COVID-19 and its impact continues to be the global hot topic, dominating media coverage and nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Early on, we saw the memes suggesting that media were largely responsible for the response and feelings of panic (e.g., climate change needs to get COVID-19s PR team). But, the predictions of a global pandemic quickly came to our doorsteps. Social distancing has become the new normal and it is having an obvious and immediate impact on our individual physical and mental health. As healthcare communicators, we’ve been watching our leaders closely for information and learnings on how to connect and activate communities in uncertain times.

And while everything seems to be changing some things remain the same. Consumer publications are using traditional approaches (e.g., tip lists, tricks to stay healthy at home) to help translate the tidal wave of advice for their readers. As we work to help our clients navigate the evolving environment, it is important that we don’t abandon lessons learned as communications experts – simple language, a human tone and bite-sized information is incredibly powerful (check out some examples in News of Interest).

We are also watching the emerging themes in news and consumer media. Many outlets are rallying to keep the message supportive and positive – donate, connect virtually and enjoy nature if and when you can. Tweets, posts and news stories featuring public health experts encouraging outside activity (staying a safe six feet from others, of course) as a way to reduce stress and stay active are a welcome constant even while guidance for many other activities changes daily. We’ve read lots of articles sharing tips and tricks on how to enjoy the nature while staying safe during COVID-19, and we’ve been doing our best to make it a part of our routines. And during all of this solo outdoor time and with Earth Day fast approaching (April 22), we started to wonder, will citywide shutdowns, work-from-home mandates and have unplanned positive outcome: improving the health of our planet?

We did some digging, learned a lot, and have some ‘silver lining’ news to share! The societal upheaval around the illness has significantly reduced emissions. USA Today quotes Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, saying the virus “is already slashing fossil fuel use and corresponding carbon and air pollution emissions in China, Italy and beyond.” And per NASA, air pollution levels have dropped by roughly a quarter over the last month, and levels of nitrogen dioxide were down as much as 30%. Not to mention, travel has slowed down around the world, with global air traffic decreasing by 10% in March according to FlightRadar24. Will it actually end up making a lasting impact from an environmental standpoint? We’ll have to see. If nothing else, it has shown us the effect of behavioral changes.

In the midst of COVID-19 updates and the stress that may come with them, seeking out the unexpected bright spots and moments like Earth Day can be welcome reminders to stop and think about how slowing down, staying close to home and taking care of our communities can have a positive impact well beyond the challenges we are experiencing today. Stay well!