A living coral reef. Coral reefs have been healed in certain areas thanks to a drop in overfishing. Illustration by Will Lowe.

In recent years, going online has meant little more than difficult news, political debates, and more than enough hate to make someone stop being active on social media at all. Despite that, there are still good things in the world; all you have to do is look and you’ll find many more positive things in the news than you might’ve thought.

In 2020, the No Surprise Bill was officially passed, to be put into action on Jan. 1, 2022, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. This law protects people from receiving surprise bills, otherwise known as Out-of-Network bills, from hospitals, if they have a group health plan or group or individual health insurance. An Out-of-Network bill is when a doctor or physician doesn’t have contact with someone’s insurance, which can raise out of pocket prices.

In December of 2021 an oral pill was approved for those at high risk of COVID-19 and its effects, and it can prevent them from getting so sick that hospitalization is necessary. This pill, made by Pfizer, has an 89% reduction rate of severe illness or death after testing positive for COVID-19, according to a Pfizer clinical trial. This pill, known as Paxlovid, is also expected to work against the Omicron variant of COVID-19. There are some downsides: it needs to be taken within five days of developing symptoms; after that it’s too late for the medication to do much, since the disease has already made its mark. Another possible downside is the amount of medicine needed: You have to take three pills, twice a day, for five days, amounting to a total of 30 pills. In order to be approved for Paxlovid, you need to be over 12 years old and weigh at least 88 pounds. For a prescription, you must have an underlying condition or be over 65, according to Yale Medicine. But there are hopes to make this available for the general public in upcoming years.

In another recent medical innovation, a new procedure for trans women or people with low sperm count was discovered to find usable sperm so these people can have biological children. For trans women on estrogen, it can be very difficult to have biological children after starting Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). What we know about the reproductive effects of HRT for trans women is very limited; we know that sometimes within months of being on estrogen you could permanently damage your body’s ability to create sperm. This fact isn’t always shared clearly to trans women who are starting estrogen, and in a 2019 study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics that covered fertility preservation, of the ten women who participated, one who was on estrogen prior to the study was able to regain the production of viable sperm after five months. Though coming off estrogen in some cases can bring back the ability to produce usable sperm, that isn’t the case for everyone.There is some hope, though, for trans women who want biological children, and it can be found in a new procedure with Extended Sperm Search and Microfreeze (E.S.S.M.), as well as surgeries to find viable sperm. These surgeries are invasive and often aren’t the first choice, but now with E.S.S.M., doctors will spend hours looking for any usable sperm which will then be frozen for when the person chooses to use it. This process is much less invasive, and has been shown to be very effective.

Good tidings can also be found in the sea; in the past few years marine biologists have shared concerns about the coral reefs of our oceans, as with global warming, the water has become too warm for coral to survive. Additionally, fish that lived in coral reefs would eat algae off of the coral, and without these fish, whose populations dwindled because of the warming temperatures, the coral may, and will, suffocate and die. But in recent years, governments around the world have worked to protect the parts of the oceans that coral reefs reside in. One way they did this is passing legislation to stop overfishing, leading the fish back to the coral they used to protect. The few surviving coral were able to reproduce and start to resurrect the reefs, and now that scientists know how, they’re able to assist the process.

Trans healthcare especially, for trans women, is getting many more technological advances, medical billing is becoming more clear, work is being done to restore the coral reefs, and COVID-19 vaccines and treatment are becoming more common. These are four examples of many positive things happening in the world; progress is being made everywhere and sometimes all it takes is just looking around a bit more.