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How will the pandemic be remembered, two historians weigh in


APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – It has been over a year since the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Wisconsin according to DHS and many are starting to question how history will look back at this.

Dr. Jake Frederick, a Professor of History at Lawrence University said, “In truth, I think we will look back on it less than we ought to.”

Dr. Frederick said that while time will only tell events like these are often forgotten quickly.

“Historically once people have gotten beyond the acute phase of a pandemic there’s a pretty strong tendency to look forward and maybe forget the lessons of what has happened,” said Dr. Frederick.

Dr. Kimberly Rivers, the Interim Dean of the College of Letters and Science and a Professor of History at UW Oshkosh said, “I think it could go either way. It seems to me there are so many people trying to deny its effects right now that there could in fact be a real desire to put it behind us as fast as possible.”

Commemorating the loss from this pandemic has been difficult because of the fact that it mostly happens behind closed doors, so only certain people have the personal experience and understanding of the situation.

“The one way you will know there’s going to be a difference is if you start to see efforts for people to commemorate it,” said Dr. Rivers. “There were not very many commemorations to the flu in 1918.”

She said that the commemorative efforts for events such as 9/11 happen in large part because there is a single agreed-upon narrative but in the case of the coronavirus pandemic there is so much disinformation surrounding it that it could affect how it is remembered.

“I think there will be efforts to try to remember this and learn lessons from it, but it’s a very broad scale event, it’s very hard to pin down, where would you put a monument for example,” said Dr. Frederick.

He said that one of the most difficult lessons moving forward is preventing these pandemics when it costs so much and the only outcome is nothing happening.

“Preparation for a pandemic is something that is both expensive and hard to detect. Very rarely is somebody rewarded for the bad thing that doesn’t happen,” said Dr. Frederick. “So when we are very good at keeping these things from breaking out people wonder why we spent the money or take all that effort because there doesn’t seem to be a problem.”

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