‘Unlike anything I’ve ever seen’: The cost of COVID-19 two years later

‘We’re going to be bearing the costs of this pandemic for decades,’ said one health professional

It's been two years since COVID-19 changed our lives.

ROANOKE, Va. – 79,418,377 million cases, 4,571,017 hospitalizations and 963,244 thousand lives nationwide.

Two years after the world shut down, we’re still calculating the cost of COVID-19.

“It’s cost us our health,” said Dr. Cynthia Morrow, the director of the Virginia Department of Health’s Roanoke City and Alleghany Districts.

She said everyone has suffered an extraordinary loss. Here in Virginia, VDH reports 1,657,409 total cases, 48,345 hospital admissions, and 19,392 total deaths.

That’s not to mention the cost on the workforce and the economy.

The U.S. government issued $150 billion in coronavirus relief money. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says by the end of 2020, 9.4 million Americans lost their jobs.

“This touched everybody in some way or another unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” said Suzanne Bowser, DNP, RN, a unit director at Carilion Clinic.

She said the health care industry really felt the strain. Nearly 1 in 5 health care workers quit since February of 2020, according to a report from the data intelligence company Morning Consult.

As a result, Carilion launched “Code Lavender” to provide aromatherapy, mindfulness and counseling to staff.

LewisGale Regional Health System Market President Lance Jones said they’ve upped resources to provide behavioral counseling and help to employees and the community.

“It means that we’re working hard in terms of offering behavioral health support,” said Jones. “Our intensive outpatient program, our partial hospitalization program, some of the many resources that we’ve been able to leverage to really extend an arm into the community.”

Morrow said patients put off needed checkups out of fear of the virus, and we still don’t know what that may cost.

“We also know that people lost their lives because they delayed medical care or they were afraid to get into medical care,” said Morrow. “So I think that there’s another loss out there that we haven’t fully captured and it’s going to take us a really long time to capture that.”

But the numbers only tell so much.

“The human suffering that this pandemic has brought on, both directly and indirectly, is immeasurable,” said Morrow.

And she said the true, long-term cost is still to be seen.

“We’re going to be bearing the costs of this pandemic for decades,” said Morrow.

Despite the challenges addressing these long-term physical and mental health impacts, Morrow said there is a silver lining. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are dropping.

Plus, more than 557,407,604 million vaccines have been administered nationwide. In the U.S., 81.5% of people 5 years old and up have at least one dose.

“There has been tremendous costs and there has been tremendous resilience and a tremendous sense of ‘We’re in this together and we’re going to do our part to get through this,’” said Morrow.

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You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!