As of writing this blog there have been over 584,337 COVID-19 related deaths in the United States. This is a large number to say the least, yet it underscores the great impact COVID-19 has had on families and on the well-being of local communities. To get a better understanding of this impact and emphasize the conversation as one of loss rather than numbers, I will be sharing the stories of Leah, Sam, and Luis who like many others, have been impacted by the pandemic.
The Loss of a Home
Over 22 million jobs were lost within the first month of the pandemic, Africa-American families being some of the most disproportionately affected by this. Leah’s family was one of them and she shared her story with us.
Leah is a single mother of seven, who worked hard to make sure her children had a place to call home. Unfortunately, Leah lost her job soon after the start of the pandemic and was unable to pay the rent. Her landlord, fearing the income-loss, demanded her to leave. Without any family or friends to rely on, Leah and her seven children had to live out of a car.
The pandemic had closed many hotels and the few that they found lacked microwaves or kitchen appliances. To Leah, the ability to cook dinner for her children would bring a sense of normality, which at that time was an expensive commodity to many families including hers. Nevertheless, Leah kept on searching and reaching out to her local community for help. Eventually she was placed in a home in Barstow, which was 70 miles away from her original home in San Bernardino.
Leah lost her home, and she became part of a faceless unemployment number. Yet, she remains optimistic stating, “The pandemic has brought us, and many other people many challenges, but my children and I are hopeful that things will get better and that we are going to move forward.” We thank Leah for sharing her story with us and to those 22 million others that lost their jobs, your stories are worth sharing.
The Loss of Security
The loss of a home is a great one and so is the loss of security. Sam is a 21-year-old Asian-American, and he is part of the 25% of students that postponed college during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sam’s family owns a Chinese food restaurant and like all other family-owned restaurants, it had to shut down its dine-in services due to COVID-19 restrictions. The restaurant was the family’s only form of income and security, so it was devastating to see it dwindle to zero-dollars in sales. As the pandemic raged on, Sam’s family was diagnosed with COVID-19 and had to close the restaurant for two weeks.
When they came back to the restaurant, they found hateful anti-Asian messages all over the outer walls, making them feel un-welcomed in their own community. At this point, Sam’s family was emotionally, physically, and financially drained. And when his father continued to have breathing and fatigue issues, Sam had to make the hard decision of taking a break from school, he was only one year away from graduating.
As the state eases restrictions, Sam’s family restaurant has seen an increase in business. Sam tells us, “We hope people begin to realize that we as Asians have nothing to do with this virus and that we are humans just like everyone else. We go through the same struggles and we want things to get better just like everyone does.” Thank you Sam for sharing your story with us. We hope Sam’s story brings hope to other students who had to make that same hard decision he did.
The Loss of a Child
584,337 sons, daughters, husbands, wives, grandparents, and friends have been lost. We will be sharing but one of their stories.
Luis lost his son last September due to COVID-19 complications. Luis’s son was 53 years old and a great son, brother, father, and grandfather. The loss was sudden and unexpected for the family. Luis’s son fell ill on a Friday and was admitted that same day to a hospital for monitoring. As the days progressed, his symptoms worsened, and he was intubated for two weeks. Luis continuously called his son, hoping to hear that he would be released soon.
The day before his son passed away, Luis had spoken to him and his son had reassured him things were getting better. Unfortunately, that night Luis’s son passed away from a heart attack. The news hit the family hard. When speaking about his son’s passing, Luis tells us, “The most important thing about life is remembering the happy moments people bring us.” And so, Luis remembers his son and all the happiness he brought to the people around him.
Thank you, Luis, for sharing your story of loss with us. And like Luis beautifully put, let us remember all the happy moments that those 584,337 individuals have brought to their families and their local communities.
As more of these stories come out, we hope that the numbers being reported start coming to life. It is our duty as public health leaders to humanize and give a face to these numbers, because if we do not, we are going to normalize the deaths and loss of millions and that is not something we can afford to do.