John O'Connor
John O’Connor

Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin once said that a single death is a tragedy. But the death of millions is a statistic.

His words seem oddly prophetic. Data out Tuesday from Johns Hopkins University show that more than one million people have died in the United States in the two years since the COVID-19 pandemic’s start.

And what was our nation’s general reaction? In a word: meh.

It’s almost as if we’ve become numb to the continuing devastation. Many in our midst are generally sick of COVID-19, sick of the inconveniences it has caused — and sick of hearing about it. These folks are more than ready to move on. Not that you can blame them.

For by any reasonable standard, the past two years have been pretty awful. Thousands of senior living communities were on the business end of a hellacious gut punch. Occupancy and staffing levels are down dramatically, while costs are rising by the day.

Has the future for this sector ever looked more dangerous or uncertain, even as wisps of hope emerge? Not that I can recall.

As tempting as it might be to simply pick up the pieces and move on, a million deaths are a million deaths. We build monuments and hold days of remembrance for tragedies that have caused nowhere near the same amount of carnage.

It’s certainly worth remembering that many COVID-related deaths occurred within senior living communities. These are the thousands of residents and workers who might still be with us, but no longer are.

Care to tell their grieving friends and relatives that this week’s milestone is nothing more than a statistic?

John O’Connor is editorial director of McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.