The Pandemic, One Year Later

The news is full of stories trying to encapsulate the most unforgettable year most of us have ever lived through. When we think back on this time, 2020 will be a line right through the middle: there was life before 2020 and life after 2020. Even now, just a few short weeks into 2021, some of the details of what we have been through, what we have lost, are becoming hazy. When we think back, what stands out most vividly is all that we have lost in one short year because of a tiny little virus we didn’t even know existed. (Much of what follows was pointed out by President Biden in a recent speech.)

  • While it was different for everyone, we all lost something.
  • We have been through a collective suffering, a collective sacrifice, a year filled with the loss of life and the loss of living.
  • As of today, the total deaths in America: 545,635 (that number changes by the hour). That’s more deaths than in World War One, World War Two, the Vietnam War, and 9/11 combined.
  • Those who have died were husbands, wives, sons and daughters, grandparents, friends, neighbors — young and old. They left behind loved ones unable to truly grieve or to heal, even to have a funeral.
  • There have been job losses, closed businesses, evictions, homelessness, hunger, a loss of control, a loss of hope.
  • A generation of children may be set back up to a year or more because they have not been in school and have lost their chances to learn and be with their friends.
  • Among the losses are Sunday night rituals, weddings, birthdays, graduations, first dates, family reunions
  • This virus has kept us apart at a terrible cost on the psyche as we are unable to talk, to laugh, to hug, to hold one another.
  • Grandparents haven’t seen their children or grandchildren. Parents haven’t seen their kids. Kids haven’t seen their friends.
  • A mask — the easiest thing to do to save lives — sometimes divides us.
  • States are pitted against one other instead of working with each other.
  • There are vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans, who have been attacked, harassed, blamed, and scapegoated.
  • COVID patients who didn’t wake up for weeks, after being put on ventilators, continue to suffer so-called COVID long-hauler symptoms.
  • People from all walks of life — and for many different reasons — have experienced new or worsening mental health crises. Rates of anxiety and depression have risen dramatically in the U.S.
  • Dropping a full year since 2019, the new life expectancy at birth for the total U.S. population is 77.8 years.
  • Layoffs and business closures sparked a dramatic rise in unemployment claims and other critical social aid.
  • Tens of millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty, while the number of undernourished people, currently estimated at nearly 690 million, could increase by up to 132 million by the end of the year.
  • Students who relied on school meals are going hungry.
  • Parents who do not have the luxury of working from home are worrying about how they will keep the lights on and water running in their homes.
  • Millions of agricultural workers – waged and self-employed – regularly face high levels suffer from a lack of safety and labor protection as well as other types of abuse.
  • The pandemic has decimated jobs and placed millions of livelihoods at risk.

Suffice to say, it has been a very costly year.