On being surrounded by death
Lately I feel surrounded by death. I know that that's some pretty dramatic language, but it's really how I feel. I haven't lost anyone close to me. But I've lost colleagues, friends of friends, people in my neighborhood.
I checked the numbers, and I'm not imagining this. US death rates in 2022 were 13% higher than in 2019. That's actually an improvement over the death rates from 2020 and 2021. Those numbers were bound to have a psychological impact, eventually. A ten percent increase is exactly the kind of change that sneaks up on you. Not big enough to notice consciously, but big enough to really feel.
One comparison: About 0.5% of the US population died in the 1918 influenza pandemic.0.4% of the US population has died of COVID to date. Those numbers are awfully similar. The devastation of the influenza pandemic lives on in historical memory a full century later.
A second comparison: 700,000 Americans have died of HIV since 1981. That left a deep wound in American communities. When HIV started to hit gay communities, those communities responded. They lobbied lawmakers. They protested at drug companies, they had sit ins and write white papers and marched and rioted. The early AIDS activists forced the global HIV response as we know it into existence with their rage and politcal will.
5636 Americans died of HIV in 1985.
267,000 people died of COVID in 2022.
9000 people died of COVID in November 2022 alone.
No conclusion for this essay. Let’s just think about those numbers.
It was shockingly difficult to find this number. For the .04% number I divided the total number from this article (the article itself points out this may be an underestimate) by the estimated US population of 333,287,557.
Yes, feeling the same. A first cousin and other people I know, plus a number of celebrities passed away in December and January. Mortality feels real. Reminder to enjoy life and take care of health.