On Memorial Day last Sunday, the New York Times devoted its entire front page to a long list of Americans who have died in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“US Deaths Near 100,000, an Incalculable Loss,” the headline read. “They Were Not Simply Names on a List. They Were Us,” the subhead added.
The list carried 1,000 names, just 1 percent of the nearly 100,000 deaths in the US. Each name had a one-line obituary drawn from death notices in hundreds of US newspapers around the country. On that Sunday, the list of dead Americans totaled 96,662 out of a global total of 340,196. At the rate victims in the US have been dying, the 100,000 mark was expected to be reached in a few days.
That one simple unembellished newspaper page listing a thousand names embodied the vast loss the United States has suffered in the ongoing pandemic . It now has the most victims as a country.
Nearly all countries of the world have been laid low by the invisible enemy that is the COVID-19 virus – Russia, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain in Europe; Turkey, China, India, South Korea in Asia; Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East; Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria in Africa; Brazil, Chile, and Venezuela in South America.
The Philippines was among the first countries to be hit by the virus, through visitors from China. We avoided the initial surge of the contagion in February and March with an early lockdown in March. We have endured the lockdown in all its forms – the severest Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the Modified ECQ, and the General CQ.
It has been a difficult period for everyone, especially those who had managed in the past to earn just enough for the day’s food, now suddenly unable to step out of their cramped houses. But they have survived. We have long been a nation of survivors. And we will survive this latest threat to to the existence of entire communities, business enterprises, and governments.
Among the world’s nations, it is the United States that has suffered the most, although it is fighting back, with all of its 50 states now in various stages of restoring normalcy. The New York Times list of 1,000 victims on its front page – common ordinary people along with a few notable ones -- reminds us that the danger is still very much with us – in our hospitals, in our streets, in our churches, in our offices and factories.
We too have our list of victims in the Philippines. It may not be as long as that of the US, part of which was published in the New York Times last Sunday. But this is a virus that we do not yet quite understand and therefore we must do what we can – through such simple means as wearing face masks and social distancing – to avoid getting into a list like that on the front page of the New York Times last Sunday.