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Chris Duncan, whose 75-year-old mother Constance died of COVID-19 on her birthday, photographs a COVID-19 Memorial Project installation of 20,000 U.S. flags on the National Mall as the United States crosses the 200,000 lives lost in the COVID-19 pandemic on September 22, 2020 in Washington, DC The United States will likely cross the half-million lives lost due to COVID-19 in the coming days. Win McNamee / Getty Images .

rocking legend Win McNamee / Getty Images

Chris Duncan, whose 75-year-old mother Constance died of COVID-19 on her birthday, photographs a COVID-19 Memorial Project installation of 20,000 U.S. flags on the National Mall as the United States crosses the 200,000 lives lost in the COVID-19 pandemic on September 22, 2020 in Washington, DC The United States will likely cross the half-million lives lost due to COVID-19 in the coming days.

Win McNamee / Getty Images

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is set to drop to a figure next week that once seemed unthinkable: half a million people in that country have died from the coronavirus.

And while the pandemic is not yet over and the death toll continues to climb, artists across media have already thought about how our country will honor those we have lost.

Poets, muralists, and architects all have a vision for what a COVID-19 memorial could be. Many of these ideas are not limited to honoring those we have lost to the pandemic. The artists also reflect on the social conditions that brought us here.

Tracy K. Smith, a former American poet laureate, once wrote a poem in honor of New York City transit workers who died of the disease. Smith says she wants to see a COVID-19 memorial that has a broader mission and invites people to bridge the gap.

Paul Farber runs Monument Lab, an organization that works with cities and states that want to build new monuments. He says he wants to see a COVID-19 monument that is a collective experience and evolves over time. He also wants it to serve as a bridge to understanding.

Farber’s List describes one of the most powerful memorials in recent American history: the AIDS Quilt. Mike Smith, co-founder of this memorial, says one of the goals of the AIDS quilt project that he would like to see in a COVID-19 memorial is to inspire communities to come together and not to isolate in treatment and the memory of those who died.

In participating regions, you will also hear a local news segment that will help you understand what is happening in your community.

Write to us at [email protected]

This episode was produced by Lee Hale, Noah Caldwell and Jonaki Mehta. It was edited by Sami Yenigun with assistance from Sarah Handel, Courtney Dorning and Wynne Davis. Our executive producer is Cara Tallo.

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