The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States reached 1 million on Monday, an unimaginable statistic that only hints at the number of loved ones and friends who are stuck in grief and despair.
The confirmed death toll is equivalent to 9/11 attacks per day for 336 days. That’s roughly equal to how many Americans died in the Civil War and World War II combined. As if Boston and Pittsburgh were wiped out.
“It’s hard to imagine a million people being uprooted from this world,” said Jennifer Nujo, who heads a new epidemic center at Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, Rhode Island. “It’s still happening and we’re letting it happen.”
Some of those who left say they could not return to normal. They retrieve the voicemail messages of their loved ones. Or watch old videos to see them dance. When other people say they are finished with the virus, they silently shake in anger or pain.
“‘Normal.’ I hate the word, “said Julie Wallace, 55, of Ellier, Ohio, who lost her husband in COVID-19 in 2020. “All of us can never go back to normal.”
Three out of every four deaths are 65 years of age or older. More men than women have died. Most of the deaths of white people were. However, blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans are almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than their white counterparts.
Most deaths occurred in urban areas, but in rural areas – where masks and vaccinations are more opposed – there is sometimes a heavy price to pay.
The number of deaths in less than 2 1/2 years of outbreaks is based on death certificate data compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the actual number of direct or indirect deaths in Covid-19 is thought to be much higher due to disruptions in the healthcare system in the world’s richest countries.
The milestone comes more than three months after 900,000 were killed in the United States. The speed has slowed down since the winter wave, stimulated by the Omicron variant. On average, about 300 COVID-19s die every day in the United States, a maximum of about 3,400 per day in January 2021.
The largest bell in the country’s capital, Washington National Cathedral, was topped 1,000 times a week ago, once for every 1,000 deaths. President Joe Biden on Thursday ordered the flags to be lowered to half the staff, calling every life an “irreparable loss.”
“As a nation, we must not be left in the lurch,” he said in a statement. “To heal, we must remember.”
More than half of the deaths have occurred since the vaccine became available in December 2020. Two-thirds of Americans are fully vaccinated and about half of them have at least one booster dose. But demand for the vaccine has waned, and gun campaigns have been plagued by misinformation, mistrust and political polarization.
According to the CDC, non-vaccinated people are 10 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than fully vaccinated.
“To me, this is particularly heartbreaking,” Nujo said. He says the vaccine is safe and greatly reduces the risk of serious illness. They “take the chances of death largely from the table.”
Angelina Proia, 36, of New York, lost her father to Covid-19 in April 2020. She runs a support group for bereaved families on Facebook and has seen it split up for vaccinations. He booted people from the group to spread misinformation.
“I don’t want to hear conspiracy theories. I don’t want to hear anti-science talk,” said Priya, who wanted her father to be vaccinated.
Sarah Atkins, 42, of Winwood, Pennsylvania, paid tribute to her father, Andy Rothman-Zaid, who died in COVID-19 in December 2020, fighting for global vaccinations and better access to healthcare.
Atkins said of the epidemic, “My father ordered me to finish it and make sure it didn’t happen again.” “He told me, ‘If I die for this, do politics about my death.’
Julie Wallace and her husband Lewis Dunlap had a cell phone number difference. He continues to pay to keep his number. She calls it just to hear her voice.
“Sometimes it’s very important to listen,” he said. “It gives you some reassurance and breaks your heart.”
Some have given comfort in poetry. In Philadelphia, poet and social worker Trapeta Mason has created a 24-hour poetry hotline called Healing Verses. Traffic on the Academy of American Poets’ Kavis.org website has increased during the epidemic.
Brian Sonia-Wallace, poet winner of West Hollywood, California, has traveled the country to write poetry for hire. He imagines a memoir of one million poems, written by those who do not usually write poetry. They will talk to the bereaved and listen to the points of connection.
“All we need as a nation is empathy,” said Tania Alves, 35, of Weston, Florida, who lost her 24-year-old sister to COVID-19 in October. “With more than two years of epidemics, all cases and deaths, we should be more sympathetic and respectful when it comes to Kovid. Thousands of families have changed forever. The virus is not just the common cold.”