Michael N. Searles



One million is a big number. It has an almost mystical and mythical allure. Being a millionaire or desiring to become a millionaire is found in numerous popular songs. At one time being a millionaire was the zenith of wealth. There was a popular TV game show aired in the United States in 1999 entitled Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. It was the first American game show to offer an ultimate prize of $1,000,000, and became one the most lucrative game shows in history.

A person who becomes a millionaire has a net worth or wealth equal to or exceeds one million units of currency. As of December 2021, there were an estimated a little over 15 million millionaires in the world with the United States having 5,547,000 of them. In recent years, a million is not what it used to be. If you want to make an impression, you need to be a billionaire.

The United States has reached 1,000,000 COVID deaths, but this grim statistic and its implication seem not to matter. In a recent article in Scientific American by Melody Schreiber details the significance of losing a million people in two years. We all recognize the pain and suffering experienced by those closest to the deceased, but the societal effects are even more devastating. In the United States, one out of every 74 people 65 and over have died from COVID. While we often believe that COVID deaths occur only among the elderly, about 240,000 Americans between 18 and 64 succumbed to the virus. While this toll is high, there is likely a 200,000 undercount of deaths when compared to the typical mortality rate.

People died in the prime of their lives leaving families, friends, religious institutions, social and civic organizations, and jobs in their wake. Caregivers left behind those in their care and spouses lost partners and unfinished lives. The deaths of pillars in our communities eliminated informal social support. Those who worked in food service, agriculture, warehousing, manufacturing, transportation, and construction died at a higher rate than other occupations, and those working in nursing homes had one of the deadliest jobs in America. Death rates are up 40 percent over pre-pandemic levels constituting an unimaginable statistic.

This number of American deaths did not occur in all of our previous wars. We in time must reckon with the longterm effects of this mammoth loss. For some the loss is even greater because of its lack of acknowledgement. “Marked by COVID” is a national, grassroots, non-partisan nonprofit that promotes accountability, recognition, justice and a pandemic-free future. It established a five-point platform that stresses Response, Recovery, Restitution, Resilience, and Recognition to make the public more acutely aware of the cost of COVID and how we as a society should respond.

One suggestion is to establish a COVID Memorial Day to mourn and acknowledge the profound consequences of the virus. Another suggestion is to wear a COVID button stating, “Impacted by COVID”. Those who have the lingering effects of COVID could wear a “Long- Haul COVID” button. These visual symbols would bring COVID out of the shadows into the light. The state of Georgia has experienced 2,515,139 confirmed cases of COVID with 37,806 deaths, yet our leaders only celebrate businesses that did not shut down or schools that were not closed by state mandate.

Rarely do these leaders even acknowledge that keeping states open came with a human cost. There also has been little or no sympathy extended to those who paid the ultimate price for that reality. The celebration for keeping Georgia an open state may not be shared equally. Those whose loved ones died of COVID alone and without a proper funeral may have a different position. The thought that some of those deaths may have been prevented makes them even more grievous. This is not the time for bragging but extending our concern for those who have been lost and making plans for future pandemics.

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