For weeks after Cindy Pollock started planting tiny flags throughout her yard — one for every of the greater than 1,800 Idahoans killed by COVID-19 — the toll was largely a quantity. Until two girls she had by no means met rang her doorbell in tears, searching for a spot to mourn the husband and father that they had simply misplaced.Then Pollock knew her tribute, nevertheless heartfelt, would by no means start to convey the grief of a pandemic that has now claimed 500,000 lives within the U.S. and counting.“I simply needed to hug them,” she mentioned. “Because that was all I may do.”After a 12 months that has darkened doorways throughout the U.S., the pandemic surpassed a milestone Monday that after appeared unimaginable, a stark affirmation of the virus’s attain into all corners of the nation and communities of each dimension and make-up.“It’s very exhausting for me to think about an American who doesn’t know somebody who has died or have a member of the family who has died,” mentioned Ali Mokdad, a professor of well being metrics on the University of Washington in Seattle. “We haven’t actually totally understood how dangerous it’s, how devastating it’s, for all of us.”Experts warn that about 90,000 extra deaths are possible within the subsequent few months, regardless of a large marketing campaign to vaccinate folks. Meanwhile, the nation’s trauma continues to accrue in a manner unparalleled in current American life, mentioned Donna Schuurman of the Dougy Center for Grieving Children & Families in Portland, Oregon.At different moments of epic loss, just like the 9/11 terrorist assaults, Americans have pulled collectively to confront disaster and console survivors. But this time, the nation is deeply divided. Staggering numbers of households are coping with demise, severe sickness and monetary hardship. And many are left to manage in isolation, unable even to carry funerals.“In a manner, we’re all grieving,” mentioned Schuurman, who has endorsed the households of these killed in terrorist assaults, pure disasters and faculty shootings.In current weeks, virus deaths have fallen from greater than 4,000 reported on some days in January to a median of fewer than 1,900 per day.Still, at half one million, the toll recorded by Johns Hopkins University is already larger than the inhabitants of Miami or Kansas City, Missouri. It is roughly equal to the variety of Americans killed in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War mixed. It is akin to a 9/11 day by day for almost six months.“The folks we misplaced have been extraordinary,” President Joe Biden mentioned Monday, urging Americans to recollect the person lives claimed by the virus, moderately than be numbed by the enormity of the toll.“Just like that,” he mentioned, “so a lot of them took their remaining breath alone in America.”The toll, accounting for 1 in 5 deaths reported worldwide, has far exceeded early projections, which assumed that federal and state governments would marshal a complete and sustained response and particular person Americans would heed warnings.Instead, a push to reopen the financial system final spring and the refusal by many to keep up social distancing and put on face masks fueled the unfold. The figures alone don’t come near capturing the heartbreak.“I by no means as soon as doubted that he was not going to make it. … I so believed in him and my religion,” mentioned Nancy Espinoza, whose husband, Antonio, was hospitalized with COVID-19 final month.The couple from Riverside County, California, had been collectively since highschool. They pursued parallel nursing careers and began a household. Then, on Jan. 25, Nancy was known as to Antonio’s bedside simply earlier than his coronary heart beat its final. He was 36 and left behind a 3-year-old son.“Today it’s us. And tomorrow it could possibly be anyone,” Nancy Espinoza mentioned.By late final fall, 54 % of Americans reported figuring out somebody who had died of COVID-19 or had been hospitalized with it, based on a Pew Research Center ballot. The grieving was much more widespread amongst Black Americans, Hispanics and different minorities.Deaths have almost doubled since then, with the scourge spreading far past the Northeast and Northwest metropolitan areas slammed by the virus final spring and the Sun Belt cities hit exhausting final summer time. In some locations, the seriousness of the menace was gradual to sink in.When a beloved professor at a neighborhood faculty in Petoskey, Michigan, died final spring, residents mourned, however many remained uncertain of the menace’s severity, Mayor John Murphy mentioned. That modified over the summer time after a neighborhood household hosted a celebration in a barn. Of the 50 who attended, 33 grew to become contaminated. Three died, he mentioned.“I feel at a distance folks felt ‘This isn’t going to get me,‘” Murphy mentioned. “But over time, the angle has completely modified from ‘Not me. Not our space. I’m not sufficiently old,’ to the place it grew to become the actual deal.”Full Coverage: Coronavirus pandemicFor Anthony Hernandez, whose Emmerson-Bartlett Memorial Chapel in Redlands, California, has been overwhelmed dealing with burial of COVID-19 victims, probably the most tough conversations have been those with out solutions, as he sought to consolation moms, fathers and kids who misplaced family members.His chapel, which arranges 25 to 30 companies in an odd month, dealt with 80 in January. He needed to clarify to some households that they would want to attend weeks for a burial.“At one level, we had each gurney, each dressing desk, each embalming desk had someone on it,” he mentioned. In Boise, Idaho, Pollock began the memorial in her yard final fall to counter what she noticed as widespread denial of the menace. When deaths spiked in December, she was planting 25 to 30 new flags at a time. But her frustration has been eased considerably by those that gradual or cease to pay respect or to mourn.“I feel that’s a part of what I used to be wanting, to get folks speaking,” she mentioned, “Not identical to, ‘Look at what number of flags are within the yard right now in comparison with final month,’ however attempting to assist individuals who have misplaced family members speak to different folks.”___Associated Press video journalist Eugene Garcia contributed to this story.