September 23, 2020

200,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. How can we prevent more?

Daily Briefing

    The United States reached a somber milestone on Tuesday, reporting more than 200,000 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus in a span of about seven months.

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    US new coronavirus cases surpass 6.9M, deaths top 200K

    As of Wednesday morning, U.S. officials reported a total of 6,917,900 cases of the novel coronavirus virus since the country's epidemic began—up from 6,880,600 cases reported as of Tuesday morning.

    According to data from the Times, the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases are "staying high" in Puerto Rico and 17 states that have had a daily average of at least 15 newly reported cases per 100,000 people over the past week. Those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin.

    Meanwhile, the rate of newly reported cases over the past seven days is "going down" in Guam, which had previously seen elevated case rates.

    Thirteen states that have had comparatively low case rates are now seeing those rates "going up," according to the Times. Those states are Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

    In the 22 remaining U.S. states and territories, rates are "staying low," according to the Times' analysis.

    U.S. officials as of Wednesday morning also reported a total of 200,731 deaths linked to the coronavirus since the country's epidemic began—up from 199,789 deaths reported as of Tuesday morning.

    The United States has reported more coronavirus-related deaths than any other country so far, although a few countries in Europe and Latin America have recorded more deaths per capita. U.S. officials are currently reporting an average of nearly 800 coronavirus-linked deaths per day, leading some epidemiologists to predict that America's coronavirus death toll—which is now three times higher than the Vietnam War's death toll—will reach 300,000 by the end of this year.

    Pence says US coronavirus death toll could have been higher

    Vice President Pence during a campaign event on Tuesday said the United States had reached a "heartbreaking milestone" with its coronavirus death toll topping 200,000. However, Pence said matters would have been worse without early actions taken by President Trump to address the epidemic, as well as the help of medical professionals and sacrifices from Americans.

    "I know in my heart that we have saved hundreds of thousands of American lives," Pence said.

    Public health experts say deaths were preventable, urge Americans to continue taking precautions

    During an interview on Tuesday with CNN Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said, "The idea of 200,000 deaths is really very sobering, and in some respects, stunning," particularly because "we have the capability" to engage in measures such as frequent hand washing and mask wearing, which can "prevent the [coronavirus'] transmission, and by preventing transmission, ultimately preven[t] … morbidity and mortality."

    Fauci added that he's especially concerned because the United States hasn't yet gotten its coronavirus epidemic under control as it heads into colder months and flu season, which could bring higher rates of transmission and make the disease harder to identify and treat. However, Fauci stressed that a fall and winter resurgence of America's coronavirus epidemic isn't "inevitable"—if Americans do their part to mitigate the virus' spread.

    "I don't want to really make this kind of a dark thing that 'oh, my goodness, it's inevitable that we are going to get into serious trouble,'" he said. "We can't throw our hands up and say, 'It's hopeless, it's going to happen anyway.' That is unacceptable to take that approach. On the other hand, it's not acceptable to not realize that we are entering into a risk period and we've got to act accordingly as we enter into that risk period."

    Major health-care-provider groups on Tuesday also urged Americans to take precautions to protect against the coronavirus' spread and prevent more deaths linked to the pathogen.

    In a joint statement, the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, and American Nurses Association said, "[W]e mark a somber milestone as more than 200,000 people in the United States have died of Covid-19 over the course of the [country's coronavirus epidemic]." They added, "The steps required to stop the spread of this virus should be well known by now, but with more than six million Covid-positive Americans, we say again: wear your mask, wash your hands, and practice physical distancing."

    The groups also "urge[d] all Americans to get their flu shot early," because "[w]ith no end to Covid-19 in sight, a bad flu season has potential to cause additional strain on our health system that is still battling the pandemic" (New York Times [1], 9/23; Baker, Axios, 9/22; Kim, Politico, 9/22; Duster, CNN, 9/22; Commins, HealthLeaders Media, 9/22; Mann/Ansari, Wall Street Journal, 9/21; New York Times [2], 9/23).

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