The number of known Coronavirus deaths in the United States has already topped one million. For weeks, everyone has been anticipating and discussing this milestone.
“Hopefully, the enormity of that number would spur us on to do whatever we can to make sure that we don’t have as bad a time in the coming months and years that we’ve had over the past two years.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the president, appeared on the Boston public radio station, WGBH, earlier this month.
Some preliminary estimates put the number of Americans expected to die from the coronavirus at 100.000 and 240.000, while experts have cautioned that the death toll might rise if precautions are not taken.
The US achieved 100,000 in May 2020, and 200,000 a few months later, in September.
Infection rates in the United States are greater than in many other wealthy countries. The virus has spread in a community plagued by inequalities, political divides, a sometimes overburdened public health system, and an uneven set of policies and remedies.
The Mark of a tragic milestone
It’s difficult to fathom and express the toll of the Coronavirus epidemic. It’s not surprising that no government agency, media, or university has arrived at such a staggering figure as 1 million known Coronavirus fatalities in the United States. Even the White House admitted that there was no agreed-upon technique for counting coronavirus statistics.
When Jen Psaki, then Biden’s press secretary, was asked last week how the administration would acknowledge the Milestone, she answered, “We look at the C.D.C. data and the John Hopkins data, and different news organizations evaluate it differently.”
President Biden anticipated the occasion two days later during his second Covid-19 Summit.
“We mark a tragic Milestone here in the United States: 1 million covid-19 deaths, one million empty chairs around the family dinner table – each irreplaceable.” Mr. Biden said at the virtual summit.
Top Biden administration officials cautioned that one-third of Americans live in neighborhoods with increased levels of coronavirus illnesses and hospitalizations. They also advised people to start personal protective measures such as mask use.
More infections are expected in the following months
The rise in new infections, which is approaching 100,000 each day, comes as the country prepares for Memorial Day weekend, with its massive gatherings and travel. Officials believe the case count is almost definitely an undercount, owing to the widespread use of at-home testing, the results of which are sometimes not reported to health officials.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, strongly encouraged those living in communities designated yellow or orange, indicating a high number of new infections and hospitalizations, to consider wearing masks in indoor public spaces and taking other precautions.
“As we’re currently seeing a steady rise of cases in parts of the country, we encourage everyone to use the menu of tools we have today to prevent further infection and severe disease, including wearing a mask, getting tested, accessing treatments early if infected and getting vaccinated or boosted,” she said.
The warnings from Walensky and two other officials — Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus coordinator, and Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser — came on the same day that the United States surpassed the grim milestone of 1 million covid-19 deaths, a toll that even the direst predictions at the start of the pandemic in 2020 did not foresee.
Will the country be ill-prepared to respond effectively to the risk of infections?
While officials emphasized that the current situation is far less dire than the winter omicron-variant surge, they warned that if Congress doesn’t quickly appropriate billions of dollars in Coronavirus aid to purchase a new batch of antiviral treatments, vaccines, and tests, the country will be ill-prepared to respond effectively in the coming months.
Administration officials and academics predict a summer rise in the South as the heat keeps people indoors, as it did the past two summers. Some scientists have cautioned that this summer’s spike might be greater than last year’s since instances are higher now than in May 2021.
They have also warned of a probable autumn and winter wave that might result in around 1 million daily coronavirus infections, driven by omicron subvariants that have demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to evade immunization. Officials warn that if the government does not purchase enough vaccinations, antivirals, testing, and high-quality masks, the wave may prove lethal.
“We have a pretty high degree of immunity in our population,” Jha said. “But we’re also seeing at this moment a lot of infections across the country. … What is primarily driving that is these incredibly contagious subvariants …with more immune escape.”
Adding to that challenge: Immunity fostered by vaccines and previous omicron infections wane within a couple of months, meaning people can become reinfected after a short time span.
“I’m confident we’ll find money to be able to get some Americans vaccinated, maybe just [those at] the highest risk,” Jha said. “But these are not decisions we want to be having to make. … I think we would see a lot of unnecessary loss of life if that were to happen.”
Several months ago, the administration proposed $22.5 billion in coronavirus funding, but a deal fell through due to disagreements over how to pay for it. The Senate reached a bipartisan $10 billion agreement in early April, but it was jeopardized by the Biden administration’s move to reduce pandemic restrictions at the border. Its future is uncertain.
The increase in instances coincides with the removal of most mitigating measures, such as mask regulations and capacity limitations at locations like pubs and restaurants. When hospitalizations rise, the CDC recommends instituting mask regulations, and several counties have reached that level.
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