USA TODAY International Edition

Over 500,000 deaths: I hate that we are here

Mourn our fel­low Amer­i­cans. Don’t for­get.

- Suzette Hack­ney Na­tional columnist Suzette Hack­ney is a mem­ber of USA TO­DAY’S Ed­i­to­rial Board. Con­tact her at shack­ney@ us­ato­day. com or on Twit­ter: @ suzyscribe Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · U.S. Centers for Disease Control · National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases · Joe Biden · Vietnam

One year ago, Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion officials 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 that 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.

‘ Ter­ri­bly his­toric mile­stone’

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 figu­ra­tively — 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.

“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, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Dis­eases, said on CNN Sun­day.

Feel the loss

I’ve read story after story about those who have died, how their fam­i­lies were un­able to see them or had to say a final “I love you” via video chat.

I’ve watched more ca­ble news than is likely healthy, tak­ing in the chaotic scenes at over­bur­dened hos­pi­tals through­out the na­tion.

While de­press­ing, I think it’s im­por­tant to feel the loss. The num­bers are so over­whelm­ing we could eas­ily be­come numb to their sig­nificance. 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 flags on fed­eral build­ings and prop­er­ties be low­ered to half­staff for the next five 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 affected by coro­n­avirus, some­one who has been se­ri­ously ill or is mourn­ing a loss.

We have lost nearly as many Amer­i­cans as 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.

 ?? HAR­RI­SON HILL ?? Say­ing good­bye over an iPad in Mis­sion Hills, Cal­i­for­nia.
HAR­RI­SON HILL Say­ing good­bye over an iPad in Mis­sion Hills, Cal­i­for­nia.
 ?? MICHELLE PEMBETTON/ INDYSTAR ?? Suzette Hack­ney
MICHELLE PEMBETTON/ INDYSTAR Suzette Hack­ney

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