How COVID survivor groups are becoming a political movement: Yahoo News Explains

Following in the footsteps of organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and March for Our Lives, a new political lobbying force made up of survivors of the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to form. Several groups, such as “Young Widows and Widowers of Covid-19” and “Covid Survivors for Change,” started as outlets for people affected by the coronavirus to connect during isolation and are beginning to turn their shared grief into action. Chris Kocher, executive director of Covid Survivors for Change, explains what the movement hopes to accomplish.

Video Transcript

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CHRIS KOCHER: COVID Survivors for Change is a national, nonpartisan community of people who've been impacted by the pandemic, who are working together to end the pandemic and build back so that we mitigate and prevent future pandemics. And in the course of doing that, we really believe strongly that trauma-informed programming and training is central to supporting people who have been impacted by trauma to go out there and share their stories and to fight for the change that they want to see out there. So we do training on social media, how to talk to legislators, how to share your story to have impact.

- As it turns out, sharing my story was incredibly empowering. And it felt like the first time I was able to channel my pain into something constructive.

CHRIS KOCHER: I think a big obstacle is people are exhausted by the pandemic. And even if you haven't lost a loved one or had COVID yourself, you've had a rough year. And so people want to move past this. And so we know that we need to make sure that we are letting people know that COVID is not over, people-- millions of Americans are living with the grief of COVID, millions of Americans are living with long COVID.

Looking at 600,000 families who lost a loved one, people can't understand that number. I mean, you think about all the national catastrophes that we have lived through, and this is on a magnitude so many times greater than that. And I think that humans are almost not capable of understanding what does enormous number like that, more than 600,000 look like, more than 30 million people who have been infected, more than 43,000 children who lost a parent or caregiver, what does that look like. But you can understand what does one story look like, what does one story of a father who passed, of a child who passed, of a sister, a friend, and really make it personal, and really understand the human impact and the loss that people are experiencing. And I really do think that when you hear these stories, not only do you understand what the pandemic has cost millions of families across the country, but you want to be part of the effort to make sure that this never happens again.

- These were real lives. These were real people. These are people who were very involved in their community, involved in the lives of their family and friends. And they have to be remembered.

CHRIS KOCHER: The pandemic is so catastrophic that there are so many things that need to happen, but right now, change looks like a couple of things. It means prioritizing COVID survivors and the relief programs that are out there, and making sure that we are investing in care for long-haulers. It means supporting the 43,000 children who lost a parent. And as they go back to school and just in the long term, how are we supporting them? How are we supporting the children who have long COVID? And how are we memorializing those who have died and making sure that we find out what happened so this never happens again.

You know, I want to be hopeful, but not naive. There are sort of lines that have been drawn here, and this has been made way more partisan than it ever should have been. It's not necessarily about assigning blame, it's understanding what actions led to what consequences. And it's looking not at an individual level, even, but at the broad systemic level, how did our system fail and lead to more than 30 million people being infected? So I think it's more about looking at how did the system fail and how can we build a system back to make sure that this never happens again.

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