by Kathryn Carley, Commonwealth News Service
Family members of those lost to Covid are urging lawmakers to pass legislation to formally recognize the first Monday in March as Covid Remembrance Day.
The bill would make Massachusetts the eleventh state to memorialize those who have died from the virus – as well as recognize those who suffer from long Covid, and the essential workers who have been there through it all.
Jennifer Ritz Sullivan – organizer of the nonprofit Marked by Covid – said it’s important to identify the nation’s collective trauma.
“It’s a simple piece of legislation,” said Ritz Sullivan, “but it is so powerful – and history needs to be recorded correctly and our losses need to be remembered.”
More than one million Americans have died of Covid, including nearly 24,000 Massachusetts residents.
The federal government has announced it will end the national emergency and public health emergency declarations related to the Covid-19 pandemic on May 11 – but for bereaved activists like Ritz Sullivan, who lost her mother to the virus, the pandemic is not over.
Too many people, she said, have suffered in isolated grief, and a formal recognition of that pain would help in both recovery and prevention.
“We can’t prevent what we’re unwilling to acknowledge,” said Ritz Sullivan, “so we’re going to continue to see mass death and disability the more we turn away from this.”
The Massachusetts bill to establish a Covid-19 Remembrance Day is based on federal legislation introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Edward Markey, both Massachusetts Democrats.
Efforts are also underway to create a physical monument in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the pandemic’s lasting impact.