Despite the incredible loss, turmoil, and uncertainty wrought by Covid-19, life has seemingly returned to “normal”. Federal (CDC) and global (UN) health agencies have declared an end to the public health emergency, and many of us have returned to work, gone back to school, and now interact without masks or social distancing. The media no longer dedicates its’ time to vaccination efforts or the emergence of Covid variants (Pearman et al.). Rather, the conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, environmental disasters, and political disarray now compete for our attention. As we near the end of 2023 it would be unsurprising if many now feel as though the pandemic never occurred. However, nearly 7 million deaths (WHO), individual and collective trauma (Harvard), as well as an enduring disturbance to society (Hosseinzadeh et al.) tell us otherwise. They remind us of just how real Covid-19 is/was, and how much remains to be learned at every level of governance and pandemic response.
Ohio Under Covid – Lessons from America’s Heartland in Crisis offers just this, and provides readers with a collection of insightful essays and articles that detail the circumstances of the pandemic in Ohio. While Ohio may not be a state often at the forefront of your mind, it is difficult to ignore the impact of its early response to the virus and leadership during the pandemic, which initially received national (Bernstein) and international (BBC) praise, but subsequently lost after the reversal of its policies due to political pressure and social opposition (Zuckerman). Indeed, Ohio became something of a litmus test for the country, both succeeding and failing under Covid-19.
Opening with a powerful poem by Molly Jasina (IX), Ohio Under Covid wastes no time diving into the distress of the pandemic reflecting on how the once “(in)significant” act of a sneeze became charged with racial prejudice and discrimination. This sets the tone of the book. Ohio Under Covid is not simply a recounting of the morbidity and mortality of the pandemic. It a book charged with personal experiences and reflections of everyday life in Ohio that illustrate just how vulnerable we already were and became.
Conceptually, the book is divided into two halves. Part One engages in conversations of policy, politics, and ethics, driven by questions of the individual vs the collective. Part Two examines communities that were effectively “left behind” in Ohio, those whose needs were not met by the broad actions taken by the state. Chapters come courtesy of a variety of authors including academics, doctors, teachers, public health professionals, and those who faced various situations, such as incarceration, throughout the pandemic. The book closes with an insightful afterword by Dr. Amy Acton, formerly the Director of the Ohio Department of Health, and someone who, for many of us, became a household name and symbol of hope during the pandemic. Admittedly, the eclectic nature of the book may leave readers more engaged with some chapters over others. However, Ohio Under Covid – Lessons from America’s Heartland in Crisis, does an excellent job provoking the reader to go beyond their personal experiences of Covid-19 and to think carefully about all aspects of the pandemic, in the hope we might all be better prepared for the next.
Bernstein, Lenny. “Did Ohio get it right? Early intervention, preparation for pandemic may pay off.” Washington Post, 9 April, 2020.
British Broadcasting Corporation. “Coronavirus: The US governor who saw it coming early.” 1 April, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “End of the Federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) Declaration.” 12 September, 2023.
Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. “After pandemic trauma, people’s return to normal will vary, say experts.” Accessed 29 October, 2023.
Hosseinzadeh, Pouya et al. “Social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. A systematic review.” Enfermería: Nursing Research and Educatio, vol. 40.
Pearman, Oliva et al. “COVID-19 media coverage decreasing despite deepening crisis.” The Lancet, vol.5, isu.1, 2023.
Sorrels, Katherine et al., editors. Ohio Under Covid: Lessons from America’s Heartland in Crisis. University of Michigan Press, 2023.
United Nations. “WHO chief declares end to COVID-19 as a global health emergency.” UN News, 5 May, 2023.
World Health Organization. “WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard.” Accessed 29 October, 2023
Zuckerman, Jake. “Ohio’s pandemic politics cast long shadow over omicron surge.” Ohio Capital Journal, 21 January, 2022.
Image: Sorrels, Katherine et al., editors. Ohio Under Covid: Lessons from America’s Heartland in Crisis. University of Michigan Press, 2023.