By JOAN MARQUES With the COVID-19 cloud hovering over our global society, and mixed messages of improvement and decline alternating one another, there is a lot for us to rethink. At the time of writing this article, there are about 858,400 reported cases of the coronavirus disease worldwide, or about 0.8 per mille (eight-thousandth of a percentage) of the human population. The death toll amongst these cases is about 4.9 percent. The annual influenza epidemic (“flu”), which results in about 3 to 5 million severe cases, demands a death toll of 0.5 to 1 percent. The above implies that COVID-19 has thus far been deadlier than the flu, most likely because testing is not readily available and there is no vaccine or cure confirmed yet. Whether we choose to take on a highly cautious approach or simply perceive this pandemic as part of a recurring wave in line with prior global scares such as AIDS, Avian ﬂu, SARS, MERS, Ebola, and Zika, we cannot ignore the current mandates of social distancing, restricted gathering numbers and staying at home. Practically everything we perceived as “normal life” has come to a screeching halt: restaurants, hotels, schools, gyms, airlines, theaters, recreation facilities, and offices of all kinds are mandatorily closed. Large grocery stores are limiting the numbers of customers shopping inside, resulting in lines outside, and scantily stocked shelves, especially in the sanitation, paper and dairy isles. Over the past weeks, we’ve seen some embarrassingly self-centered displays of people who piled toilet paper and kitchen towels in their shopping cards, far beyond their annual needs, and at the dire expense of others who tried to purchase only what they needed. Fortunately, there were also instances where people demonstrated spontaneous camaraderie, like the case where a woman’s credit card declined at the cashier, and she would have to leave behind all her much-needed purchases. Suddenly one, then two, then several other folks in line decided to chip in toward paying her balance, much to her teary-eyed gratitude. I read somewhere that we should replace the term “social distancing” with “physical distancing and social solidarity.” The example above demonstrates that. It’s amazing how flexible and creative we become when survival is at stake. As the dean of the business school at Woodbury University, I have been touched by the immense levels of readiness I detected amongst colleagues and other stakeholders. I saw university officers, faculty and staff spontaneously tapping into their previously unshared talents to ensure a swift shift toward remote continuation of our educational services to students. In the course of one week, training sessions and tutorials were developed to elevate everyone to levels of performance ability in the largely untapped area of online education. In the midst of daily changes in the directives from city and national officials, a whirlwind readiness campaign evolved, that taught many of the stakeholders something important: nothing is impossible if we unite. The end is not in sight. Many warn that this will be a long, challenging road. Yet, the powerful mindset of connectivity as the best chance for survival has made a similarly overpowering entrance as COVID-19. The past weeks have brought to the forefront some admirable actions, which we may have ignored or downplayed in the past. I labeled them the 5 G’s: Granting those on all sides of the spectrum an opportunity to assist. Giving people ownership will draw out hidden talents, strengthen their confidence, and establish a stronger bond overall. Getting a chance to re-value our social system. While many of us dream of retirement and staying home all the time, we are now realizing the creativity we’ll need to deviate from excessive boredom. Giving the environment a break. With about 75 percent of the U.S. population being ordered to stay at home, we can vividly imagine the restoration of clean air this brings. Gravitating toward more change acceptance. Many of us are wondering about the effects of this global pandemic on our social systems. Which trends will disappear and which will emerge? How will that affect us? Gaining deeper, change-evoking insight into the things we usually ignore, such as: o Practicing more serenity and taking better care of ourselves. o Entertaining creative ways of keeping ourselves constructively occupied. o Ascertaining the daily habits of those we share our lives with. o Converting our established habits of selfish “fun” (including keeping animals captive). o Evaluating the bigger picture of our life, to assess whether it’s time for a change. There is no better opportunity to reinvent ourselves and our circumstances than in times of challenges. We can elect for these days to enter history as a grim episode or add our own light to this experience by making it as constructive as possible. The choice is ours. Joan Marques is dean of the School of Business at Woodbury University in Burbank.