On March 10, Congress passed its latest COVID-related bill, nearly one year after the country went into lockdown as the number of coronavirus patients surged. As the country continues the slow process of reopening, it’s an opportunity to look back and see how the country has changed over this last year and the lasting impact of social isolation.

When reports first started to emerge about a novel virus in China, there were those concerned and others who remained a bit skeptical. After all, sometimes epidemics are built up by the media and then end up affecting relatively few people. This was not the case with what ended up becoming the COVID-19 pandemic.

At this point, there have been more than 118 million cases of the virus, and approximately 2.6 million deaths. The death rate currently sits at approximately 2%, with the United States sitting at 1.8%.

This loss of life has had an incredible impact on families and especially the elderly, who were at increased risk of death from the virus. In order to protect them, many states instituted bans on family and friend visits to long-term care facilities and hospitals. This ban, though helpful, may have also contributed to a number of deaths from loneliness.

My family lost our matriarch, my grandmother, in December 2020. Though she did have COVID at one point, her death was the result of mostly other circumstances as she was reportedly asymptomatic. However, her death was counted as COVID related.

It was challenging, especially as the regulations and restrictions regarding the virus prevented any visitors from spending time with her during her weeks-long hospital stay. This distance from family likely contributed to her death, as there was little to no stimulation from her children or grandchildren to keep her engaged.

As an NBC News article reports, the death certificate of one man who lived in a long-term residential facility reported that he died from Alzheimer’s disease and “social isolation / failure to thrive related to COVID-19 restrictions.” With many elderly people living essentially in seclusion without visits from friends and loved ones, it’s easy to see why such a death could occur.

This isolation has not only contributed to deaths of the elderly, but has led to increased suicide rates, both in adults and, most concerningly, children.

As reported by NPR, in just the Las Vegas School District, 19 students died by suicide, with 13 taking their own lives since July.

“There’s a sense of urgency,” Jesus Jara, the superintendent of the Clark County School District, said. “You know, we have a problem.”

The number of suicides that will have occurred in the United States likely won’t be known for a couple of years, but Japan has experienced a concerning spike in the number of suicides, especially among women. When the U.S. numbers are finally reported, the public should brace themselves for a sobering report.

Years from now, there will be many, many debates about whether or not the lockdowns and social isolation did more harm than good to a certain extent. It’s also likely that the full impact of those measures won’t be known for years or perhaps even decades. Maybe these government-imposed measures did lessen the “curve,” but what about the mental health of millions of Americans? It’s an interesting question.

God created us as social creatures, and that’s been difficult this last year. It breaks my heart to wonder if my grandmother would still be alive today if my mother, aunt and other family members were allowed to be there with her in the hospital, praying and loving on her. I’m sure other families feel the same.

A year after COVID-19 first hit, no one could anticipate the impact this would have on families, but hopefully, before long, life will get back to “normal” and social distancing will be a thing of the past.

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