According to a report on CNN, upwards of 40,000 children under the age of 18 in the United States have lost a parent to COVID-19 in the past year (1). This is an astounding statistic but, as the tragedy of over half a million adults, many of them elderly, it has not resonated with the public.
Why, in a society that ostensibly holds children as highly as we do, could such a thing happen? In many children the loss of a parent is devastating. We had experience of that after the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Why did we not do more to keep parents from dying in 2020? The answer, of course, is obvious: in spite of the scientific evidence of the efficacy of masking, social distancing, hand washing and, sometimes, quarantine, some Americans refused to mitigate the spread of this deadly virus prior to the arrival on the scene of effective vaccines. (That this was in many cases a political decision is a topic for further discussion.) Our death rates at times were the highest in the World
Many children have experienced developmental and mental health issues due to the confinement at home when schools have been closed. This is an added burden for these 40,000 children who are dealing with the bereavement from loss of a parent and magnifies their problems.
It was all so simple, yet we blew it. Many other countries were able to limit the virus spread by adopting mitigating behaviors. When they are relaxed, the virus spread picks up. Surprise? It remains a puzzle to me as to why Americans (who used to pride themselves on their intelligence) could be so stupid.
BRIAN J. CORDEN, M.D.