Seeing the Faces, Reading the Names

Head shot of a smiling man with a beard wearing a light-blue shirt, taken outside near some trees and a brick building.
Alex Goldstein ’06

So many people. So many stories. So much loss.

Alex Goldstein ’06 started the Twitter account @FacesOfCOVID in March 2020 to chronicle lives ended by COVID-19.

“The first few stories I shared were among the first people to pass away from the coronavirus in the United States,” says Goldstein, CEO of communications firm 90 West, who earlier in his career served as press secretary to former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, H’17. “Each of these stories asks the questions ‘Did this person have to die?’ ‘Was there anything we could have done to prevent their death?’”

By March, the national death toll from the pandemic had reached more than a half million, and Goldstein had sent out more than 5,200 tweets to 147,700 followers. He says he feels a responsibility to keep the project going for accountability’s sake and, by sharing links to local news coverage, to amplify the work of community journalists who “bear the burden of this storytelling.”

In addition to serving eight years in the Patrick administration and founding 90 West, which works with businesses, nonprofits, and progressive causes and leaders, Goldstein was senior communications adviser to Ayanna Pressley’s victorious 2018 campaign in Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District.

As an undergraduate, Goldstein, now an at-large member of the Brandeis Alumni Association board, minored in journalism and wrote for The Justice. He says learning to think like a journalist prepared him for success as a political strategist. He credits journalism professor Eileen McNamara with teaching him the skill of empathetic storytelling, which he says has proved invaluable in his political career.

Goldstein recalls one COVID story that has stuck with him: “His name was Gerald Boghosian, and he lived in Lexington, Massachusetts. He was a veteran of a combat engineer unit that landed at D-Day and fought all the way to the Battle of the Bulge. He survived, came back to Boston and set up a successful small business.

“To have gone through that life journey only to be cut down by this virus is, to me, one of the great tragedies of what we’re experiencing,” he continues. “People have sacrificed and given so much to a country that has let them down.”

Goldstein and wife Alyssa, who were married in March 2020, live in Waltham. Many of the COVID stories he shares, he says, “are just regular people who remind me of myself, 30-something folks in the prime of their careers, trying to start their lives, grow a family. This virus impacts everybody.”

If, as many observe, a national mood of distrust and fear has contributed to the United States’ failure to come to grips with the pandemic, Goldstein hopes a bolstered sense of community could prove an antidote.

“A way to start down that road is seeing the faces and reading the names — and saying them out loud — of the people we’re losing,” he explains. “For many families who reach out to me, the reason they want their loved one to be featured on this Twitter account is to affirm their loved one mattered.”

— Mark Sullivan