Alex Goldstein of Waltham is founder and curator of the FacesOfCOVID Twitter account, which tells the stories of those who died in the U.S. from COVID-19. He archives the stories through news reports, obituaries and family submissions. As the number of deaths due to coronavirus in Massachusetts exceeds 10,000, Goldstein said he wants people to understand that represents more than just a number.
“I was seeing these statistics, but I was feeling somewhat divorced from the emotional reality of what those really mean,” Goldstein said.
By the end of March, he was posting about 20 names a day of people who died from the coronavirus across the country. And now, as the staggering death toll continues to rise, it's impossible for Goldstein to keep track of all the people who have succumbed to the virus.
Massachusetts — and the rest of the country — hit some grim milestones this week. The commonwealth Thursday surpassed 10,000 deaths from COVID-19. The U.S. reached a record number of hospitalizations and reported 1 million new confirmed cases since the start of November.
And the virus hasn't impacted all communities equally. A study published in The Lancet this week, for example, found that Black people are twice as likely as white people to become infected with COVID-19.
"The fact that COVID has disproportionately impacted black and brown communities is a story you only can tell" with personal stories, Goldstein said, adding that he sees the posts as a way for the community to collectively mourn.
Among his first posts was a remembrance of a married couple from Long Meadow, Massachusetts, David and Muriel Cohen. She was 97, he was 102. They died of COVID-19 on the same day — April 10 — within hours of each other. And like many others, they died without family present, with only a few people allowed to attend funeral services.
“They lived a long and beautiful life. But that is not a reason to accept an outcome in which a guy who liberated a concentration camp in Germany in World War II has to die next to his wife over the course of three hours," Goldstein said.
The short-term outlook is grim, as the country braces for another surge of cases this winter. But Goldstein says he hopes compassion and empathy for strangers can unite us in a powerful way.
“I think what I'm trying to do here is give everybody permission to have the cry that they've wanted to have for a while now,” he said.