The unfamiliar landscape of America's medical past is marked by bizarre incidents, forgotten breakthroughs and selfless sacrifice.
- We all know Columbus, but who remembers Diego Alvarez Chanca, his doctor?
- This map does – and it lists centuries of medical figures, events, and achievements.
- It provides an unusual perspective on North American history… with one exception.
A familiar canvas<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzU3MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2Nzc4NDYwM30.wHXrkWn66FVklBKtl_0AjG4mjYNxxYjZC-AZdNhzhfI/img.jpg?width=980" id="48230" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f25d5dfbb69ca2ec9ff73532ec18c95c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt from 'Medical Events in North America' (1950), a map depicting major figures, institutions and events in the medical history of North America." />
The map illuminates the topography of America with simplified, symbolic representations of the persons, institutions and events that have shaped medical history.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps<p>The map of America is a familiar canvas for a multitude of stories – soil types and weather fronts, road trips and election results. But sometimes geographical acquaintance intersects with narrative quaintness, especially when the topic is very specific. As in this beautifully detailed map of "Medical Events in North America," as bizarre as it is instructive.</p><p>In the manner of a medieval miniature, it illuminates the topography of America with simplified, symbolic representations of the persons, institutions and events that have shaped medical history. That makes for some interesting discoveries. </p><p>For example, whatever our feelings about Columbus, we are familiar with him via his signature achievement. However, few will have heard of Dr. Diego Alvarez Chanca of Seville, physician to the king and queen of Spain, and here seen accompanying the intrepid and/or invidious Genovese on his second voyage to America (on the ship painted in the bottom right corner).</p>
Medical progress<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzYyMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzA5NTM2NX0.GfGs1djKzW0GEzyCW-M4aEhKZma8uhk_UOYgNkcjVrU/img.png?width=980" id="d77d2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bd1bd95d3c6350ba646865d42805e5e7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt from 'Medical Events in North America' (1950), a map depicting major figures, institutions and events in the medical history of North America." />
Dr. Philip Syng, holding up a jar with gallstones he removed from the bladder of Chief-Justice John Marshall, who contentedly observes from the operating table.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps<p>While on Hispaniola in 1493, Chanca cured Columbus from an attack of malaria – quite probably the first application of western medicine in the western hemisphere. </p><p>For a good while, Spain remains the motor of medical progress in North America, with the publication in Mexico of "Opera Medicinalia," the first medical book printed in the Americas (1570), and just 10 years later, the establishment of the first university chair of medicine in the New World, also in Mexico. </p><p>Circa 1760, Junipero Serra prevented and controlled an outbreak of scurvy in California with the use of citrus juice – doing so 34 years before the British Navy struck upon the same idea. The Spanish padre is shown holding up oversized slices of oranges, dripping with healing sap. </p><p>Soon thereafter, the initiative–medical and otherwise–is seized by the Anglos on the East Coast.</p>
Remembering the pioneers<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzYxOS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzA3NTQ4Mn0.AwsGe5Oz-A4RHP-ZcrhI97mcn4xaeaADA53_toOpYoo/img.png?width=980" id="0a976" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a4ca544b5cb8fd79cfef0462bb43540" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt from 'Medical Events in North America' (1950), a map depicting major figures, institutions and events in the medical history of North America." />
Dr. Samuel Gross, carting in cadavers for anatomical study.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps<p>Many of the achievements detailed on this map were truly revolutionary, helping to elevate the state of medical science to the heights it has reached today. But, as the legend of the map says, "(t)he names of the prime-movers of science disappear gradually in a general fusion, and the more a science advances, the more impersonal and detached it becomes."</p><p>So it's nice to see remembered here, among other pioneers:<br></p><ul><li>Dr. Howard Taylor Ricketts (1871-1910), from near Missoula, who demonstrated the tick-transmission of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and died of Mexican typhus during the investigation and demonstration of the disease.</li><li>Dr. J.C. Otto (1774-1844), from Philadelphia, who established haemophilia as a clinical entity.</li><li>Sir Frederick Banting, working at Toronto University Medical School, who assisted by Charles Best managed to isolate insulin and succeeded in manufacturing it in 1922. Together with J.R.R. MacLeod, he received the Nobel Prize in 1923. </li></ul>
Quarantine Enforcement Act<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzYxOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2Njc4NDg4NX0.2FOxQGAcwiodMmgf_za16AM8lULURhXN12W8SGShTJ4/img.png?width=980" id="af0ac" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7541fec6e98568cb685ab31e45559eb9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt from 'Medical Events in North America' (1950), a map depicting major figures, institutions and events in the medical history of North America." />
First called "Letheon"', ether was discovered by dentist W.T.G. Morton, and first surgically used at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps<p>Several institutions are singled out as beacons of medical progress, notably</p><ul> <li>hospitals like Massachusetts General Hospital, Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Mayo Clinic;</li><li>educational centers of excellence such as Harvard Medical School, the Transylvania University Medical School and Jefferson Medical College; and </li><li>associations such as the State Boards of Health (first one established in 1869 in Massachusetts) and the American Medical Association (founded in Chicago).</li></ul><p>Among the achievements mentioned on the map with resonance for our own pandemic times are the Quarantine Enforcement Act, passed by Congress as early as 1799, and the stamping out, in 1905 in New Orleans of an "epidemic of yellow fever (…) by U.S. Public Health Service."Produced in 1950 and reflecting on earlier times, the map is dominated by white males.</p>The exceptions proving the rule are <ul><li>Dr. Hideyo Noguchi (1876-1928), who was associated with the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research and who in 1911 discovered the agent of syphilis as the cause of progressive paralytic disease; </li><li>Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910), the first woman in America to receive the degree of doctor in medicine, who together with Marie Zakrzewska established the first training school for nurses in America; and </li><li>a procession of slaves owned by Washington and Jefferson, standing in line to get inoculated for smallpox.</li></ul>
Curious cases<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzYxNy9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwODkzODUwMH0.W0q3XU5ZN82nrmgAldQfFkiUFDLX7Y92n1QGJy0UwyQ/img.png?width=980" id="b1eaa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fe40428b6ab3a177f8750fc6511e02e0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt from 'Medical Events in North America' (1950), a map depicting major figures, institutions and events in the medical history of North America." />
Slaves of Washington and Jefferson, getting inoculated for smallpox.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps<p>Few of the events and achievement mentioned on this map have made it into general public knowledge, with two possible exceptions. </p><p><span></span>One is "the American Crowbar Case", an 'extraordinary medical incident' mentioned in a note stuck to the East Coast: "In 1848, an explosion propelled a 3 ½ ft. crowbar through the head of Phineas T. Gage and up into the air. The patient recovered completely except for loss of sight in one eye…"</p><p><span></span>The other, the curious case contained within Dr. William Beaumont's book, "Experiments & Observations of Gastric Juices." On June 6, 1822, a man named Alexis St. Martin was accidentally wounded by gunshot at Fort Mackinac. The wound healed, leaving a gastric fistula, through which Dr. Beaumont was able to make observations. But Mr. St. Martin "is a difficult subject (and) runs away repeatedly."</p>
Commissioned as sergeant<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzYxNC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MzYzNTU3Mn0.8QGLeSPlcbKjC14HTVrJhTd8fczCn8iPRXkZn3jCxuc/img.png?width=980" id="5e575" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8771c0ef62bff8d5745d828df73200c4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt from 'Medical Events in North America' (1950), a map depicting major figures, institutions and events in the medical history of North America." />
Dr. Beaumont's book on gastric juices, with pages illustrating the story of his unwilling subject, Alexis St. Martin.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps<p>Really? Who doesn't want a doctor poking into their stomach through a hole in their belly? But eventually the situation is resolved to the satisfaction of both parties: "Beaumont gets (Mr. St. Martin) commissioned as sergeant to keep him during experiments."</p><p>One of the more familiar names on the map is that of Dr. Walter Reed, but mainly because he is now synonymous for the Army Medical Center named after him. The map reveals why he became famous enough for that honor:</p><p>In Cuba, Dr. Walter Reed (1851-1902) proved, together with Dr. Jesse W. Lazear, Dr. James Carroll and Dr. Aristide Agramonte, that mosquitoes were the carrier of yellow fever. Dr. Lazear & Dr. Carroll allowed themselves to be bitten by infected mosquitoes. Lazear died of the fever, Carroll's health was permanently impaired.<span></span></p>
Walter Reed in Cuba<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzYxMi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDQ0MTIzNn0.TWA_s_8FWHKd7w4IJh2VvGx0LzdOX81DXJijocrN7L4/img.png?width=980" id="c93cb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aaca80963b78cbcfa2d657766c1299aa" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt from 'Medical Events in North America' (1950), a map depicting major figures, institutions and events in the medical history of North America." />
Dr. Walter Reed (in white), in between Dr. Carlos Finlay (who first theorised that mosquitoes carried yellow fever) and Drs. Lazar and Carroll, who put that theory to the test.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps<p>Although they are scant remembered today, their selfless sacrifice has doubtlessly saved the lives of many in the 120 years since. </p><p><span></span><em>Map produced in 1950 by Abbott Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company. A copy was </em><a href="https://bostonraremaps.com/inventory/pictorial-map-extolling-american-medical-science/" target="_blank">recently sold</a><em> by Boston Rare Maps. Image kindly provided by Mike Buehler at <a href="https://bostonraremaps.com/" target="_blank">Boston Rare Maps</a></em><em>.</em></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1059</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p>
Dr. Theobald Smith established that tick bits caused Texas Fever in cattle, thus proving that insects can carry diseases.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps
Researchers from Israel reversed two key processes involved in aging.
- Israeli scientists reversed two major processes involved in aging.
- Their new therapy counteracted the shortening of telomeres and the accumulation of old and dying cells.
- The study participants underwent oxygen treatments in hyperbaric chambers.
The pressurized chamber involved in the study.
Credit: Shamir Medical Center
What are telomeres?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="03cf30f4eb7cdd7bca57c79e38f5d64c"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/U0fRAr-ZHCo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
Experts plead with Americans to keep gatherings limited this Thanksgiving, while families devise new ways to celebrate the holidays.
The experts agree<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDgyNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjU4MTI4OX0.3o3ULs3WhMned31DMmr-mvZdiFYvqo6NxcaxSAh9sjQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="3894b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="105be1aaba5ecf60fd69fa89486833f7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A graph showing confirmed coronavirus cases from Jan. 3 to Nov. 18, 2020. The third, current peak is the largest so far.
To grandmother's house we go?<p>Even while governors and experts pleaded with families to limit Thanksgiving gatherings to individual households, there has been no uniform, country-wide restrictions put in place. As such, every family must perform a risk calculation to decide how to spend Thanksgiving.</p><p>"[G]iven the fluid and dynamic nature of what's going on right now in the spread and the uptick of infections, I think people should be very careful and prudent about social gatherings, particularly when members of the family might be at a risk because of their age or their underlying condition," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said on <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fauci-thanksgiving-covid-different/" target="_blank">CBS Evening News</a>. </p><p>He added, "When you're talking about relatives that are getting on a plane, being exposed in an airport, being exposed in a plane, then walk in the door and say 'Happy Thanksgiving' — that you have to be careful about."</p><p>To help families make their decisions, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/thanksgiving.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released Thanksgiving considerations</a> to supplement safety alongside local rules and regulations. The agency lists several factors to consider in any risk calculation. These include local levels of COVID-19, potential travel exposure, the number of people attending, the health risks of those attendees, and the duration of the gathering as well as its location.</p><p>If people from outside the household will attend, the CDC recommends the following actions to increase safety and limit viral transmission:</p><ul><li>Ensure everyone wears a mask when not eating or drinking;</li><li>Keep people who do not live together at least 6 feet apart;</li><li>Have people bring their own food, drinks, utensils, etc. No potluck-style dinners;</li><li>Host the gathering outdoors or increase indoor ventilation;</li><li>Keep music levels down to prevent shouting or speaking too loudly;</li><li>Encourage good handwashing; </li><li>Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces often.</li></ul><p>You can find more information on the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">CDC's Holidays website</a>. It's also worth noting that <a href="https://medical.mit.edu/covid-19-updates/2020/07/how-long-symptom-onset-person-contagious#:~:text=The%20CDC%20identifies%20a%20%E2%80%9Cclose,who%20has%20been%20positively%20diagnosed" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a negative result on a COVID-19 test</a> is no guarantee of safety. People can harbor the virus, become infectious to others, show no symptoms, and still render a false positive several days after their initial infection.</p>
Staying home for the holidays<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="caf5ae9303d7359a42a37cfc200d83b1"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yDuHtJCj_Og?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>For families staying physically distanced, there remains the question of how to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. 2020's standard answer has been the Skype or Zoom call. Certainly an option, but one that should be spiced up for the holiday meal.</p><p>You can, for example, integrate your preferred telecommunication app can into shared experiences. Family members can work meal prep together or teach each other their signature dishes. Activities like crafts, decorating, and thankfulness trees can be coordinated by the kids and shared with the family simultaneously. You can cook up the same meal, light the same scented candles, and listen to the same music to create a common sensual environment.</p><p>You can also find telecommunication apps designed to be used alongside specific activities. <a href="https://discord.com/" target="_blank">Discord</a> is a favorite among gamers for video games. Even if battle royales aren't your family's speed, it works perfectly well for <a href="https://bigthink.com/personal-growth/board-games-for-kids" target="_self">board games</a>, and your family's favorite likely has a digital version available. Similarly, <a href="https://www.netflixparty.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Netflix's Teleparty</a> provides an online space to watch and chat about movies together. If Black Friday was your family's bonding tradition, try scouring for the savings together online and share a cocktail afterward to toast a successful shop. There is also the platform <a href="https://gather.town/" target="_blank">Gather</a>, which allows for proximity video chatting in a customizable 2D world.</p><p>If your family wishes to disconnect from the binary realm, try beginning a new holiday tradition this Thanksgiving. You can write holiday letters to distant family members. We're talking physical letters, which <a href="https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/343131" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">preliminary research suggests</a> has the salubrious bonus of reducing stress and anxiety for the writer. You can create holiday care packages for friends. And this year especially, the holiday card and photobook traditions will be more appreciated than ever. If you're in a time crunch, emails or texts are also nice.</p><p>For most families, Thanksgiving in 2020 will be unlike any other and will be, for better or worse, one to remember. Thankfully, there are ways to stay safe and healthy—and help others do so, too—while still connecting with loved ones in a meaningful way.</p>
The bubonic plague ravaged the world for centuries, killing up to 200 million people.
People praying for relief from the bubonic plague, circa 1350. Original Artwork: Designed by E Corbould, lithograph by F Howard.
Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Ambulance men of Florence, Italy, carrying a patient on a stretcher whilst wearing masks to ward off the plague.
Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images