Since March, we’ve reported the facts provided by the CDC, ADPH, doctors, nurses… We’ve shared their warnings, their guidelines, their experiences, the horrors of what they’ve seen.

We’ve shared the trials and tribulations of educators as they navigate through uncharted waters each and every day. Never could they have imagined the job they loved would leave them in the crosshairs of a deadly contagion.

We’ve shared the stories of pastors as they’ve tried to balance safety with the spiritual needs of their hurting congregations. We’ve shared the good as Blount Countians from all walks of life tried to make the best of an existence that was nowhere close to normal.

We’ve shared the heartbreaking stories of lives lost and the pleas from their grieving families to heed the warnings and follow the guidelines because they want the suffering and the pain to end.

As I got in my car Monday morning, the message came – another precious soul gone. A wife, children, grandchildren, and friends left with broken hearts. Those messages, those phone calls, the tears that flow, the frustration that grows… Is this the new “normal?” Even though those calls are sometimes daily, each one hurts. Maybe some become desensitized. I didn’t get that gene. Losing people hurts.

On Jan. 1, ADPH reported 63 Blount Countians had died from COVID-19. By Jan. 15, the number had risen to 83.

When will the pain end? I have accepted that there is nothing that can be said or written to change the minds of those who don’t believe it’s real or believe it’s no worse than the flu. But COVID is real. And COVID kills. There have been so many lives lost. And my aching heart knows there will be so many more.

We all keep longing for the day that something feels normal again, wondering what normal might be, or for some of us, fearful that this is what our normal will be. How many more lives have to be lost to prove that COVID is real? One life lost is all it took for me.