Plotting history: TheBodyPro interview on documenting COVID-19

TheBodyPro interviewed Tracy Swan, activist and Make Medicines Affordable consultant, on how the COVID-19 timeline came about during the pandemic. It was a huge undertaking to document the pandemic as it unfolded, but Swan identified the need to record key events as they happened due to the rapidly changing developments, as “this information will be useful in the future”.

As TheBodyPro says, “timelines help us make sense of history”. Retrospectively, this resource can be analysed by theme, a task made so much easier by Swan’s endeavour to keep on top on key developments during the crisis.

TheBodyPro is a science and policy publisher, which brings professional voices, up-to-date information and valuable perspectives to those working on HIV and related issues – an aim which goes hand-in-hand with the COVID-19 timeline initiative, co-developed by Swan.

Here’s the intro and excerpt from the interview:

“Timelines help us make sense of history. They document historical events in chronological order and allow us to see the bigger picture. They also help us understand how and why events unfold the way they do, and, in many cases, bring into focus opportunities to learn from past mistakes. In the HIV world, timelines are plentiful and are very familiar to the community. HIV timelines have been used to teach about HIV, recall best practices in activism, and track progress in scientific discovery” – Terri Wilder, TheBodyPro.

Wilder spoke with Swan about the steps taken to create and maintain a timeline of this scale and how it is proving to be a valuable tool in tracking important COVID-19 information related to everything from epidemiology and policy decisions to mask-wearing and developments in testing, treatments, and vaccines.

It seems like in some policymakers’ minds there’s an acceptable level of infections – Swan

“What I really wanted to track, and what is really horrifying to me as an activist, is not only the bad public-health decisions or the idea that it’s public health versus the economy instead of that they’re hand in hand, or the blatant disregard of human rights under the guise of public health – it’s the bad, bad leadership decisions. We can see patterns now. You lift restrictions. You tell people they don’t have to wear masks. And even now, with vaccines being rolled out, you’re still seeing, in sections, increases.

It seems like there’s almost in some policymakers’ minds an acceptable level of infections. Like, we’ll let it get to this point. Some of it I know is based on an epidemiological data modeling. But some of it doesn’t seem to be based on anything rational at all” – Tracy Swan, activist and consultant.

Read the article in full on TheBodyPro.

The timeline, which is regularly updated, plots over 350 key developments during the pandemic, dating back to November 2019—when the South China Morning Post reported a possible first case of illness from the novel coronavirus.

Visit the timeline.