Despite omicron, there are still plenty of reasons to stay positive

We've all officially lived in the midst of a global pandemic for two years — and we're heading into our third.

It's changed life as we knew it — we've lost loved ones, experienced division like never before in politics and public health, and perhaps faced loneliness, anxiety, or other mental health issues.

In the midst of the unique heartbreak, pain, and injustice caused by the pandemic — we've also seen people coming together in ways we may never have otherwise.

The entire, global scientific community put projects on hold to work on and develop vaccines whose mRNA technology not only changed the course of the pandemic — but will change how we fight other deadly diseases forever.

We saw (already exhausted) medical professionals working hard to combat vaccine misinformation and going to great lengths to ensure vaccine access. We saw poverty decline overall in the U.S. thanks to pandemic relief measures, people stepping up to provide financial relief and meals. We celebrated the global vaccine rollout program (and Dolly Parton's role in it), COVAX get a start on ensuring vaccine equity around the world. All around, we've seen COVID good news all around.

It's important to note that even with COVAX, vaccine rollout has been nowhere near close to equitable, and this needs to change in 2022. There's progress still to be made in so many facets of the pandemic.

We hope these headlines remind you of the moments of hope we saw throughout the last year of the pandemic, and inspire you to keep being the good as we face the pandemic together in 2022.

An all-women medical team made sure COVID-19 vaccines get delivered to the most remote parts of Alaska

Medical team in a sled, next to a small airplane, in Alaska
Photo courtesy of Courtesy of James Austin

A team of women — a doctor, pharmacist, and 2 nurses — in Alaska made sure COVID-19 vaccines make it to the most isolated, remote parts of northern Alaska.

Pharmacist Meredith Dean, Dr. Katrine Bengaard and two nurses, Heather Kenison and James Austin V take planes, snowmobiles, and/or sleds to make sure everyone in Alaska has access to the vaccine.

The chief medical officer of Alaska, Dr. Anne Zink wrote on Facebook, “Dr. Bengaard and team went out to Ambler, Shungnak and Kobuk offering the Pfizer vaccine to all essential workers and seniors 65 and older. Recipients expressed how grateful they were that even though they are so remote, they are getting this vaccine. They are not forgotten."

400+ people in 32 states pledged to donate over $259,000 from their stimulus checks

When many Americans have been receiving their $600 stimulus payments — hundreds of people with the means to do so, pledged to donate a portion of, or their entire stimulus check through PledgeMyCheck. Donations ranged from a local organization or small businesses in their community, to individuals needing help with rent payments, to nationwide organizations like Feeding America.

We love this simple way to make a big difference.

Steph and Ayesha Curry have served over 15 million meals (and counting) during the pandemic

Ayesha and Steph Curry wearing Eat Learn Play shirts
Photo courtesy of Eat Learn Play Foundation

At the start of the pandemic last year, Steph and Ayesha Curry's Eat Learn Play foundation announced they'd be teaming up with Chef Jose Andres and World Central Kitchen to distribute 300,000 meals a week to people in need in the Oakland, California community. And they kept on doing it.

Now, almost a year later, they've distributed "well over 15 million meals" to people in the community. According to their 2020 year-end update, the program put around $20 million back into the community, and led to the rehiring of more than 900 restaurant workers in the area.

In perhaps the best team-up in history, the foundation also gave a grant to purchase and distribute meals from Oakland restaurants.


During the pandemic, a record number of people applied to study nursing in the UK

According to new data from the UK university admissions service (Ucas), applications for nursing courses increased by 32% in the UK.

There were a total 60,130 applicants for nursing by the main application deadline, and for the first time, over 10,000 people 35 or older applied.

One applicant, 25-year-old Florence Reeve told Radio 1 Newsbeat that seeing the experience of friends working in hospitals during the pandemic gave her the motivation to apply to study children's nursing.

The UK government has committed to adding 50,000 more nurses to the National Health Service (NHS) by 2025, and is also looking to address the need for long-term support for burnout and post-traumatic stress among nurses.

Care Minister Helen Whately told BBC News, "These figures are a testament to the work of Health Education England and Ucas in highlighting nursing as a rewarding and accessible career path, as well as the remarkable achievements of all health and care professionals over the past year. We're another step closer to delivering 50,000 more nurses for our NHS and providing better healthcare for everyone."


Addressing both access and common fears, a woman in San Francisco helped more than 1,270 people in her community get vaccinated

Felisia Thibodeaux
Photo courtesy of Judy Goddess

Felisia Thibodeaux has personally helped 1,270 people (and counting) in her San Francisco community get vaccinated — either by ensuring access for people who didn't have it, or by answering questions or talking about fears people had related to the vaccine.

Prior to the pandemic, Thibodeaux worked in operations for a community center that primarily served seniors — and when COVID-19 hit, her role shifted to ensuring they were protected against the virus.

The number one problem she ran into getting people vaccinated: access. Using a donation, she purchased a 15-passenger van and drove 1-2 people at a time to a nearby vaccination site.

The other issue she saw was hesitancy due to fear. She told SFGATE that most vaccinations are by word-of-mouth — and would personally have conversations with people to help alleviate their fears. Thibodeaux has lupus and a kidney transplant, and found that sharing her own health conditions helped others overcome their fears.

In one instance, a young man who was vaccinated after talking to Thibodeaux, then organized a focus group with a UCSF physician for others feeling hesitant. Eight men left the group that day to get their shots. 

We're so inspired by Thibodeaux's dedication to her community — staying in conversation and relationship with others is one of the most important ways we can help increase vaccinations in our own communities — and then around the world.

A Virginia family’s nonprofit has donated over 32,400 pounds of food and 55,400 sandwiches during the pandemic

In June 2020, Amber and Sterling Marchand saw something devastating on the news: the spike in food insecurity and increased need at food pantries around the country, including right in their own Northern Virginia community.

"Food is a basic necessity, it shouldn't be a source of stress for a family," Sterling told People.

They wanted to do something to help. So, along with their four kids, they hosted a food drive right outside their home.

"The box kept filling and filling," Amber said. They knew they were on to something, and a month after that initial food drive, they turned the operation into a nonprofit: Be The Good Project. They also began partnering with local organizations like D.C.-based Martha's Table.

One service Martha's Table provides is delivering hundreds of sandwiches to people experiencing homelessness in the city. When the Marchands learned they needed more sandwiches to meet the community's need, they started making those, too.

Now, hundreds of local volunteers make, pack, and deliver sandwiches (as well as food!) to the Marchands' home. Amber said when their 3-year-old sees boxes stacked in the house, he asks, "'Is this food for us or food for neighbors?' It's taught them how to think and care about other people."

Since that first food drive, Be The Good has donated over 32,400 pounds of food, 55,400 sandwiches, and this year started on their latest project: Little Free Pantries.

After learning some families face challenges actually getting food pantries due to transportation issues, they wanted to bring the pantry to them. They've installed 6 around their community so far, with more on the way.

"I hope they see that their community cares about them, that even in hard times like this, we're not forgetting about one another," Sterling said. "It's a good reminder that there are always people out there who genuinely want to help their neighbor."


A study found that vaccines prevented up to 140,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. Alone

Good vaccine news! A study from the National Institutes of Health found that vaccines prevented up to 140,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S.

The researchers analyzed vaccination data between December 21 and May 9 and found that COVID-19 vaccines have prevented up to 140,000 deaths during the first five months they were made available. 

Through May 9, 570,000 people in the U.S. lost their lives due to COVID-19, and the researchers projected it would have been 709,000 deaths without the vaccines.

Not that you can put a dollar amount on a single life saved, but the researchers also estimated the economic value of saving these lives was between $625 billion and $1.4 trillion.

We're celebrating this incredible news, and the hundreds of thousands of loved ones attached to those 140,000 lives saved. 

We're also celebrating it in the midst of a continued increase in vaccinations in the U.S.