What if it had been COVID-90?

Written by: Maryann Kelly
Written on: Friday, 17 April, 2020

Self-isolating in the country. Photo credit: Frank Kelly

Like most people in the world right now, I am at home, social-distancing in the world-wide attempt to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. I’m joined by my husband, three children aged between 2 and 10, and our faithful border collie.

It’s not so bad, all things considered. We live in the Louth countryside where we can enjoy the lovely Spring weather without any risk of crowds. I am continuing working from home when the Wi-Fi chooses to accommodate, so we are not panicking about income. None of us have any underlying health issues. All good, right?

Let’s be honest. It’s hard to be stuck in a small space 24/7 with four other people and a smelly madra, no matter how much you love them. Trying to manage schoolwork with 2/3 of the kids while still putting in the regular hours myself is challenging, but more challenging is the bickering and tantrums and noise as the walls start to close in on my fourth Zoom conference of the day.

On a recent 2 km walk, I was thinking about the difficulty my kids are having with the lockdown situation – the same that probably everyone’s kids are having – and the difficulty we are having keeping them entertained and engaged without completely melting their brains with screen time. All of this got me thinking back to my childhood and wondering how we would have coped with staying home if this had happened 30 years ago?

The biggest difference would have been less reliance on technology for entertainment. Before the dawn of internet access, smart phones or electronic devices, screen time would have been limited. The only TV programs I was allowed to watch, for instance, were Saturday morning cartoons, I Love Lucy and the local evening news. We were not a video game family, even in its infancy. If the weather was good, we might have played with the sprinkler in the garden, helped my dad weed around his roses, gone on bike rides, or sledded down our front hill in winter. If the weather was bad, perhaps we would have played Go Fish or Pictionary or brought out the paper dolls or matchbox cars. I had one distinct advantage to many in the current situation as I was homeschooled for 10 years, so working sums at the kitchen table does not phase me (much to my children’s chagrin).

But, on a much more serious note, how would our healthcare system and infrastructure have coped if we’d had to face Coronavirus in 1990?

A very early example of a PCR machine. Photo Credit: Wikipedia  

As this extends well beyond my own expertise, I spoke to a few of SBI’s clinical researchers about what they view as the key developments in science and technology over the last 30 years, and what is helping most in this very intense fight the world is waging at the moment. Here is what they had to say:


Truly, we will never know how the world would have handled a pandemic of these proportions 30 years ago. One could spend an eternity weighing the pros and cons of life in the past versus where we stand today. There is a certainty, however, in the massive impact that modern medicine and technology is already having on this deadly virus, and there is much hope for the future of treating diseases from what the world will learn during this chaotic time. 


About the Author:
Maryann Kelly is the SBI Senior Executive Assistant, Administration and Communication. She is originally from Bozeman, Montana, USA and lives with her husband, kids and dog in the country north of Drogheda.