Item Link: Access the Resource
Media Type: Article - Recent
Date of Publication: February 9 - latest
Year of Publication: 2021
Publication City: St. Louis, MO
Publisher: Dr. George B. Johnson
Author(s): Dr. George B. Johnson
How these letters came about
In December 2019 I read about a novel coronavirus appearing in Wuhan, China and felt immediate alarm. As a biologist for over 40 years, I knew how devilishly good viruses are at doing what they do — spreading. Every day the news seemed worse. With my alarm growing, I began to collect all the data on the virus I could access. I daily scoured the internet, science journals, and newspapers to see where and how the coronavirus was transmitting, and how COVID-19 compared to what came before it — in an attempt to generate a clearer picture for myself of what we were dealing with.
Focusing on the science of the virus also kept my mind off worrying about my daughters.
My three girls are long gone from the St. Louis home where they grew up with their mother Barbara and me. Nikki’s in New York, Caitlin’s in Santa Fe, and Susie is in Atlanta, raising her daughter. As weeks passed in early 2020, I became increasingly worried about them. How would coronavirus impact my daughters’ lives? How would it impact my granddaughter’s life? From so many miles away, what could I do to help?
What this scientist father could best offer was information.
I resolved to share with my daughters the picture I had been putting together of COVID-19 — to break down the science that can sometimes get skidded over in news stories, so they could better understand the workings of this novel virus and how best to protect themselves in what was fast becoming a raging pandemic.
What started as one letter became many. Each week I’d talk over with Barbara what to include, what we wanted our girls to know. Barbara’s an RN, intimately aware of how brutal it must be for COVID-19 patients alone on ventilators, in hospitals pushed to the brink. The letters discuss the numbers and the science behind the spread, but of course behind each number is a person, a family, a community.
I never imagined in 2021 we’d still be in a pandemic and I’d still be writing coronavirus letters to my daughters. But here we are. This virus will shape and change their futures in ways neither they nor I can anticipate. My hope, as both scientist and father, is that understanding the science behind the spread will better equip them for whatever comes their way.
I’m sharing these letters publicly in the hope they can serve to help other daughters and sons navigate this brutally hard and challenging time. We are quite literally all in this together.
Read the letters here.