Letter: COVID-19 deaths are not just numbers
There is a sentiment about the pandemic I have been hearing, “Can’t wait ’til we end the pandemic and put it all behind us.” Recently, a “60 Minutes” program reviewed this sentiment when it interviewed several families who had lost members to COVID-19: an only son of a 45-year-old single mom who lost his very best “friend;” a bride-to-be who lost her 25-year-old groom to COVID and used the arrangements for the wedding for his funeral; a 57-year-old husband and father who died from COVID and left his 13-year-old son the responsibility of raising and protecting the father’s family.
These COVID deaths represent only three of the 450,000 deaths so far. But how do these three families and hundred of thousands of other families put all these deaths behind them when it leaves a hollowed out, blank space in their lives forever? These death aren’t just numbers. They are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, valued community members and integral parts of a community that are lost forever.
Back in January 2020, the past administration could have acted to reduce the mortality numbers by hundreds of thousands and promoted a safe resilient economy in the face of the pandemic. Yet, their priority was not country first but party first — specifically, reelecting Donald Trump, keeping the economy going for the wealthiest sector while calling the pandemic a “hoax” and making masks and social distancing political.
Yet, you can’t blame Trump alone. He was enabled by the entire Republican Party, Republicans in the House of Representatives and senators, governors, state houses and senates as well as local conservative representatives. He had Fox, Newsmax, right-leaning talk shows and national social media as well. And lastly, he was enabled by the 70 million voters who voted for him.
When I think of these three families and millions more families and the 450,000 COVID-19 deaths, I am more than just angry. A majority of these deaths could have been prevented. Our economy and people’s lives could be up and running safely now. That empty black hole in our communities and families could be full of life and vitality today.
And now I hear the conservative community, who are the enablers and created this divisive split, hiding behind the call for “unity” when it is convenient for them and their party rather than for the country. I hear them calling themselves the victims.
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On Tuesday, Peak Health Alliance, a nonprofit, locally-led insurance purchasing alliance, gave a presentation to the Routt County commissioners. We attended the meeting (remotely), and this is what we learned: