The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Silent Victims of This Pandemic

Roshaun Kerdzaliev speaks to Reuters next to bar stools taped off due to coronavirus restrictions at the Scorecard Sports Bar and Grill in Wind Gap, Pa., October 2, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

We all know this pandemic has taken many lives, and we are well-versed in all its impacts on our health. We also know about the victims who died of COVID, as they are reported daily. But today I would like to take a moment to make a list of the other victims of this pandemic. This incomplete list doesn’t take away from the tragedy of those who died of COVID and the pain of their families.

These victims are the products of this pandemic and our response, public and private, to it. Some of these tragedies are inevitable in a pandemic; others aren’t. While newspapers will write stories about some of them, they are rarely considered collectively. This is a small attempt to do that.

They are the small-business owners who have seen their businesses destroyed by the lockdowns. They are the owners of restaurants and small shops that never reopened, even when the lockdowns were partially lifted.

They are the small-business owners who don’t know how long they can survive with so few customers, but they know that they won’t survive another lockdown.

They are essential workers who have continued to labor hard to provide our health care and our groceries, even when their children were stranded at home in spite of overwhelming evidence that schools are not a locus of COVID-19 infection.

They are the countless children who have been dramatically falling behind in school. They are the children whose math skills are plummeting. They are the kids with disabilities and the English-language learners whose academic performances are collapsing. They are the kids who’ve dropped out of school entirely. They are the kindergarteners who sit in front of a screen for hours and have not experienced the joy of playing with other kids during recess, ever.

They are the college students who are locked in their dorms and “learning” online with little contact with peers or professors. They are all the other college kids who simply drop out of school to take care of their families.

They are all the children whose anxiety levels have dramatically soared. They have lost hope; they are depressed. Many are thinking of suicide. Some even commit it.

They are the elderly — our parents and grandparents — who haven’t seen their children and grandchildren in almost a year.

My own two children and I have not been able — for the past eight months — to visit their grandparents in France, or even those in California. Some of these grandparents live alone. The isolation from family and friends has been particularly brutal.

They are the medical patients dying alone. They are the patients receiving treatments, or bad news, from their doctors with no family support.

They are the people whose routine health screenings have been suspended — many of whom, as a result, will prematurely die. They are the people who don’t get their vaccines, medications, allergy shots or root canals.

They are the people who “celebrate” birthdays, holidays and other important milestones alone. They are people who cannot attend loved ones’ funerals. They are the young couples who have to postpone their weddings or their children’s baptisms.

They are the ones suffering from anxiety whose therapies are suspended. They are the people of all ages who, as a result, tragically decide to end their lives. They are the people who numb the pain of isolation with drugs or alcohol abuse. They are the people with addictions whose rehab centers are closed. There are the women and children locked in with their abusers.

They are the ones who have lost jobs and who wait forlornly in long unemployment lines. They have no idea whether they’ll be employable at the end of this ordeal. They are the workers who will give up on joining the labor force.

They are today’s young people, who will shoulder the burden of an irresponsible fiscal response to this pandemic, and the unfathomable debt it created.

The list should be much longer (I failed to mention those who haven’t been able to worship in months and many others), but there is only so much you can do with a 700-word column. I will add that for many of these victims, throwing money at the problem won’t help much, especially if the money is poorly targeted and will have long-term negative effect. I don’t write about COVID as a general rule, because I am no expert on this matter. However, I believe we could have done much better.