How 535,000 Covid Deaths Spurred Political Awakenings Across America

Another organization, Marked by Covid — co-founded by Kristin Urquiza, who lost her father to the virus and spoke at the Democratic National Convention — has pushed local and federal officials to establish an annual Covid memorial day, and recently released a sweeping policy platform. (Many members, who have regular advocacy trainings, also push for policies separate from the platform.) Among other things, it calls for a “public health job force” of a million people to perform tasks like contact tracing, a restitution program similar to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, and a commission to examine the government’s pandemic response.

The platform from Marked by Covid — which is nonpartisan and has an advisory board of people affected by the virus, mostly women of color — also includes much more contentious proposals, like a federal jobs guarantee, universal health care and child care, medical and student debt cancellation, and a ban on importation of products linked to deforestation. Ms. Urquiza said the idea was to address factors that make pandemics more likely, and to make Americans economically secure enough to weather crises.

“It’s really not only about ensuring that we are responding to the most urgent pieces that are in front of our face right now,” she said.

Covid Survivors for Change, also nonpartisan, has no official platform, though the members who lobbied Congress did so in support of President Biden’s stimulus package. The group has focused primarily on training survivors.

Several members said the virus had drawn them into the political arena in ways that would have shocked them a year ago.

Janis Clark, 65, said her husband, Ron Clark, had always been the politically active one. “Whenever he’d watch politics, it’d be like, ‘Here comes the half-hour dissertation,’” she said, laughing. “I’d get nervous about P.T.A. functions.”

Mr. Clark died on April 23, after two weeks at home with a fever as high as 104 and more than three weeks on a ventilator. He never learned that his daughter was pregnant.

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