This week, on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, we reached over 100,000 deaths in the United States due to COVID-19. It is a somber milestone in this pandemic. Because the number is so large, it can be difficult to fathom that each number represents a person, someone who has a unique life story.
The New York Times worked to encapsulate the lives of 1,000 of those individuals on the front page of last Sunday’s print edition of the paper, leading with the headline, “U.S. Deaths Near 100,000, An Incalculable Loss.” There is an interactive version online at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/24/us/us-coronavirus-deaths-100000.html.
Still, with the physical distancing most of us are practicing and the unevenness of the spread of the disease, it can be difficult to grasp how the disease is affecting families, particularly in areas that have not seen a lot of cases. In Morrison County, for example, the first publicly identified death caused by COVID-19 was of Father Nick Landsberger, a well-known priest who served Catholic parishes in Morrison County for 40 years. Fr. Nick died on May 26, 2020, at St. Cloud Hospital. His passing was announced via the Little Falls Catholic Facebook page.
Because large gatherings are discouraged, funerals for victims of COVID-19 (and other causes of death during the pandemic) have been very small or postponed. This makes grieving particularly difficult for the family and friends of victims of the disease. They do not have an opportunity to share their grief with the wider community.
In order to publicly acknowledge those who have died from COVID-19 or had the disease and survived, we looked back into history for inspiration. During World War I, families of service members flew flags that included a blue star for every family member serving. When a service member died in the war, the blue star was replaced with a gold star. The family was referred to as a “Gold Star Family.” This tradition continues in the armed forces for those who die in the line of duty.
We have created a symbol to help make the victims of COVID-19 visible within their communities. It is the number 19 surrounded by the letter “C”. The C-19 symbol, which is meant to be displayed in windows or on doors, comes in four colors that symbolize the following:
— Yellow C-19: A person in the household has died of COVID-19.
— Blue C-19: A person in the household has survived COVID-19.
— Orange C-19: A family member or friend who does not live in the household has died of COVID-19.
— Green C-19: A family member or friend who does not live in the household has survived COVID-19.
The Orange and Green C-19 symbols are intended to show how the disease is affecting people who cannot be together due to quarantining, such as those who have family members with COVID-19 in nursing homes.
If more than one person in the household or family member/friend outside the household has survived or died from the disease, an “X” and the appropriate number can be added to the C-19 symbol, like this:
We have created a packet of all the colored symbols that can be downloaded and printed here:
Included in the packet is an uncolored version of the symbol so that those who don’t own a color printer can print off as many as needed on a black & white printer and color them by hand.
Those who don’t have a printer can make their own C-19 symbols by cutting them out of colored construction paper or writing the symbol in the appropriate color on a piece of paper and hanging it in a window or on a door, just as people have been displaying hearts to symbolize hope during the pandemic.
These symbols are meant to be shared far and wide by individuals and organizations. There is a Creative Commons license on the packet that allows for this sharing.
A Note for Local History Organizations
**Local history organizations, we have created these symbols and packet to be courtesy of the entire local history community because, when you get right down to it, all history is local. Our organizations will be tasked with preserving the memories of those who have died from COVID-19 along with the history of the pandemic’s effects on our communities. Please feel free to download the packet and upload it to your own websites for sharing. If you need the file sent to you via email, give us a call at 320-632-4007 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.