By Jairo Mejia
New York, Dec 3 (efe-epa).- The United States has exceeded 3,000 daily deaths from Covid-19 and is en route to adding a million newly confirmed cases every five days, with many hospitals around the country overflowing with patients and figures that give no reason for optimism on the verge of the winter flu season and the holiday travel and family gathering season.
The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) has warned that the US and its health care system are facing their worst months in history with Covid-19 infections skyrocketing in almost all states and about 20,000 people in intensive care units nationwide.
On Wednesday, 3,157 people died from Covid-19, according to the independent tally being kept by The Johns Hopkins University, a record death toll that exceeds by 500 the worst daily totals last spring, and this is more deaths than occurred during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 on New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon, an attack that galvanized virtually the entire country for war.
The possibility that the US will repeat this horrible figure in the coming days gives some idea of the magnitude of the tragedy that Covid-19 had wrought in a nation where many people refuse to wear facemasks, maintain social distancing or avoid gathering in closed spaces.
Hospitalizations reached 100,000 on Thursday, double the level at the beginning of November, a month in which more than four million new cases were confirmed but which could, with hindsight, end up being just a “moderate” month compared to December.
In most states around the country, an infected person infects 0.5 other people, a transmission ratio that epidemiologists say is a sign that the country is nowhere near the peak of the infection curve. The day before Thanksgiving, Nov. 25, more than a million people traveled by air, a record number during the pandemic.
With the Christmas holidays just around the corner and many Americans tired of the confinement measures or simply denying the existence of the virus or the validity of the measures to mitigate it, the December-February period could see 100,000 additional deaths, more than have occurred in India – with its more than one billion people – from Covid-19 in the past 10 months.
The CDC expects there to have been more than 450,000 deaths by February, not counting the “excess deaths” from other causes above and beyond the “normal” number in the US – which could add many thousands to that total – and that would put the Covid-19 pandemic at the level of the Spanish Flu of 1918, a situation that calls into question the advances, along with people’s own common sense, in dealing with pandemics over the past 100 years.
Estimates are that the 1918 flu killed 675,000 people in the US and on Thursday the country was nearing 274,000 Covid-19 dead, with about 14 million cases having been confirmed since the start of the pandemic.
The reasons for this can be seen time and again in people’s behavior, like the pub owner in Staten Island, New York, who on Wednesday refused to close his bar at 10 pm, as required by the curfew imposed by the governor, or the people who held a party at a Long Island mansion with 400 invited guests where the police had to intervene to break up the gathering.
But ignorance or denial of the seriousness of the situation also plays a role, coming even from well-informed and well-positioned people like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who this week encouraged people to hold indoor events to celebrate the holidays, contravening orders from subordinates calling on anyone who is not an “essential” State Department employee not to attend such gatherings as part of their job.
To top it all off, President Donald Trump on Wednesday delivered what he said was possibly his “most important speech,” a 45-minute-plus video filled with false accusations of election fraud in which he never once mentioned the urgency of devising and coordinating a coherent government plan to halt the spread of the too-often deadly virus.
It is expected that in the coming weeks the distribution of vaccines against Covid-19 developed by Pfizer and Moderna will be authorized in the US and a rapid vaccination campaign will be launched, but between now and the summer – when enough people potentially will have been vaccinated to keep the virus at bay – the US is staring into the abyss.