As Ohio looks to rebound, experts says it's important to keep our optimism in check

Posted at 11:57 AM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 18:50:56-04

CLEVELAND — From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local leaders warned it would be a marathon and not a sprint. As Ohioans look to the rebound and recovery, experts say it is important to keep our optimism in check.

The apparent plateau in new positive cases of coronavirus comes as Gov. Mike DeWine, state health director Dr. Amy Acton, and other state and business leaders continue to craft the plan to re-open the state's economy. Meanwhile, near daily protests at the state capitol buttress the governor's briefings. In one of those briefings earlier this week, Gov. DeWine admitted that the plan to re-open the state's economy would be balancing act between public health and getting people back to work.

Dr. Christopher Burant, a medical sociologist and data analyst at Case Western Reserve University's Fraces Payne Bolton School of Nursing, said optimism for a quick recovery must be tempered.

"I'm really concerned about what's happening because a lot of these individuals are going to think, '[COVID-19] isn't as bad as we thought it was,'" Dr. Burant said.

As part of his doctoral thesis, Dr. Burant studied the impact of optimism and pessimism on both short and long-term health outcomes of elderly patients. While conventional wisdom holds that a person is either pessimistic or optimistic, Dr. Burant said people actually display both tendencies, depending on the subject matter.

"Optimism develops in individuals based on their ability to be successful in handling challenges," Dr. Burant said. "Pessimism, on the other hand, is the inability to handle successfully challenges that come your way."

Dr. Burant said this dichotomy factors into the COVID-19 pandemic and the re-opening of the state's economy in that those who have not personally experienced the deadly disease would generally be more inclined to have the state open sooner rather than later.

"There are a lot of people that may be optimistic but have not really faced challenges as serious as the COVID 19 challenge," Dr. Burant said. "You're starting to see some backlash of [people saying], 'oh, I don't know anybody that is dying and, hey, I think we can go back to work. Everybody over reacted.' No, the reason you don't know anybody that is dying is because they had a realistic approach."

However, the economic hardship felt by countless Ohio families cannot be understated, Dr. Burant said.

"Is economic hardships worse than death?" Dr. Burant said. "Optimistically, I think we can [re-open the state's economy] but we have to have patience. If you approach it from an optimistic point of view that if we do wait and things are going to better in the long run, that might be the best way of doing it."

For Lindsay Jones, a freshman at Medina High School and member of the women's varsity cross country team, the pandemic has turned her much-anticipated outdoor season upside town. At first, the outdoor meets were canceled. This week, the rest of the school year followed suit. Even still, Jones said she is optimistic that some sense of normalcy will return.

"It's really upsetting to our whole team but especially to our seniors who have trained for four years, possibly longer, to be able to run as a senior at state and that opportunity was taken away from them," Jones said. "I miss them a lot. I miss my teammates and my coach and having the presence of someone else when I run. I miss it."

Jones likened the impact of the pandemic to one of her races. It is important to stay the course and finish strong, she said.

"It's really important to be positive. No matter how hard the race is, I'm going to finish," Jones said.