One Million Lives Lost

This is heartbreak. This is sorrow. This is fury. Today is May 13, 2022 and sometime in the next day or so, the United States will record one million lives lost to Covid-19. Scientists agree that the true death count is far greater. But this is the official number, the total of reported deaths caused by Covid-19 by Johns Hopkins University, the recognized expert in this pandemic.

It is cliche to say that it’s hard to wrap one’s head around this number. It’s also untrue. It’s not hard at all. Think of the person you love most in the world. Now think of them gone. Think of them dying alone, in an ICU, with no one at their side. That is how most Covid deaths take place.

We all know that grief is a wild animal. The people feeling this loss most acutely are on a journey of sadness, anger, confusion, and more sadness. There is nothing to do but lament, wail, grieve. And we can honor those lives in a small way, by preventing more losses. In some places, people talk of having “moved on.” People “are tired” of Covid. Well. Yes, I am tired of Covid too. But it is crucial that we all do what we can to limit its spread so there are no more unnecessary deaths.

Because some of these one million deaths were unnecessary. At the beginning of the pandemic, we had an incompetent and dishonest president who refused to take the virus seriously, who refused to let the government move and help. This is not a partisan statement. It is a fact. Many of these deaths were also unnecessary because we know that vaccines, masks, and social distancing could have prevented many of them. But because our culture is so broken, with people refusing science, people acting as though they know more than experts, not enough people have been vaccinated and Covid spread farther and faster. Had we acted together, like community, one million people would not have died. It is that simple.

I hope we can heal. I hope those who have lost the person they love most in the world can find some level of peace in the struggle. I hope we can make an honest accounting of how we got here. I hope we can honor, in some small way, those who have died, by taking the virus seriously, reducing future unnecessary suffering. We will see.

For now, this number means heartbreak. It means sorrow. There is no way around it.

Photograph taken in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C. by the author. May 2022

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Poet & Teacher. Author of four books of poetry: Raising King (2020) Ache (2017) Gospel of Dust (2013) Meeting Bone Man (2012)

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