An outbreak of a brand new disease that was first identified on New Year's Eve, 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 June 2022, there are more than 530 million confirmed cases of people being infected, with over 6.29 million deaths reported (making it the fifth-deadliest mass outbreak in recorded history), though they are likely gross underestimations; according to a WHO statement in October 2020, as many as 10% of the world's population (780 million) might have been infected, with actual deaths ranging from 9.5 to 18.6 million. The disease's outbreak and its subsequent progress and effects on the world were and still 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 disturbingly similar patterns developing from its time of appearance onward. That was rated as the deadliest, most severe disease of the modern era for the United States of America until COVID-19 overtook it in September 2021, though COVID didn't have the same deadly pattern of destruction across the Earth's population as the Spanish Flu did; COVID's higher death tolls are due to higher overall populations in the 21st century.
There is also the issue of "secondary deaths." Because so many medical resources have been devoted to fighting the disease and treating its victims, many people who otherwise would have had prompt medical treatment have had their treatments and operations delayed, postponed, or outright cancelled as hospital beds got filled up with COVID patients and medical personnel had to devote their time to treating them. It's entirely possible that the death toll from untreated cancer, heart disease, renal problems, etc. could exceed deaths directly caused by the virus itself (especially those caused by long stretches of lockdowns themselves). In addition to those, large gatherings for things like protests/riots and election cycles or coup d'état attempts may have also raised these "secondary deaths" to a lot more than what might have occurred otherwise.
This is a real-world example of The Plague.
Overall history of the pandemic:
- "Essential worker": Someone working a position considered necessary for societal 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. The "curve" is a reference to the charts used to portray numbers of infected or dead people.
- "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 housemates) 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. Think concerts or games with big audiences as major examples of such events.
- "Variant": Genetically mutated strains of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus with physical alterations that allow for increased infectiveness and lethality. For simplicity, each unique variant is given a Greek-letter designation (e.g. Variant B.1.1.529 is known as the Omicron variant, which must be defeated in order to end the pandemic).
- "Excess Deaths": Due to the different ways various authorities and countries record whether deaths are due to the virus, it can be hard to make comparisons - do they only record directly caused deaths? Deaths of other causes where the virus was a complication? Etc. A way around this is to look at "excess deaths" - deaths above what would be statistically normal for a locale and time period if the virus didn't exist. This has the advantage that it's hard to fudge or manipulate numbers as nearly all countries have public records of deaths that are almost impossible to obfuscate and takes into account direct deaths from the virus, deaths where it was a factor or complication, secondary deaths due to other maladies going untreated due to medical resources being diverted and suicides caused by the mental effects of the pandemic and the measures used to contain it.
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 verified infections and deaths in the world. To this date, over 80.9 million people infected and over 991,000 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 entered deployment, but despite the world passing 6 billion doses by late September 2021, an estimated 9 billion more need to follow suit, and the timeline for widescale immunization efforts ranges from anywhere between mid-to-late 2021 to early 2023, depending on the country and whether people are truly willing to help out in stopping the virus in its tracks going forward. 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 version of the 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.
- Vectors of infection:
- 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 to 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* .
- While the virus' need for the respiratory droplets to spread means it cannot be technically considered 'airborne', it might as well be for most intents and purposes. Just about the only instance where it does matter is in the open: You're not going to be infected while standing on the road despite an infected household having opened their windows down the street.
- Incubation period:
- 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 testing, 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 This also applies to fully vaccinated individuals who, while not experiencing any severe symptoms, can still be carriers and spread the virus to the unvaccinated. The Delta and Omicron variants that emerged in 2021 are much more contagious than the original, being as contagious as Chicken Pox or Mumps, making the spread even faster than before.
- Infectivity and mortality:
- Although the mortality rate in symptomatic cases is around 2%, which may not seem so bad* , it has an exceptionally high infectivity. This makes the low lethality rate deceptively worse than it looks on paper, as 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.
- It also jumps between species with relative ease compared to other viruses* , and current research suggests that most mammals are susceptible. Cats, dogs, livestock, and, yes, bats, can all be infected with the otherwise human-transmitted variants of COVID, and spread them in turn. While the rate of infectivity between humans and other species, and other species to humans, is markedly lower than human-to-human transmission, it nonetheless provides a zoonotic reservoir for the disease that is nigh-impossible to contain.
- On the same token, the higher the number of cases, the higher number of cases that require hospitalization; this can, and in some regions has, overwhelmed health systems, causing shortages of PPE* and ICUs* - the latter of which includes the personnel required to operate them, as even trained and experienced nurses and doctors suffer Heroic BSoDs from the sheer amount of death (and in some cases abuse by the patients they are trying to save or the family of said patient), all these in turn causing even more deaths that could have been prevented, including, sadly, suicides by the physically and mentally exhausted personnel.
- As 2021 rolled into the summer, it became clear that the measures taken to combat COVID had all but made it impossible for the normal virulent flu epidemics to get going during the 2020-2021 winter. Yet in spite of this, COVID still enjoyed one of its major heights with more virulent variants like Delta and Omicron. The Omicron variant was particular for going global within weeks - something that took the original 'Alpha' variant months, and despite vaccines and lockdowns during the 2021-2022 winter, broke all records of infectivity
- Risk Factors:
- 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 children or 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 the possibility that certain genetics play a factor as well.
- It should be noted that Vitamin D is critical for immune support already and doesn't necessarily affect COVID-19 specifically, but scores of people are deficient due to living in cold, cloudy climates or simply having poorly-balanced diets, and — though purely conjecture at this point — it's telling that the winter of 2020-2021 saw an enormous surge in cases and deaths across the northern hemisphere, and that the winter of 2021-2022 is gearing up for much of the same.
- Whether or not infected persons acquire antibody immunity against further infection, and if so for how long, has been a hotly debated topic. Reinfections are relatively rare, and almost always involves a new variant. However, much like any virus, a person can get infected again from it if they aren't careful enough.
- Should a COVID-19 case become symptomatic, the symptoms mostly include a hard-hitting flu-like package: Fever, dry throat, soreness, tiredness, etc.
- Beyond the deceptive flu-like symptoms of COVID-19, one of the oft-reported symptoms is a loss of sense of taste and smell, with people reporting things like their favorite food tasting like cardboard.
- Because of COVID-19 infecting the lungs, pneumonia almost always a risk, and is often the effect that kills a person infected by COVID-19; filling their lungs with fluid and rendering them unable to breathe.
- Relatedly, much of the evidence currently available suggests that the main problem with the virus is that it is a blood infection just as much as it is a "lung" infection; thickened or unusual blood is a very common report for severe COVID-19 patients, and while the lungs are often heavily affected by this (naturally being one of the most blood-rich organs in the body), 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.
- This makes it especially dangerous to unborn children who still rely on the blood-rich placenta. While the mother might survive, the same cannot always be said about the fetus.
- Recovery from COVID-19 is not a clean affair; even after clearing the infection, the damage COVID-19 can do to a body lingers, and this is common enough to be given the moniker of 'Long COVID', a state that can last for months, even with aid - people who formerly were fit and healthy barely having enough energy to get out of bed and shower, needing rehabilitation therapy to even walk - this is not helped by the aforementioned loss of smell and taste; with food losing its appeal, the body may end up undernourished, which prevents healing. So far, all signs point to 'Long COVID' being a temporary state, meaning that a recovery will eventually happen if given the proper care.
- Though recovery is all but certain, it does not necessarily mean a full recovery due to permanent damage to many vital organs (i.e. lungs, heart, kidney, brain, etc). The body's inability to fully and reliably recover from the virus is why the herd immunity strategy of getting as many people infected doesn't work, and a study by the Big Ten Conference showed that 1/3 of the athletes in the conference who contracted COVID-19 in summer practices developed potentially career-ending heart problems. Some COVID long-haulers have even taken their own lives due to how badly the damage to their bodies has affected their mental health.
In particular, point number 2 has been cited as the main reason for the pandemic'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 because, as per point number 3, COVID has an exceptionally high infectivity rate.
The vaccines being rolled out during 2021 and 2022 have done a lot to mitigate the spread and damage of the virus, but it's important to stress that these vaccines are not miracle cures and that no such thing exists; they train your body to fight COVID-19, and thus limit your ability to both host the virus and pass it on. "Limit" is the operative word here; the above is still technically true even if you are vaccinated as the vaccines are not 100% effective, and some cases have been reported of people getting the virus even after getting the vaccine. However, not only is a vaccinated person much less likely to build the viral load necessary to spread the disease, they are also much more likely to fight off the infection and survive than had they not gotten the vaccine in time or at all - it is vanishingly rare for a vaccinated person to require emergency services, and rarer still for them to die from the virus (or its variants) itself. Furthermore, a 'booster' shot may also be recommended, especially if you are of elderly age or are immunocompromised.note
Elsewhere in East Asia, neighboring countries were able to successfully contain the virus, initially. 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 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 attributed this readiness to previous experience with disease outbreaks like the SARS and MERS. However, case and death counts in once-"secure" countries like Taiwan, Japan and South Korea began to rise in Fall 2020, forcing those countries to go into lockdowns. Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia soon became major hotspots with skyrocketing cases in part because of the Delta variant and low vaccination rates.
Japan's handling of the pandemic gained much attention with moments of success and failure. At the start of the pandemic, Japan's government was heavily criticized for failing to isolate infected passengers onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, causing a massive outbreak that spread on the densely packed ship. While cases were relatively low for much of 2020, starting in Winter 2020, Japan experienced successive infection waves that battered the country's health care and economy, which was especially strained by lost economic opportunity costs spent on preparing for the delayed 2020 Olympics. It didn't help that Japan's notorious bureaucracy and regulations resulted in only 20% of citizens getting fully vaccinated by July 2021 compared to the 50% rate seen in other countries. Yet the Japanese government went ahead with hosting the Olympics despite the aforementioned setbacks, public opposition and fears of the games becoming a superspreader event. Thankfully, the Olympics saw relatively few infection rates due to the ban on spectators and rigorous safety precautions of infections throughout the event were limited. While vaccination rates have gone up significantly by fall 2021, the damage was already done with the Olympics becoming a money loser and Japan losing two prime ministers during the course of the pandemic.
India currently has the world's second-highest number of cases, after the US. Initially, India was successful in combating COVID with the government locking down quickly with relatively low case rates and deaths, albeit millions of Indians were left stranded when public transportation was closed. However, 2021 saw an abrupt spike with daily cases going from 10,000 in February to over 400,000 by April, leading to an uptick in deaths that's becoming harder to track. The deluge overwhelmed India's already-beleaguered healthcare system and supply chains to the brink with hospitals running out of beds and oxygen tanks while pyres burned 24/7. The outbreak 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 exports of vaccines, 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 began) has been panned for focusing more on local elections, exploiting the pandemic to quash dissent, ignoring medical experts who have warned of a more brutal second wave, and responding slowly 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. The mass infection of the Indian population led to the emergence of a Delta variant of the virus, which is more infectious than previous variants of the virus and is dangerous to hospitalize anyone who isn't fully vaccinated against COVID-19 itself. Further complicating the crisis is an outbreak of mucormycosis (Black Fungus) infections that appeared in immunocompromised COVID patients. 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 inconsistently enforced policies; most notably, his waived COVID restrictions for Ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are his strongest supporters, leading to several 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 his corruption charges, leading to protests that only intensified following harsh crackdowns. Not even the successful vaccination campaign could save Netanyahu's career with the 2021 election failed to give him enough seats to form a majority coalition, costing his position as PM. Then in July, Israel experienced a massive surge in cases caused by waning vaccine efficacy, loosened restrictions and the new Delta variant. While fatalities are relatively low due to mass vaccination, fears of mass hospitalization lead the new Israeli PM, Naftali Bennett, to authorize the use of booster shots.
The United States and CanadaThe troubles in the United States began as early as January when President Donald Trump's administration called for a ban on travel between China and other hot spot countries, which Trump's opponents objected as being xenophobic and encouraged citizens to party and attend other acts that would later be classified as super spreaders in the weeks leading up to the mass-lockdowns in early-mid-March. Many Americans, particularly cash-strapped millennials, also saw the drastically reduced plane ticket prices as an opportunity to travel abroad and either brought the virus home with them before the lockdowns began or found themselves stuck in foreign land after the lockdowns.
One reason for the disastrous U.S. situation is that lockdown measures caused widespread protests and unrest in the United States, with the Trump administration demanding that various state governors end lockdowns/stay-at-home orders and "reopen the economy" as opposed to encouraging people to stay home and keep businesses closed via financial aid. Trump faced criticism for his pandemic responses, which included claiming that the virus will just go away after a while and was comparable to the flu — which, even if valid, should have had the "from Hell" qualifier included to help justify said comparison. 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 mask-wearing to combat the virus became controversial, 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 Trump's attacks on the World Health Organization and decision to withdraw from it of being an attempt to distract from his 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 like this pandemic.
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 many widespread protests in the nation 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. So much so, in fact, that people were reminded of other, similarly disturbing incidents with people like Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery earlier in the year, with further incidents occurring during the protests/riots (and even after that point with Jacob Blake's shooting and the aftermath of its protest in mind) resulting in the protests feeling even more turbulent than they were initially expected to be. 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 (with some professional sports leagues also reopening their seasons in more limited manners, especially in the case of the NBA and MLS also being in Walt Disney World at that time), 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 a lot more heavily than before and leading to the pandemic again becoming the top point of focus in the news cycle and public discussion, eclipsing even the protests. Many analysts pinned the second wave more on the mass re-openings, 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 that 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 by late September. Trump's case in particular was severe enough that 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 during the 2020 presidential election cycle, 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 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 tally was 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 attack on the election's results culminated in an angry mob storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, with the mob there aiming to overturn the Trump's election loss. However, not only did the attack fail to change the Presidential results, but five people died during the attack (including a police officer trying to defend the Capitol), hundreds of people were injured (some permanently), and many more people were infected with COVID.
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. However, the initial vaccination efforts were slow in January and February due to the lack of an inherited plan and a series of power failures caused by intense snowstorms. 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. Additionally, despite the endorsement of the vaccines by the majority of the nation's leaders, the widespread proliferation of "anti-vax" conspiracies have led some to declining 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. By late May, however, daily cases had dropped to only 23,000 nationwide, with 8 states crossing 70% vaccinated (all of New England plus Hawaii) by May 24th. Vaccinations lagged heavily behind in other states, with Alabama the least vaccinated at only 25%. To counter lagging vaccination in late spring, many states offered incentives like lotteries, theme park passes, scholarships, savings bonds and even things like beer, guns, doughnuts, and marijuana to help out those either undecided or as a means of persuasion to change their minds if they were against the vaccines.
However, with the emergence of Delta variant from India and easing of restrictions, there have been an uptake in confirmed cases during Summer 2021. Thankfully, the vaccines are currently effective against Delta and other variants in preventing hospitalization and deaths. Furthermore, while masks are required indoors, lockdowns can be avoided so long as people are vaccinated. The rising number of cases and aversion to another lockdown has lead to rebound in the national vaccination rate. The highest number of new cases in the summer surge are in Florida, Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri, with the first two accounting for nearly half of all new cases. A outbreak among schoolchildren is feared given how vaccines for people under age 12 weren't approved until the end of October even as schools resumed in-person despite the Delta variant's presence. Nearly 1 in 5 cases of COVID in the US in the August 2021 wave was a child under 15. One school which opened without a mask requirement had 40% of its students down with the Delta variant in just a week. In response to lagging vaccination rates and surging COVID cases, Biden enacted a series of mandates requiring corporate workers, federal workers, and health care workers to get vaccinated. Likewise, many state and local officials began crafting their vaccine mandates for law enforcement, first responders, and educators, though these have often been vehemently, even violently, opposed. Educators suffered particularly badly as school board meetings across the country were beset by belligerent protestors, and some first responders and police officers quit their jobs rather than accept a shot. By Thanksgiving Day of 2021, the Omicron variant from South Africa had quickly emerged and spread in the United States and by the end of 2021 had not only become the dominant strain in the US, but it caused a surge even worse than the winter 2021 surge the previous January. This eventually led to the Biden administration admitting that they should learn to live with COVID instead of completely eradicating it.
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. Businesses were also kept afloat with subsidies and loans to help pay for wages, rent, and other expenses. 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 neighbor.
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. The building frustration over the vaccination and quarantine requirment hit a fever pitch in January 2022 when hundreds of Canadian and American truckers (whose profession requires them to cross the border regularly and who tend to be drawn from more conservative anti-vax communities to begin with) descended en masse on Ottawa with their big rigs to protest Canadian vaccine requirements and to demand that all anti-virus measures be abolished nationwide. Huge numbers of semi trucks and flatbeds jammed the streets of downtown Ottawa for weeks, fed by money and fuel from outside supporters, bringing nearly all vehicle traffic in the city to a standstill and paralyzing nearby cross-border trade as the protest went on. The event became a cause celebre in far right circles with worldwide media attention, couched in terms of patriotic blue collar workers striking a blow for freedom against cruel oppressors. In late February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act to quash the protests, sending in police to arrest protesters, seizing or freezing bank accounts linked to organizers and their supporters, and temporarily nationalizing towing companies to haul away vehicles clogging the city.
Ironically, early 2021 was 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 U.S.A. would issue export bans - some experts speculated that this was due to fears of a second Donald Trump term, as he was known for capricious trade policies with Canada. However, the EU enacted its own export bans, leaving Canada scrambling for any vaccines to make up for its shortages. Compounding the issue was that due to mismanagement from prior federal governments, Canada lacked the means to produce any vaccines of its own, leaving it fully at the mercy of America, which donated millions of vaccines to Canada as a stop gap for those most in need.
While the vaccination drive picked up speed in spring, resulting in at least 60% of all Canadians receiving at least one dose, less than 6% of Canadians were fully vaccinated compared to the 41% of Americans, as a result of a policy of prioritizing first doses over second doses by extending the interval between doses to as much as 16 weeks. Fortunately, increased supplies of leftover vaccines, especially those from the U.S.A., allowed Canada's fully vaccinated rate to catch up with the U.S.A. in July 2021, and as of November of 2021, Canada has become one of the most vaccinated nations on the planet. However, Canada's fortunes were dashed by both the emergence of the Delta and Omicron variants; Omicron was especially devastating as it caused three times as many winter cases in 2021 compared to 2020 though the high vaccination rate meant that hospitalizations and deaths are relatively low.
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%, the highest in the world at the time (it has since been surpassed by Peru).
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 a forced 30-days long quarantine or pushed away at the border). 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.
While all of South America struggled to control the virus, Brazil became a hotspot with the third-highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases behind the US and India, and the second-highest death toll behind the US. Despite the country's past experiences with pandemics and its successful vaccine program, the response was repeatedly undermined by President Jair Bolsonaro. Like Trump, Bolsonaro downplayed the disease, discouraged masks, promoted false cures, and clashed with local governors over lockdowns. Unlike Trump, Bolsonaro didn't have to face the wrath of Brazilian voters because the next presidential election is in 2022, prolonging the deadly omnishambles. It also didn't help that Brazil lost three health ministers during the course of the pandemic or how Bolsonaro declined several vaccine offers at discounted prices, meaning that the country lagged much behind other countries in immunization. Then in January 2021, a new, more transmissible Gamma variant of the virus emerged, leading to more travel restrictions being placed on Brazil by outside nations. Bolsonaro has also isolated Brazil from the international community with his insulting comments like mocking the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, disputing Joe Biden's presidential win, and scapegoating Asian people for the pandemic, which led to several countries withholding support during Brazil's second wave. Then Bolsonaro's administration became embroiled in a public health scandal in which the government considered buying vaccines from an Indian company at inflated prices and without approval from the Brazil's health ministry. Fortunately, the number of cases have declined following a successful vaccination campaign spearheaded by the country's national health care system and local communities. Yet nonetheless, the backlash to Bolsonaro's pandemic response led to political turmoil with congress investigating his administration and massive crowds protesting him.
In Italy, another hard-hit area of the pandemic with the eighth highest death toll after the US, Brazil, India, Russia, Mexico, Peru, 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 an unexpected 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 180 deaths per 100,000 people; by comparison, that is approximately eight 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. The only consolation is that Sweden's generous welfare and extensive health care prevented an even worse death toll, the country became a cautionary tale about half-measures.note
Russia currently has the fourth highest number of cases in Europe and the seventh highest worldwide at more than 17.8 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 354,000 deaths whereas Rosstat (the government's statistic agency) reported around 701,000 deaths. Some suspect that the Ministry of Health is fudging the actual death toll statistic by only counting deaths caused explicitly by COVID while leaving out COVID-infected individuals with pre-existing conditions. Currently, as of this writing, the biggest problem facing is anti-vaccine sentiment with state-run polls showing that less than half of Russian citizens are willing to get vaccinated. Much of this skepticism could be blamed on the distrust towards Russian institutions and the proliferation of misinformation. The premature announcement of Russia's native Sputnik V vaccine before completing all trials drew much skepticism; while the vaccine did complete its later trials and was verified by the international science community, the damage was done. Likewise, the Russian government's smear campaign against foreign vaccines inadvertently convinced citizens that all vaccines, regardless of country of origin, are dangerous. Subsequently, this lead to the country becoming overwhelmed by the Delta variant in Summer 2021. Then in 2022, Russia shifted most of its industrial resources towards invaded in Ukraine, grinding additional research, manufacturing and distribution of Sputnik vaccine to a halt.
As time went on, the UK became one of the hardest-hit of all European countries, with the third highest case number in the continent at more than 22 million. It had 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 supplies and 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.
Notably, the UK gained widespread attention for scandals surrounding the government's incompetence and corruption. Johnson and his advisors infamously undermined public health officials by prematurely ending lockdowns and promoting in-person dining that only lead to more cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The response also suffered from corruption with Johnson's closest allies handing out large contracts to donors and relatives who delivered subpar services.note Likewise, key government figures like Chief Advisor Dominic Cummings and Health Secretary Matt Hancock were forced to resign after breaking lockdown orders. However, the straw that broke the camel's back were the 2021 reports that Johnson and his cabinet repeatedly hosted backyard and Christmas parties that violated their own social distancing rules and ban on large gatherings. The scandal was so controversial that it lead to an internal revolt within Johnson's Conservative party with several Tory MPs voting against additional COVID restrictions, publicly denouncing Johnson in the House of Commons and even joining the opposition parties in calling for his resignation.
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 early on was "zero community transmission", in contrast to the mitigation policies of most other Western countries. Despite initial success, Australia's quarantine policy was breached in June 2021 when an outbreak of the more contagious Delta variant forced major cities like Sydney and Brisbane, and even Melbourne again, into lockdown. Not helping matters is that the government's over-reliance on quarantining instead of vaccinating meant that less than 30% of its population was fully vaccinated at the time. Fortunately, as of January 2022, 77%+ of Australians are either fully vaccinated, have one dose or a booster shot. The Coalition-run Federal Government initially intended on a more hands-off approach to the outbreak, but was forced to capitulate into helping with managing the outbreak by the state governments, though throughout the pandemic it has been fairly obvious they really would much rather prefer as little restrictions as possible due to their priorities being on keeping the economy running (they did provide surprisingly robust economic support to the corportations in need and the jobless, but they cut the latter off at the first opportunity and gave an excessive amount of money to corportations that didn't remotely need it while refusing to demand that the money be given back, which says a lot about a government that claims to priotize reducing government debt and putting the budget "back in black"), often lambasting the Labor-run Victorian state government for its focus on swift and early lockdowns, instead praising the relatively limited efforts of the New South Wales government, which was focused on contact tracing, as the "gold standard", words which aged poorly when the state's measure and reluctance to impose lockdowns were severely inadequete for handling the Delta variant. The federal government also initially squandered the vaccine rollout (which has been dubbed the "strollout" by critics), buying limited quanities and mainly the AstraZeneca vaccine at first rather than properly covering their bases with large quantities of multiple vaccines, which bit them in the arse when the blood clot issue (which actually resulted in deaths) started rearing its ugly head and demand for the Pfizer vaccine rose tremendously out of fear of the side-effects of the AZ vaccine. Australia is credited as one of the countries who better handled the pandemic, though largely in spite of the federal government. Australia is largely now focused on mitigation rather than elimination due to the sheer transmissability of the Omnicron variant and the high vaccination rate, focusing on mask usage and vaccination instead.
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 from February until September 2021. However, in October, the government announced that it will shift away from its original zero-tolerance approach in favor of mass vaccination.
Many governments in Africa acted early to contain the pandemic, and on 22nd April 2020, the World Health Organization highlighted examples of how Africa was leading the global response. Measures such as early border closures, less international connectivity, and lockdowns helped lower the caseload.
The extensive spread and high disease burden were predicted based on transmission dynamics of the virus, socioeconomic deprivation, unsanitary living conditions, and poor healthcare systems throughout the African continent. Several small studies have been conducted in different parts of Africa, but these results were not validated in an Africa-specific context. Cross-reactivity with other micro-organisms and hypergammaglobulinemia due to malaria exposure may affect the sensitivity/specificity of these tests. This could further lead to underestimation or overestimation of seroprevalence.
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 (though by the end of 2021 most productions reopened with protective measures in place); Broadway theaters in New York City did not reopen until Fall 2021 only to see the Omicron variant interrupt the lucrative holiday season. Many smaller companies and venues still 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 (or "a proper job" in British English) in October 2020, which was a public relations disaster that united even the caustic critics of the entertainment world. 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 was crippled, with musicians, venues and big festivals all badly affected. As anyone who isn't 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 Summer Olympics the only ones 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. Euro 2020 was also moved to 2021 with the same 2020 year promotion that the Olympics also decided to keep for that particular year. In Australia all the major sports had their contracts prematurely torn up by tv broadcasters wanting to save cash, which cost clubs, leagues and players as much as 50% of their income on the deals.
While the tourism and hospitality industries as a whole took a massive blow owing to travel restrictions, the cruising industry in particular was 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 high-end 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. A related industry that had a massive boom was live streamers, who took advantage of everyone being locked in doors during the day to broadcast to massive audiences. hololive rode this boost with their 4th & 5th Japanese generations gaining huge subscriber counts and then launched their English branch, one of whom, Gawr Gura, gained 3.5 million subscribers in roughly a year, becoming the largest vtuber on the platform.
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 announced it would reorient 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. This represented a colossal shift in distribution and marketing, all largely driven by the realities of COVID and pandemic life. Things looked bleak for movie theaters, and indeed many chains declared bankruptcy and independent theaters pleaded 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 proved insufficient to make films like Tenet, Wonder Woman 1984, and Black Widow (2021) profitable.
While many theaters in the United States reopened in August 2020, the results were deeply dispiriting; Tenet, which many hoped would serve as a welcome-back event for eager customers, bombed at the box office, leading most other big titles to be delayed into 2021. This spurred the aforementioned moves by Disney and Warner Bros. into streaming as the pandemic hit its worst months in the country. The outlook for cinema finally began to take a more hopeful shift in the 2nd quarter of 2021, however. As vaccination efforts ramped up significantly following a slow start, many cinemas decided to take the leap and reopen their doors (with capacity limitations and improved sanitation) following the gradual (or not gradual, depending on the state) easing of COVID restrictions. Exhibitors had been encouraged by the successful recovery of cinema in China, where local blockbusters had reached pre-pandemic level grosses by September 2020; in February 2021, Detective Chinatown 3 had pulled off the incredible feat of dethroning Avengers: Endgame as the largest box office opening ever for a single territory. A number of films that had been shifted to much later in the year, such as A Quiet Place Part II, were suddenly pulled earlier in the hopes summer blockbusters could return, and marketing for big releases with seemingly final release dates resumed.
The hopes for cinema's return came to fruition with the debut of Godzilla vs. Kong, which, despite its HBO Max availability, scored $48 million by the end of its first weekend. Deadline Hollywood estimated that, despite all of its disadvantages, the film would achieve profitability, and its success was followed up by sizable debuts for Mortal Kombat and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: Mugen Train. This proved to be the encouragement studios on the fence needed to lock in their summer releases - some in theaters only, some with simultaneous theaters-streaming arrangents. On Memorial Day weekend, often considered the start of the summer movie season, A Quiet Place Part II — originally scheduled to open the weekend cinemas shut down in 2020 — debuted in-theaters-only to $57 million, a harbinger of hope for a beleaguered industry. Strong numbers for F9 and (initially) Black Widow furthered hope; however, the spread of the delta variant has caused concerns as to how long the recovery will last, as has a disturbing trend of new releases plummeting drastically at the box office after their opening weekend. (Additionally, actress Scarlett Johansson sued Disney over a lost bonus owing to Black Widow's hybrid theatrical/streaming release, bringing up the sensitive issue of creatives being properly compensated for their work at a time when revenues in general are greatly reduced.)
The situation remains more dire in cinemas outside the US and East Asia, where continued outbreaks and unsuccessful vaccination campaigns have led to more shutdowns even as Hollywood blockbusters launch. As a result, many of these films continue to release on PVOD and streaming services internationally. Even in the US, vaccines remain unapproved for children under age 12, so a large number of family films (such as Soul, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Luca and The Boss Baby: Family Business) continue to debut primarily at home or have had release dates pushed further back (Clifford the Big Red Dog gave up plans for a September launch due to the Delta variant). Expectations of a downturn in business for films that aren't deemed "cinema-worthy" has also continued to drive sales of mid-to-low-budget films to streaming providers, leading to concerns that there may no longer be a place for non-blockbusters at the movie theater, which only grew after the poor box office showing of In the Heights despite a massive ad campaign. Whether things will change following the summer season remains to be seen.
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 confirmed their plans to return for 2021, all of their 2020 entries were deemed null and void (due to competition rules) and had to select new songs to present. (The slogan for the 2020 edition, Open Up, became an ironic downer in the wake of its cancelation.) The contest ultimately proceeded as planned in 2021.
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.
In terms of trends during the pandemic, observers noted that audiences had split into two camps: One part of the audience wanted entertainment that was reflective of what was happening in the "real world", while the other wanted more escapist, generally lighter fare as far removed from those concerns as possible.
Alleged 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.
It's important to note, however, that there have been changes to policies about discussion of these topics on places like Facebook whenever a theory becomes more of a possibility that there was some weight to it, and some controversies as to the regulation of permissible discussions related to the pandemic, with some arguing that tech companies were bowing to the demands of government pressure to shield people from failures of being able to effectively handle the pandemic, making the distinction of who is just spouting wild conspieracy theories and who is offering counter information much harder in recent months.
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 "Zoom bombing" emerged, with many hackers, Internet trolls and delinquents intruding on video conference calls, then speaking or sharing racist, anti-Semitic, 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.
The pandemic also led to increased political instability and mistrust of public institutions. The World Health Organization received much criticism for failing to quickly contain the virus and not alerting other nations in time, leading to accusations of the agency having a pro-China bias. Leaders like Trump and Bolsonaro held political rallies and attempted to prematurely end lockdowns, which only led to surging cases in the world. 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, other countries like Thailand and India used stay-at-home orders to ban public demonstrations against the ruling parties. 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 or gave contradictory cherry-picked statistics to downplay the virus's lethality. The pandemic also saw a rise in crime as the absence of government relief led to the sick turning to black market dealers and the poor relying on organized crime for aid. Public safety measures were politicized with right-wing citizens in Western countries being less likely than their left-wing counterparts to get vaccinated or wear masks. The political dysfunction has subsequently been responsible for the pandemic being dragged out and having a less effective public health response.
One change enforced by the pandemic was a large-scale shift to working from home in jobs that can be done remotely. While some workers are returning to the office (at least part-time), it seems likely that telework will be significantly more common in the post-pandemic era.
Another consequence of the pandemic has been changing societal attitudes towards work overall. As many "essential" workers were of the lower wage-earning bracket, there has been a greater push towards unionizing and workers rights movements calling for better wages, benefits, and safe working conditions, with some of the most notable being the 2021 Kellogg's strike and the Amazon Labor Union. The "anti-work" movement has similarly gained traction among those questioning the merits of workplace loyalty, calls for better work-life balance, and the nature of work in general. Through 2021, a trend in workers quitting their jobs en masse became known as the Great Resignation. Reasons ranged from wage stagnation amid rising cost of living, long-lasting job dissatisfaction, safety concerns from pandemic, and the desire to work for companies with better remote-working policies. Some economists have described the Great Resignation as akin to a general strike.
However, what exactly will come out of it in the long term is still only a matter of highly malleable guesswork at this moment in time.
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)
- Creator Breakdown (the lockdowns negatively affected the mental health of creative people, which was often reflected in their output)
- Real Life Writes the Plot (many works focused on real life plots in the period of the real early 2020s have been affected by the pandemic)
- Troubled Production (many productions have faced hardships to some degree due to the pandemic)
- What Could Have Been (in addition to seriously affecting the real world, many products and media outlets have also been affected by the pandemic)
Fictional depictions of the pandemic:
- An entire genre of advertising spawned during the early days of the pandemic, fusing Glurge, We Care, and a suspiciously similar somber piano music. Here is a video documenting these ads.
- During the height of the pandemic, Clorox sprays promoted them also killing COVID-19 virus strains with their product line alongside other viruses for killing 99.9% of germs with it.
- Cells at Work!: The final arc involves a coronavirus infection.
- The JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Spin-Off, Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan has a chapter, titled "Hot Summer Martha", which is set during the pandemic. Rohan mentions the disease by name, feels stressed out from staying indoors for so long (since his M.O. as a writer involves travelling to many places for research and inspiration), and feels disgusted when he goes for a walk and sees people wearing their masks improperly or failing to follow social distancing protocol. This does create timeline inconsistencies, as characters are still the same age as in past chapters set decades before the pandemic started.
- Touhou Suichouka ~ Lotus Eater-tachi no Suisei: Chapter 24 has Gensokyo's Zashiki-warashi doing remote work on their houses from the Land of the Rear Door because it's easier than having to pack up every time they want to move, with the rear doors serving the same purpose as video conferencing services such as Zoom.
- Crisis Zone, an Alternate Continuity take on Simon Hanselmann's Megg, Mogg and Owl series (drawn and written by Simon!) takes place during the pandemic.
- The Nice House On The Lake is an unusual take: it begins in the post-apocalypse, with the main character wearing a facemask, but then flashes back to before the apocalypse, where the reader can see that the facemask was actually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All of the characters who arrive at the titular nice house on the lake, in fact, are temperature tested, making the pandemic something there, but unspoken.
- DIE: The final issue take place during the pandemic.
- Curtis: One plotline during the pandemic involved Curtis's teacher, Ms. Nelson, coming down with Covid and Curtis being very upset over it, even making plans to sneak into the hospital and check on her. These didn't come to fruition, but she did eventually recover and stopped by to visit them.
- 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.
- Frazz had a couple fourth-wall-breaking strips Lampshade Hanging that the strip's school setting was still operating as normal despite real-life schools being closed.
- 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.
- Tom the Dancing Bug has a God-Man strip where God-Man attempts to save Reporter Millie Mills from Covidhead's illness gun — and she keeps ignoring all his attempts to protect her (such as providing a shield, summoning the Green Vaccine, and even bursting into the room himself and telling Millie to take cover behind him), having faith that only God-Man himself will directly save her.
- The NUMB3RS Flash Forward Fic V for Virus takes place during the early days of the pandemic. Charlie and Don's father, Alan, gets infected, and, while he recovers, they worry and they don't know what to do about the whole situation. The fic ends with Charlie saying the situation has only just begun.
- Eyes on Me:
- Being Human mentions the pandemic as having occurred a few years back. Thus, the fanfic takes place in a post-COVID world.
- In Be Wherever You Are, Hope reveals that she got sick with COVID-19 as a child. The story also reveals that her biological grandmother Trisha died from the same disease before she could get vaccinated during the early days of the pandemic.
- 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 hasn't changed. I can only offer the same old platitudes - I feel like I'm not actually helping anyone's 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 there's 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.
- Sporadic Phantoms works the pandemic into their exploration of The Sharing, with the group preying on peoeple's feelings of isolation and touting allegedly-safe mask-free meetings in order to draw more desparate people in.
- In It's a Wonderful Christmas, Carole, mention is made of Jessica (one of Carole's twins) helping spearhead the development of a vaccine which ends a global pandemic around twenty years from the setting of the fanfic (then around about 1998). Although not mentioned directly, the timing of it and the mention of it being global makes it all but clear that it's meant to be COVID-19 that she's helped developed the vaccine for.
- 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 handled 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.
- Corona 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.
- Bo Burnham filmed the movie/comedy special Bo Burnham: Inside from inside of his own house during the lockdown. Given that Burnham has a self-admitted need to please his audiences and get immediate feedback, Inside takes a look at his deteriorating mental state throughout the pandemic, though it throws in a "Ray of Hope" Ending where Burnham leaves his house.
- 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.
- Help (2021) is a Patched Together from the Headlines / Ripped from the Headlines movie about a carer and her care home trying to deal with the severe PPE shortages and the crisis that broke out in the UK as a result of bringing COVID-positive patients into care homes, which caused thousands of residents and care home staff to be infected and later die.
- Muppets Haunted Mansion obliquely references the pandemic in its closing moments: Statler and Waldorf urge the audience to go home already because the show's over, before remembering that won't work because they are home. (Doubles as a Shout-Out to the fact that this is the first Muppets special to air on home streaming service Disney+.)
- The End Of Us is a romantic comedy centering around a live-in couple who, after breaking up, are forced to still live together after the COVID-19 pandemic forces California into lockdown.
- The Irish Short Film Widespread takes place After the End, where a teenage boy has to breach quarantine to get medicine for his ill mother.
- Homesick, a British film about a student returning home during lockdown, and having to spend it in isolation due to his parents being quarantined abroad.
- The Bubble (2022) takes place in late 2020 during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plot itself revolves around the Troubled Production of the latest movie in a fictional franchise brought on by said pandemic.
- 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.
- New Arcadia: Stage One is set in 2023, in a (hopefully) alternate universe where a second, much more virulent strain of an unnamed virus that caused the world to shut down in 2020 resulted in mass death on a much larger scale and led to most cities being emptied — one way or another. The novel's protagonist was evacuated from Los Angeles to a residential development in the desert, and at the start of the story he hasn't left his house or interacted with another human being in person in three years.
- 56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard is a thriller based on the premise that two people (who are dating but don't know each other well) decide impulsively to move in together just before Ireland goes into lockdown. Fifty-six days later, the apartment is found empty except for an unidentified corpse.
- Stephen King's 2021 novel Billy Summers was originally set in 2020, but was re-drafted before publication to take place in 2019, since characters being able to travel and go on vacation freely was an essential plot point a couple of times.note King also inserted several ominous foreshadowing statements about the pandemic in the affected sections, despite the story itself ending in the winter of 2019 before any of the main characters ever even hear of COVID.
- Given King's commitment to working contemporary references into his stories as much as possible, it makes sense that he's already treating COVID in this way. His first novel of 2022, Gwendy's Final Task (the finale of the Gwendy trilogy, co-written with Richard Chizmar) is set in 2026, and makes numerous passing references to the pandemic. Overall the view given by the authors is hopeful, with infection numbers under control by then and just a few elderly people still preferring to wear masks in public as an added precaution.
- Mark Billingham's 2021 novel Rabbit Hole is dedicated to the NHS workers who lost their lives in the pandemic. The story itself takes place an unspecified time after the pandemic has ended implied to be around a couple of years; basically, long enough that everything's back to "normal" but technology, politics, and culture remain the same but since the story takes place almost entirely in a hospital it naturally gets mentioned a few times, with the subsequent poor treatment of surviving medical staff by the British government coming in for a deal of criticism.
- The backstory for American Girl's 2022 Girl of the Year Corinne Tan — who is of Chinese descent — portrays the xenophobia and racism she and the Asian-American community in general faced due to the pandemic. The so-called "kung flu" epithet coined by Donald Trump and used to disparage Asians who are unfairly blamed for the disease was also mentioned in the story.
- 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.
- The Amazing Race: Season 33 was filming in February 2020 when the pandemic hit, leading to production to shut down after a week. They picked up where they left off 19 months later (September 2021), leading to a sharp cut from three episodes in pre-pandemic conditions to the rest of the season in the middle of the pandemic. When the race resumed, a new route was plotted through countries with low infection rates; tasks were designed with social distancing in mind; and public transportation was avoided in favor of chartered busses or self-navigation, for instance, international travel was now done by a private jet reserved for Race use. Four of the nine remaining teams also failed to return to the race after the hiatus and the two previously eliminated ones were reinstated in their place.
- Awkwafina is Nora from Queens: the second season finale episode "Home" takes place during the beginning of the lockdowns. During this episode, Nora is living in an isolated hippie commune so she has no idea what's going on in the outside world until she gets a letter from her grandmother explaining what's been happening. Reading how lonely her grandmother is with having to stay hunkered down at home while her father and his new girlfriend Brenda had moved in together drives Nora to leave the commune and return back to New York.
- The Big Leap takes place post-COVID (though in the show's world it ended mid-2021, and there's not a mask in sight), and several characters mention the impact it's had on their lives as the show progresses. Mike was laid off just before the pandemic began, two characters were EMTs who got their certification a month before things got bad, and the show is being marketed as a way to bring people together after a year of separation.
- Birds of a Feather: The 2020 Christmas Episode (and Grand Finale of the series) takes place during the COVID crisis and has Tracey and Dorien get right on each others nerves during lockdown. Additionally, the absence of Sharon (due to her actor leaving the series) is explained as her having become quarantined in Costa Rica.
- The Bite revolves around two neighbors in quarantine dealing with COVID...which is starting to escalate into a Zombie Apocalypse.
- Series 8 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is stated to have occurred after the worst of the pandemic, with Amys maternity leave lasting longer because of it and Rosa quitting in the middle of it in the wake of the George Floyd murder.
- 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.
- Clarkson's Farm was filmed throughout the 2019-2020 farming year, and consequently places prominent focus on the pandemic and its effects on the industry once it hits.
- 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.
- Connecting 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. Dan's girlfriend Louise is diagnosed with the virus and forced to quarantine alone for several weeks, while the stress begins to affect Darlene's tween son Mark to the point that his school performance and mental health suffer, requiring him to bring seeing a therapist (via telemedicine, of course). A current overarching storyline presents the looming threat of being unable to pay the mortgage on the Conner home, including references to vetoed legislation against foreclosure during the pandemic. Other than the fact that sometimes it seems the Conners are experiencing every possible impact of the pandemic at once, the show overall serves as a fairly realistic time capsule of the event.
- 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.
- The second season of Everything's Gonna Be Okay takes place during the pandemic, with the Moss's and Alex having been holed up together in quarantine; the main storyline kicks off when the other characters realize Matilda has been severely neglecting her relationship with Drea in the interim.
- The Grand Tour: The episode "Lochdown" was shot during 2020, and much of it revolves around the presenters and staff attempting to navigate the restrictions caused by the spread of COVID while still running a motoring show, as reflected by the Pun-Based Title.
- 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 and spends a majority of the season either bedridden or in a coma. Despite the pandemic still being on going, the following season opened with a disclaimer that while the show would begin depicting a post-COVID world, the real-life pandemic was still something to take seriously.
- 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.
- Here We Go: The initial pilot is set during the lockdown and focuses on aspects on it in the UK, such as the clap for carers and the havoc it did on people's plans. In fact, the major driving force of the pilot is the family attempting to have a holiday in Margate after plans for one in California were cancelled due to the virus.
- Season 15 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has a bit of emphasis on the virus. The episode "2020: A Year in Review" shows (among other things) Mac and Dennis in quarantine in a flashback to 2020, and the latter half of the season shows Dennis, Frank, and new character Shelley getting COVID-19 which Shelley ultimately dies from.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, true to form, features COVID as a plot point in Season 22, especially given that the series takes place in hard-hit New York. At one point, Olivia's son Noah has to self-isolate due to a classmate testing positive for the virus, and a challenge that the unit has to deal with is navigating sex crimes around social distancing.
- The HBO Max ballroom competition show Legendary had a live audience for its shows in Season 1 to draw on the vibe of ball culture; however, preparations for the Season 1 finale happened just as New York City decided to enter quarantine due to rising case numbers. As such, the season finale was just the host, the judges, and the final three houses. Season 2 moved production to Los Angeles, with no live audience. While Season 3 has brought back the live audience, it makes clear the pandemic is not over, as several contestants wear PPE backstage and at least one house has had to have a member drop out due to testing positive.
- 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.
- The Modern Love episode "Strangers on a Dublin Train" takes place in March 2020, just as the first lockdowns threaten Ireland. Two lovebirds have a Meet Cute on the train and, believing that this little virus incident will be over in two weeks, agree to meet back there again without getting each other's contact information. Of course, it doesn't last that long. It is Based on a True Story published in the column of the same name, where the two people never met up again afterwards.
- 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.
- Naked and Afraid: The pandemic ended up forcing Wes to be tapped out during his All Stars episode, due to the staff being worried that if he waited the full 21 days, flights would be closed. Making things even worse, this was after Wes had finally had a lucky break with food, and forced him to leave three days short of his goal.
- The four 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, including the reveal that Jimmy Palmer's wife Breena has died from the virus.
- NCIS: Los Angeles decided to take place in a post-COVID-19 world, with the pandemic being in the past and occasionally referenced.
- NCIS: New Orleans began its seventh season right at the beginning of the outbreak's arrival in the United States and made it part of the show's plot.
- NCIS: Hawai'i doesn't seem to address the pandemic at all aside from a brief mention.
- 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."
- Queen Sugar: COVID-19 is incorporated in season 5 with a lot of emphasis placed on how the residents of St. Josephine's are being affected by the pandemic. Ralph Angel can't bring in the harvest, Darla gets laid off from her job, Violet closes down her diner, Nova delivers care packages to her neighbors, and Charley uses her position on the parish council to enforce the lockdown. True to the show's Ripped from the Headlines nature, the characters frequently discuss social and political issues that are associated with the pandemic, such as mass unemployment and lack of support from the state and federal governments.
- Raven's Home: The latter half of Season 4 revolves around Chicago under an in-use quarantine similar to COVID-19, and characters are often seen wearing surgical masks in certain shots.
- The Resident: The season 4 premiere uses Conrad and Nic's wedding in a post-pandemic world as a Framing Device for a Whole Episode Flashback to the pandemic period showing how Chastain and its staff were affected. Notably, Kit was infected after her N95 mask broke in the presence of a patient and Kim was fired for making an unauthorized purchase of PPE from Red Rock company funds. Devon's father also caught the virus while driving his cab and subsequently passed away, which affected Devon for the entire first half of the season. In the second episode, a wall of remembrance is unveiled and dedicated to those staff who were killed by the virus. Later on, Cain gets sued by one of his patients who caught COVID-19 at Chastain after Mina told the patient's wife that the surgery he went in for was elective. Cain retaliates by exposing her relationship with AJ, resulting in the denial of her visa and her return to Nigeria.
- RuPaul's Drag Race had the coronavirus hit between the main production of Season 12 and the live reunion/finale, further leading to the perception the season was cursed. Both reunion and finale took place remotely. Season 13 took place under strict quarantine procedures; while the finale was in person and on stage, it was limited to Ru and the remaining queens, with audiences taking part in drive in events across the country.
- Season 2 of the UK series was interrupted in the middle of production due to the outbreak; while it was able to resume later, competitor Veronica Green was unable to return due to testing positive. She got an assured place in Season 3, however.
- 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. Frank would end up dying of COVID despite ironically surviving an intentional overdose.
- 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.
- Station 19, a spin-off of Grey's Anatomy above, also dealt with the pandemic from the eyes of first repsonders. And like the parent show, it also operated in a post-COVID world for it's fifth season despite a disclaimer at the beginning of the show reminding viewers that the real pandemic was still ongoing.
- 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 YouTube 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. Keep in mind, though, that this is an out-of-universe reference only; since this takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which as far as we know never suffered COVID but is instead recovering from a much worse disaster.
- 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.
- Cattle Decapitation released a music video (specifically noted to have been filmed during the initial March 2020 lockdown) for their track "Bring Back the Plague," off of their album Death Atlas, filmed entirely on cellphones, showing the band members weathering the pandemic interspersed with footage of large public gatherings. Travis Ryan (their vocalist) in particular is shown mockingly clinging to a package of toilet paper and almost bathing himself in hand sanitizer while engaging in some gaming with his dog on the couch.
- Heavy Metal cover artist Minniva made a Song Parody of Amaranthe's "My Amaranthine" titled "My Quarantine" shortly after the lockdowns started.
- Nightwish's album Human. :II: Nature was scheduled to release March 2020. The band went ahead with the album release, promoting it with a series self-filmed countdown videos. In one of them, Troy Donockley starts to explain how the song "Harvest" contains the secret to the entire album, then is told to put a mask on, rendering the revelation unintelligible.
- Kpop group TXT released We Lost the Summer in November 2020. The music video begins with the boys getting an emergency lockdown alert on their phones with the rest of their (non-dancing) scenes showing them in isolation. Lyrics reference a then-lack of vaccine and an "endless March 1st evening," alluding to the sense of lost time and life in stasis since lockdowns began.
- TXT's labelmates BTS had a much more optimistic take with July 2021's "Permission to Dance," which celebrated essential workers and looked forward to a future when people can gather and throw off their masks.
- King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard released "Pleura" in February 2021 as a protest song against anti-vaxxers and negationists.
- Eminem, with typical class, released "Gnat", a pandemic edition of his signature Unintentional Period Piece comedy rap singles, which compares his bars to COVID ("you get them right off the bat"), and has a music video showing him coughing in people's faces, eating a live bat, abusing hydroxychloroquine, and slowly dying of coronavirus in his kitchen. The disease control practices on display managed to generate some genuine moral panic for the first time since 2003, though if you're taking medical advice from Slim Shady, who's been doing Anti-Role Model shock comedy for 20 years, and you end up dying on a respirator, it's your own fault.
- Saulo Oliveira S made a song called "Lockdown" where he sings about a ghost down during a lockdown and the end of the song has him tell his mother that he found the last vaccine in the world.
- Sea shanty/folk band The Longest Johns released a variation of "Fathom the Bowl" called "Flatten the Curve" just before the UK went into lockdown in 2020, encouraging viewers to stay home. note . They then recorded "See You All When Lockdown Ends", an experimental collaboration song about being apart from friends and loved ones for Christmas.
- The third series of the BBC's The Lovecraft Investigations aired for Halloween 2020 and contains references to the pandemic starting about midway through. The exact dates are never given but from context it's clear that the setting is early spring of 2020, when the UK was just beginning to face the possibility of Coronavirus reaching its shores, with characters becoming worried about visiting cafés and annoyed by passing joggers coughing near them, for example. Since the show is a globetrotting mystery with characters regularly hopping between the UK, the USA, and the Middle East, several characters later find themselves unexpectedly stranded by COVID travel restrictions at various points impacting the plot. One poor character ends up riding out the first few weeks of lockdown in Innsmouth.
- 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 briefly 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.
- The Christmas Tree has challenges called "rona", "COVID-19", "SARS-CoV-2", and "Coronavirus", which talk about everyone being at home, dying, or getting back a few thousand years in history, and decrease present/elf gain or make things from trees/present machines have no effect.
- Cookie Clicker had two news ticker messages in which "scientists advise getting used to cookies suffusing every aspect of life" and "doctors advise against wearing face masks when going outside" (because a mask can get in the way of eating a cookie). Orteil initially added them when the pandemic hasn't done too much damage, but they have been Dummied Out when he decided they were in poor taste.
- 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.
- In a possibly unintentional example, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope (released for Halloween 2020) is set in May 2020 and a major twist reveals that a character who we thought was transporting a group of people was in fact driving an empty bus around, with a police officer he speaks to being weirdly unphased by this activity. Ironically this twist works much better in the context of lockdowns and restricted travel.
- Fallen Legion Revenants while inspired by the The Spanish Flu during development, carried themes of social unrest during Pandemic lockdown and released in February 2021.
- Far Cry 6 makes reference to the Pandemic in the Secret Ending as a way to date the game in the 2020s.
- 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".
- Jetpack Joyride had a "Hygiene Event" on May 2020, which made Legitimate Research look more like sanitary laboratory than a scientific one. The objective was to collect floating soap bars, which would reward with a Nurce costume, a sanitizer jetpack and a Profit Bird skin that drops medical supply out of its back.
- 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.
- Plague Tree focuses on the "Vorona Cirus". The goal is reaching as many cases as possible (eventually reaching the F notation, so practically immeasurably more than people on Earth). All the layers are based on things related to the virus (infectivity, symptoms, deaths, etc.) and even genetics late into the game.
- 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 explain the lack of pedestrians in levels, with multiple signs stating that a lockdown is 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.
- At A Good Pace: An arc showed the characters' lives during the pandemic such as wearing masks, Vesta's college classes moving online (and him treating them like his YouTube videos), and Abel serving drinks at his cafe on the end of a long stick.
- Daily JoJo: At the end of the "Lucky Points" arc, Lucky Finance tells Wan Jo's luck manager that an upcoming pandemic will finally pay off his luck debt, ending his terrible streak of bad luck. Meanwhile, Seonkyu Kim spends all his luck and more as he comes up with a program for virtual meetings. The next arc, "Masks On", is about how the mask mandate affects office life.
- 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.
- Kevin & Kell works the pandemic into a Relationship Upgrade for Rudy and Fiona, the quarantine allowing them to convince their parents to let them move in together.
- Milk And Mocha has referred to the Pandemic a few times. This has mostly been fairly lighthearted, such as the duo adapting to staying at home and over-eating, or minor like wearing masks and washing hands, but on rare occasion taken a serious turn to reflect the crisis in the author's native Indonesia and their growing sadness.
- PVP soft rebooted its timeline ten years into the future - the creator didn't 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 wasn't 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.
- xkcd: A number of strips reference the pandemic, such as:
- 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.
- This one starts with White Hat stating that he "decided to do my own research". This is a common self-justification of people who reject standard science and cherry-pick information sources that agree with their favored view — however, in this case White Hat says that his research concluded that people should get vaccinated.
- Some content creators have set their works in the future, usually in a post-pandemic world. Some however make more cynical prediction for the future even going so far as to say there will be no post-pandemic world, even predicting permanent lockdowns and even The End of the World as We Know It.
- 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.
- Double Toasted had to shift to doing episodes in which everyone talked over Zoom instead of in person, which eventually shifted to the studio being moved into Korey's house.
- Due to the pandemic, Game Grumps briefly switched to recording sessions virtually rather than play in the same room. Their first video to reference the pandemic, the start of the Super Mario Galaxy 2 playthrough, was released when YouTube was demonetizing videos that mentioned COVID-19 by name, so they used the Unusual Euphemism of "the Backstreet Boys reunion tour" with infection being referred to as "getting tickets" to the tour. This code became a Running Gag on the channel even after the YouTube restrictions were removed.
- Filipino BL series Gameboys is set during the pandemic and filmed under local quarantine restrictions.
- Honest Trailers: Small references were made in their videos starting in March, but culminated in them making an honest trailer for the year 2020 itself, which was a big and scathing "The Reason You Suck" Speech to this pandemic. It also featured a longtime fan Patton Oswalt.
- 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 was administered to every staff member. Channel Awesome was able to return to the studio in April 5th, 2021 after 14 months of unprecedented retool, and celebrated with a review of Cats.
- 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.
- 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.
- 1 For All: Antrius is absent for all of "The Party Guest", since his actor lived in a town that was quarantined.
- Seasons 2 and 3 of Puppet History shifted to an "Online University" format with guests meeting with the Professor over webcam. The first episode in the new format included a Take That! to other online institutions of learning.
The Professor: It's like the University of Phoenix, except you might actually learn something.
- Being a part-film part-social commentary channel, Renegade Cut has extensively talked about the pandemic, starting with the video "The Viral Pandemic & The Social Pandemic".
- Heavily alluded to in the second season of StewdioMACK. "Mack Locked Down" deals with the emotional toll of a snap lockdown, while "Mack Does Crabfest 3" depicts the formerly vibrant city as a ghost-town due to the pandemic.
- 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.
- Episode 21 of Weird school rules in Hong Kong covers hijinks in student life in Hong Kong in the middle of the pandemic, with skits covering unorthodox ways schools have tried to ensure students maintain social distancing and online class anecdotes.
- Due to their counter reporting on what they feel is mainstream's mishandling and suppression of information in order to allow certain business and organizations to profit off of the pandemic, both financially and politically, in the US, some online commentators have become rather popular for challenging the "mainstream narrative". People like Jimmy Dore, Kim Iverson, Tim Pool, & the online news show Breaking Points have gained viewers in recent months due to their discussion of topics related to the pandemic that they feel have been censored for fraudulent reasons, despite normally being on the same political side as those that they feel are responsible for the suppression of said information. Furthermore, Joe Rogan has only continued to gain traction by inviting guests that have opinions that are not "in alignment" with mainstream talking points.
- Big City Greens did a "Broken Karaoke" music video called "Stuck At Home", which is a parody of "Flesh & Bone" from Zombies 2, which is about the family being confined to their home and following safety precautions during the pandemic while simultaneously doing all they can to stay strong. Amazingly, it is the highest-viewed BCG video on YouTube.
- 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.
- Goofy starred in a series of Disney+ exclusive shorts, How To Stay At Home, that revolved around tongue-in-cheek guides to safe mask-wearing, learning home-cooking, and binge-watching.
- 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.
- Our Cartoon President: Being a series aiming to satirize the Trump administration, the pandemic was 1st mentioned in Season 3, Episode 8 "G-7", as well as further on.
- South Park had a story arc spanning all of Season 24, consisting of four special episodes revolving around the impact of COVID on the titular town:
- "The Pandemic Special" satirizes life during the pandemic around the town, as well as adding commentary about the "Defund the Police" campaigns that sprouted during the pandemic as part of the Black Lives Matter Movement. In-universe, it turns out that COVID-19 is the result of Randy Marsh having sex with a pangolin, and thus is actually a zoonotic STD that mutated into an airborne virus.
- "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).
- "Post-COVID" shows that forty years into the future, COVID is still an issue and has largely changed the future for the worse.
- "Post-COVID: The Return of COVID" is the sequel to "Post-COVID" that sees Stan and Kyle trying to finish Kenny's time machine to stop the pandemic, while Cartman tries to stop these plans in secret.