As the U.S. exceeded 500,000 deaths due directly to the pandemic, millions are grieving the loss of loved ones. In fact, over half of Americans know someone personally who has been hospitalized or died due to COVID-19.
The big jump in newspaper obituaries began building up to the end of 2020 and right after the first of the year. Yes, the coronavirus pandemic took many lives. The Wayne County Department of Health attributes only 43 deaths of Wayne County residents directly attributed to the virus.
Besides daily insertions, The Democrat and Chronicle has almost a whole section in its Sunday editions dedicated to obituaries. The Times of Wayne County has easily doubled the death notices over the past several months and these are only the families who choose to run notices in the local papers.
That number is far short of the increase in total deaths being reported. Why are so many people still dying?
“I had a ton of COVID- related deaths at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. I wonder if people are so isolated that they don’t have the motivation to go on. If they get sick maybe they are just not mentally capable of fighting”, stated John Murphy at Murphy & Sons Funeral Home in Newark.
Wayne Brophy from Murphy Funeral Services, with locations in Palmyra, Macedon and the Town of Ontario stated: “COVID has directly been a small percentage of our call volume. I would say under twenty percent.”
“COVID has certainly impacted the increase in call volume ‘indirectly’. Although not listed on the death certificate, we noticed a number of the deceased individuals in our care were not making their regular visits to the doctor, getting prescription adjustments, many appear to have had some loneliness, and, or depression from not being able to be with family, or friends (i.e., Nursing homes and hospitals reduced, or omitted visitation)
It was reported that we would start to see an increase in the death rate due to the baby boomer population aging. We actually saw this a few years later than anticipated.
Finally, although numbers average out with all other things being equal, we do see spikes on deaths and then the numbers will recede... and with the overall population being greater we need to anticipate more deaths as well.”
In addition to direct COVID-deaths are the “after Covid” deaths. In an article written by By Neha Pathak, MD for theWebMD website: “Doctors are just starting to learn what recovery from COVID-19 looks like and whether it will cause long-term damage to its survivors -- both physically and mentally. Doctors are still trying to understand what long-term health effects may look like after recovery, what impacts may resolve, and what may linger... “It’s going to be more of the small percentage of people with severe and critical symptoms where the concern arises about long-term impact on the lungs and other organs, but we don’t fully understand what that will look like,” he said.
Even for people who have officially recovered, feeling 100 percent back to normal may be a long process. The body may not be operating at 100 percent, especially if the person was hospitalized or severely ill. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that it can take 6 weeks or longer for someone to fully recover if they were in critical condition.
In an article by the Mayo Clinic: “Most people who have coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) recover completely within a few weeks. But some people — even those who had mild versions of the disease — continue to experience symptoms after their initial recovery. These people sometimes describe themselves as “long haulers” and the condition has been called post-COVID-19 syndrome or “long COVID-19.”
According to Wayne County Public Health Director Diane Devlin, not all death certificates they receive may mention COVID, or recovering COVID patients. She added that pneumonia effects and other maladies may worsen after COVID recoveries, leading to additional deaths. Older people and people with many serious medical conditions are the most likely to experience lingering COVID-19 symptoms. Although After -Covid deaths may not list these victims as “Covid deaths”, the virus may have set off additional symptoms leading to death.
Susan Catholdi from Wayne Behavioral Mental Health confirmed that during the height of the pandemic, suicides among adults also increased in every town in the County. So did deaths by what were considered accidental drug overdoses, where no note was left.