In the spring of 2020, when the United States recorded 100,000 lives lost to COVID, The New York Times published this front page, with the names listed, calling those deaths untold.
In his new play in “The Atlantic”, Ed Yong writes, “Now the nation is racing towards the million mark. What is 10 times incalculable?”
Ed Yong is a staff writer at “The Atlantic,” where he won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the pandemic.
Ed Yong, great to you back on “NewsHour”.
We’ve been in this pandemic for two years and, yes, the cases are going down here in the United States and the hospitalizations aren’t as bad as they used to be, but in your article you point out that if there was a hurricane every days that was doing as much damage to our country as COVID, we would certainly act differently.
And your whole piece seems to be trying to figure out why COVID is different. So, what did you learn?
Ed Yong, “The Atlantic”: So I think some aspects of the pandemic run counter to a broader social consideration.
Of course, the virus itself is invisible. The damage it inflicts on our society is often hidden in public view, in intensive care units and in the privacy of homes. There’s the fact that the pandemic is so long now. We’ve been dealing with it for over two years. It is very difficult to surround him with our arms. And I think if we consistently fail to suppress his virus, it’s no wonder people turn to fatalism.
But I think some of the biggest factors at play are the fact that the people who died weren’t a random selection of Americans. They are disproportionately black and brown, they are poorer, they are sicker, immunocompromised, they are old. These are people who are often marginalized in our society and whose death is viewed with less value.
It’s a horrible thing to admit, but it’s happening now, and especially in the context of very privileged people. Many people in the press and in political circles, many of them got access to vaccines early and easily and became safe.
And that narrative has been around for a while that therefore everyone is safe, which just isn’t true. I think that’s been a big part of the normalization that we’ve seen.