April 21, 2024

La Ronge Northerner

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Families of those lost to Covid are grappling with mixed feelings as the emergency ends

Families of those lost to Covid are grappling with mixed feelings as the emergency ends

Shannon Cummings, 53, has been trying to move on after her husband, Larry, a university professor, died of Covid-19 in March 2020.

She traveled from her home in Michigan to Southern California to attend Harry Styles’ concert with family and friends. Twice a week you meet for group therapy classes. She started going out to lunch in public again, a move that took her years.

“We have lost more than a million people in the epidemic,” she said. “It does not honor any of them not to live my life.”

Yet she is still grappling with the milestone the nation will mark Thursday: something of an official end to the pandemic, in which the Biden administration will allow the coronavirus public health emergency of three years ago — and a separate declaration of a national emergency — to expire.

“I feel some people just haven’t come to terms with the fact that there is an emergency,” Ms Cummings said. “It’s really painful for those of us who have already suffered a loss from this.”

The end of the coronavirus public health emergency in the United States comes at a time when vaccines are effective and widely available, testing is easily accessible, and treatments have improved dramatically since the start of the pandemic.

More than 1.1 million Americans have died of COVID, and the death rate has slowed significantly in recent months. In 2020 and 2021, it was the third most common cause of death; By this time in 2023, preliminary data shows it has dropped to seventh place.

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But the move by the Biden administration, which took effect Thursday, has sparked mixed feelings for many Americans who have lost family members and friends to the pandemic.

For some people, it has brought fears that the pandemic is being politicized again.

“What’s exhilarating is when people say, ‘Now we know we don’t have to shut things down or wear masks,’” said Corey Lusignan, a Florida resident whose father, Roger Andreoli, died of Covid in 2020. “It’s an intimate, close-up look at suffering. He led me on.” It’s to believe we didn’t make hasty or irrational decisions. Those were choices we had to make, and there were good reasons for them.”

For others, it is a welcome acknowledgment from Mr. Biden that the country is in a different place than it has been before.

“I don’t think it’s premature, and I don’t have any hard feelings that he would,” said Vincent Tunstall, who lives in Chicago and lost his brother Marvin to the virus in November 2020.

Still more cautious about Covid than many people, Mr Tunstall said, wearing a mask when in an indoor public space and on his daily train commute. Any mention of Covid reminds him of his brother, a chronic pain known only to those who have lost people to the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, when I think of Covid and the pandemic, his thoughts intertwine with both,” he said.

Pamela Addison, a COVID widow mother of two and survivor advocate, said the administration’s decision to let the emergency expire was a reminder that the federal government can do more for children who have lost parents and caregivers.

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“Children are constantly ignored,” she said. We don’t want to talk about them. It’s as if we don’t want to talk about the fact that they exist.”

The end of the emergency declaration could lead to new costs for coronavirus testing, because after Thursday, private insurers will no longer be required to cover up to eight home tests per month.

Laura Jackson, who lost her husband Charlie to the coronavirus, questioned the necessity of moving. She said leaving Americans with out-of-pocket costs related to the virus is tantamount to “throwing this off” on the public, while the country is still not prepared for a future pandemic.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” she said, noting that there were still questions about the origin of the virus in China. “We should not hold back resources.”

For Ms. Jackson, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, the end of the pandemic’s designation as a public health emergency Thursday roughly coincided with the May 17, 2020 anniversary of her husband’s death. She said both days filled her with dread.

She still runs into people on a regular basis who deny that Covid is real, or who suggest her husband died of his pre-existing conditions, which is a stinging comment.

“I never felt we acknowledged those we lost,” said Ms. Jackson. “I feel like we’ve always been in such a rush to move on. But it’s still real.”