How to Spell ‘PAN-DEM-IC’ Without ‘PANIC’

Jennifer Kwan
5 min readApr 3, 2020


PAN(DEM)IC - PANIC = D.E.M. Our way back to normal life, sooner rather than later.

How long has it been since COVID19 infected our world and shut it down? I’m sure many of us are feeling trapped at home and wondering when the pandemic will end. It’s quite anxiety-provoking to hear that vaccines take at least 12–18 months to develop and deploy, that there’s still no reliable treatment yet, or that there could be potential second, third, or even annual waves of COVID19. How can we live like this, continuously fearing for our lives and for those of our loved ones? How can the economy recover if the coronavirus keeps coming back, and we are forced to retreat home over and over?

Let me tell you how we can get back to ‘normal’ sooner — within 3–6 months — and what it will look like. Let’s paint a picture of our future, in which your role is vital, beyond just washing your hands and staying at home.


D-E-M = Distancing, Easy testing, and Masks!

Cropped, original image by Jira/Rawpixel


You must be an expert at this by now! Stay home, stay safe, and don’t leave unless absolutely necessary. If you must go out, stay 2 metres away from others and avoid crowded places. There must be strict quarantine of the sick or suspected cases. This is critical right now — to “flatten the curve” of the initial peak of cases. This physical distancing must be taken seriously by everyone to work.

After this there will still be residual distancing effects. The handshake is dead. There still won’t be large gatherings for a while. Companies will shift towards virtual services and communication. But what about when someone comes from another region and reinfects us? What if one sick person starts the cycle all over again? We must detect & control outbreaks immediately, and this relies on…

Cropped, original image by The Office of Governor Tom Wolf

E = EASY TESTING — Cheap, widespread and fast

We must test everyone, test often, and it must be easy, cheap, and fast. Our new normal will be tests, everywhere. Want to travel? Need proof of a negative test. Go to work? Need a negative test. Attend a concert? Prove you’re negative.

We must rapidly ramp up testing capacity — it is essential for both short and long-term suppression of outbreaks. Serological testing may even identify those who are immune and can rejoin society safely.

Testing is the future. Not only will it allow us to resume doing the things we enjoy, it will also enable us to immediately identify and isolate cases, trace contacts, and prevent outbreaks. Which will be further reduced by…

Cropped, original image by Kaboompics/Rawpixel

M = MASKS — Mandatory universal masking

Masks for frontline healthcare workers first, then masks for all.

Fact: Masks reduce risk of infection for both the wearer and those around them. The issue right now is inadequate supply. Frontline healthcare professionals have high-risk encounters with COVID19 patients, and must have proper PPE including surgical and N95 masks. For the general public, there are many creative solutions with cloth or homemade masks— these are excellent options and offer more than adequate protection. Czech Republic has had great success with this, alongside several Asian countries where this is the cultural norm.

Masks must also become the new normal. Grocery store? Mask. Public transit? Mask. Wearing a mask will become a sign of respect for others. Not wearing one in public will be considered crude. Celebrities and influencers will showcase their trendy cloth masks. They’re reusable and environmentally-conscious. Wearing a mask will be the fashionable, sensible, “cool”, and polite thing to do.

Masks help reduce viral aerosol shedding in asymptomatic individuals. We must act like we each have COVID19 and everyone else does. My mask protects you, and yours protects me. If there are concerns about improper mask wearing — then we should offer public education, not shaming. Don’t touch the outside of your mask, and it should cover both your nose and mouth — there are lots of great Youtube videos for this.

D-E-M! Distancing! Easy testing! Masks!

We can do it together. This is the way out of the pandemic, without the panic. Distancing, easy testing, and cloth masks are cost-effective and simple enough to implement quickly, in comparison to waiting a year for a vaccine or treatment, or spending thousands on ventilators. Those are important too, but D-E-M is what we must do to buy time and resume normalcy while the experts work on the long-term strategy.

It may feel like a big global group project — it starts off a bit lost and confusing, but we will work together on this. It starts with each one of us. I am so inspired by people all over the world, working together to fight this plague against humankind. So many heroes on the front lines, heroes staying at home, and heroes helping the vulnerable. Each of us making individual sacrifices, while supporting one another and believing in the value of our elders.

COVID19 has affected countless people around the globe, regardless of race, gender, or background, but it will also become what unites us as human beings. Look for the kindness in this madness. Have faith. Have hope. This too shall pass, and we will rebuild our lives, with newfound appreciation of the delicate balance on which our society hangs.

Tell your friends & family — together, this is the way back to normal… our new ‘normal’.



Jennifer Kwan

Dr. Kwan is a family physician in Ontario, Canada. Twitter: @jkwan_md