Of Staggering Loss and Bamboo Shirts

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Of Staggering Loss and Bamboo Shirts

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It’s elemental: things change.

Yet challenging: not always for the better.

To be published in Nature takes monumental effort and is a remarkable achievement for all involved. We celebrate the recent publication of our consensus recommendations in our article, “A multinational Delphi consensus to end COVID-19 as a public health threat.” Still, the shadows from staggering loss and the realities of mourning remain with us, too.

Jordi B, a friend and colleague of one of our co-authors, Dr Jeffrey V Lazarus, passed away in Spain from complications due to COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic.  Jordi’s death was more than a year before our initial inklings of a multi-national, multi-disciplinary Delphi study for ending the public health threat. Yet the gravity of his loss deeply informed our clarity of purpose.

Mere days after one of the initial concept discussions, another co-author, Christopher J Kopka, would learn that his father, Kenneth William Kopka, had become infected, only to pass away from complications due to COVID-19 weeks later.

Over the course of the research, study design, consensus rounds, drafting, editing and publishing - approximately 15 months - hundreds of millions of people became infected, with millions of people perishing due to complications from COVID-19.

Amidst this staggering loss, Dr Lazarus took-on the gruesome task of updating the number of infected and those dead every morning. When the rest of the core group logged-in to the draft documents, we would see a strikethrough and an edit: numbers marching upward, always upward, often rapidly.

Throughout our work, and to this day, COVID-19 persisted as a public health threat, notwithstanding the introduction of vaccines and treatments. So, too, marched upward the number of co-authors, reaching 386 in total, from 112 countries and territories.

Our first global convening of the core authors took place on 16 March 2022, hosted by Wilton Park, with Dr Lazarus and Christopher Kopka facilitating. In honour of his father, Chris donned one of Ken’s favourite bamboo shirts.

We celebrate. We mourn. The memories and life-lessons from family, friends and colleagues, now lost to us, keep us clear-eyed as we face the realities of a public health threat that yet persists.

That, along with a strong sense of solidarity, has driven us to lead this non-partisan, voluntary, multidisciplinary effort to create a global consensus on ending COVID-19 as a public health threat.

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