responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. The reason? To bring back his horse, Fever, who was stabbed and killed during the events of the story just as she reunited with him. Unleashing the pandemic allowed him enough power to reform her so the two could live peacefully in the East.
- Ennui GO!: Starting with "Bad Gas", the comic begins to integrate the COVID-19 pandemic, with the disease itself being mentioned in "Substitute". "Corvid" introduces a sexually transmitted disease that turns victims into bird-people, but the strip heavily lampoons the reality of the COVID-19 situation at the time it was published: Noah gives a press briefing with sensible precautions and advice, outraged protestors defy the advice Noah gave, and Izzy gives a rambling press briefing that spoofs Pres. Trump's "disinfectant" briefing in typical Izzy fashion.
- PVP soft rebooted its timeline ten years into the future - the creator didnt want to write the comic with all the bleakness of the pandemic taking place in it, but it felt fake writing the comic as though it wasnt happening so took a third option and is writing the comic in a future where the virus is no longer an issue.
- The "Battle in Crisis" arc of Tales To Behold sees Captain Evening and the Odds, as well as a few allies and enemies, forced to shelter in place at the Fortress of Evening due to the epidemic while allies with superhuman immunity dealt with various crises on the outside. Around the time that New York tried to re-open, Kimberly Jones managed to create a vaccine in-universe so that the Odds could go back to their normal lives. Naturally, this ended up being Undermined by Reality, as the real-life re-openings led to another wave of cases.
- xkcd: This comic notes that works presumably "set in the present" but produced before the pandemic feel like depictions of a different time because of the absence of public health precautions such as masks and social distancing.
- In general, many Youtubers have referenced the virus and the ensuing lockdown around the time it started in March/April 2020.
- Olive And Mabel: a series of videos by furloughed BBC sports commentator Andrew Cotter of his Labradors Olive and Mabel going about their daily business, to which he applied dramatic commentary as if they were competing in a series of high-profile sporting events.
- Arby 'n' the Chief: The Bytes episode "Outbreak Breakout" focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic, with the episode mainly focusing on Arbiter discussing the pandemic and criticizing the numerous nonsensical and insensitive things Chief says about it.
- 1 For All: Antrius is an Absentee Actor for all of "The Party Guest", since his actor lived in a town that was quarantined.
- WatchMojo puts COVID-19 pandemic as the number 1 reason on why 2020 was the worst in their video. In fact, it was so bad that this pandemic could fill the entire list on why 2020 sucked. While they did mention the vaccine being administered to everyone, they stated that 2020 will be a "historic year for all the wrong reasons" due to its effects likely persisting for years to come.
- The Nostalgia Critic: Nostalgia Critic (and Channel Awesome) was also heavily affected by this pandemic as they had to go through a major Retool in April 2020. Video footage had to be recorded in their own houses instead of the original studio, and the cast could not collaborate in person until the vaccine is administered to every staff member.
- Nostalgia Critic eventually talks about the severity of COVID-19 and how it made 2020 so tumultuous by delivering a heartfelt speech in his Batman Returns episode. While he makes it clear that this moment will be hard to forget, he also makes it very clear that one day, humanity will eventually get over it and that they will emerge triumphantly.
- Filipino BL series Gameboys is set during the pandemic and filmed under local quarantine restrictions.
- In the Rick and Morty episode "Never Ricking Morty" (which was released 2 months after the lockdown started), Rick complains that no one is going out shopping "thanks to that fucking virus".
- Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: "Won't You Sing Along With Me?" dealt with Daniel learning that the annual Neighborhood Carnival has been cancelled due to the pandemic, discussing many problems young children might face during the pandemic.
- The Loud House and The Casagrandes crossover special "Hangin' at Home" involves Lincoln Loud and Ronnie Anne Santiago doing a video chat with each other. During this call, they talk about subjects relating to the pandemic, such as people who've had to work during it like Maria, Ronnie Anne's mom who's a nurse. They also share stories about what's happened to them and their families since Ronnie Anne moved out of Royal Woods and into Great Lakes City in "The Loudest Mission: Relative Chaos", with clips from previous episodes being shown.
- South Park:
- "The Pandemic Special" satirizes life during the pandemic around the town, as well as add in commentary about the "Defund the Police" campaigns that sprouted during the pandemic as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.
- "The Vaccination Special" satirizes the slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations, with the four boys stealing vaccines to distribute to teachers so Ms. Nelson can be their teacher instead of Mr. Garrison (who is no longer a Trumplica after the end of Trump's presidency).