COVID-19 variants are surging in America and scientists are learning the vaccine may not work as well against them.
The best way to honor those who have died and their families is to continue to wear masks and socially distance.
One year ago, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials warned that the coronavirus outbreak was heading toward pandemic status. In the weeks that followed, we scrambled to shut down businesses and close schools, believing we could slow the spread.
Today, more than 500,000 Americans are dead.
There is plenty of blame to go around, particularly aimed at the previous administration’s monumental fumbling of this public health emergency. But that’s not the conversation I want to have right now. Today we mourn. Today we grieve with the families who have had to say goodbye to their loved ones — parents, grandparents, spouses, aunts and uncles, siblings, sons and daughters.
The loss of half a million people is devastating. It is heartbreaking. The toll — both literally and figuratively — will be felt for decades. And though we have hope in vaccines and a steady decline in new COVID-19 cases, this emotional milestone reminds us that every statistic is a person and a slice of a community.
A patient receives treatment in the emergency room at Roseland Community Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. About one third of the patients that arrive in the ER at Roseland display symptoms of COVID-19. The Roseland neighborhood, on the city’s far south side, is 95% black. The COVID-19 death rate among black residents in Chicago is nearly double that of the city’s white residents. (Photo: Scott Olson, Getty Images)
“People decades from now are going to be talking about this as a terribly historic milestone in the history of this country, to have these many people to have died from a respiratory-borne infection,” Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said on CNN Sunday.
I’ve read story after story about those who have died, how their families were unable to see them or had to say a final “I love you” via video chat. I’ve watched more cable news than is likely healthy, taking in the chaotic scenes at overburdened hospitals nationwide. While depressing, I think it’s important to feel the loss. The numbers are so overwhelming we could easily become numb to their significance. We can’t allow that to happen.
President Joe Biden is expected to hold a White House address Monday evening, followed by a moment of silence and a candle lighting ceremony. He also will order flags on federal buildings and properties be lowered to half-staff for the next five days to mark the surpassing of 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic.
I can’t believe we’re here. I hate that we are here. Yet there are those who still refuse to believe COVID-19 is real or are unwilling to take measures to control the virus. Open your eyes. Show some compassion. We all know someone who has been affected by coronavirus, someone who has been seriously ill or is mourning a loss.
National Guard members assist with processing COVID-19 deaths, placing victims’ bodies into temporary storage at the medical examiner-coroner’s office in Los Angeles on Jan. 12. (Photo: Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner via AP)
We have nearly lost more Americans than during World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined. The numbers are almost too large to grasp. And unfortunately more people will die from COVID-19. The best way to honor them and their families is to continue — or start — to wear masks and socially distance.
With grief comes resolve. Let’s never forget this moment.
National columnist Suzette Hackney is a member of USA TODAY’S Editorial Board. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @suzyscribe
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