What One Million COVID Dead Mean for the U.S.’s Future

Activist holds a candle during a vigil in Lafayette Park for nurses who died during the COVID-19 pandemic on January 13, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. will record one million confirmed deaths from COVID in the next several weeks. This toll is likely an undercount because there are more than 200,000 other excess deaths that go beyond typical mortality rates, caused in part by lingering effects of the disease and the strain of the pandemic. These immense losses are shaping our country—how we live, work and love, how we play and pray and learn and grow.

These deaths have wide-ranging consequences. The effects on children may be the longest-lasting. In the U.S., an estimated 243,000 children have lost a caregiver to COVID—including 194,000 who lost one or both parents—and the psychological and economic aftershocks can have lifetime negative impacts on their education and career.

  • Older Americans and people of color suffering disproportionately.
  • On average, every death from COVID leaves nine people grieving.
  • Among working-age Americans, “we are seeing right now the highest death rates we have ever seen in the history of this business,
  • And certain types of work were hit harder by COVID than others. Those in fields such as food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction saw higher rates of death than in many other occupations.
  • “You don’t have the safety net in terms of the economic resources if you lost someone, and they were a contribution to the household.
  • Childcare is lost with the loss family members which results in one parent, usually the mother, having to give up a job.

A lot of that childcare came from grandparents, who play an integral role in children’s lives, providing emotional and financial support. More than 80 percent of Americans age 65 or older are grandparents, and about one in five provide childcare regularly, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey. In 2019 grandparents provided housing for 4.5 million children,

In addition, after a primary caregiver’s death, parent, grandparent, kids often have a higher risk of many problems. More than half of kids report having significant mental health issues. Losses also put children at greater risk for physical, emotional and sexual violence, poverty, suicide, teen pregnancy, and infectious and chronic illnesses. Losing a caregiver can worsen feelings of abandonment, affect self-esteem and make it harder to cope with stress. The difficulties extend to kids’ education. 

For children, the aged and the rest of society, experts expect to see a long-term worsening trajectory of health and survival in coming years. One reason is the effect of “long COVID,” a cluster of debilitating symptoms, including fatigue, headache, pain and shortness of breath, that can last for months after an initial infection. . . . The U.S. already had a crisis of chronic disease, especially in working-age people, which is one reason why the coronavirus wreaked havoc, Stokes adds.

Source: Scientific American