On Monday night, Swedish time, Johns Hopkins University’s count passed 500,000 dead with covid-19 in the United States. President Joe Biden stated at a White House ceremony that there are more than the country’s death toll for World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined. The National Cathedral in the capital rang 500 times, one for every thousand people who died.
– We often hear people described as ordinary Americans. There is no such thing. There is nothing ordinary about them. The people we have lost were extraordinary. They span generations, born in America, emigrated to America. So many of them took their last breaths in solitude in America, the president said live.
To draw attention to the gloomy milestone, flags were flown at half-mast outside the White House and other federal buildings, as well as at US embassies around the world. Joe Biden attended a lighting ceremony at the Presidential Residence.
– We must put an end to the politics and disinformation that divides families and communities. We must fight this together as a people, said Biden, who urged people to remain vigilant, keep their distance, wear mouth guards and get vaccinated.
Carlos del Rio, a doctor and professor of medicine and public health at the American Emory University, is in the rearview mirror amazed that half a million have died, and that more than 28 million in the country have been infected.
– There was no chance that I could have imagined that we would be where we are now. I would undoubtedly have gone crazy if I had known about it, he tells TT.
More than 20 percent of the reported deaths globally have occurred in the United States – a country with four percent of the earth’s population – since the new coronavirus was discovered in China at the end of 2019.
The country is not the worst affected in the world – on the list of the number of deaths per million inhabitants is the United States seventh, after Belgium and five other European countries.
But the situation has been exacerbated by the political division in the country, where mouth-watering people have been seen as a political stance, according to Anthony Fauci, the White House’s covid adviser, in an interview with the news agency Reuters.
– Even under the best of circumstances, this would have been a very serious problem, he says and continues:
– But that does not explain how a rich and sophisticated country can have the highest proportion of deaths and be the worst affected country in the world, he says.
Carlos del Rio sees several partial explanations.
– One is bad leadership, that you have toned down the pandemic, you did not do the right things to begin with. I also believe that public health was put against the economy. We never really shut down for real, says del Rio.
Of the 209 million doses given globally, 64.2 million have been given in the United States, according to a Bloomberg compilation. With today’s rate of just over 1.3 million vaccinations daily, 75 percent of the population can be protected in ten months.
“The vaccination campaign is going well, even though the number of new cases is currently declining regardless of the vaccinations, so I think that with the vaccinations we will see a large reduction in the number of new deaths in April,” says del Rio.
He himself works with vaccinating patients.
– I have learned that those who get vaccinated are very grateful. Getting the vaccine is like getting a Christmas present. They are so happy and elated. But we need to think about those who are hesitant about the vaccine, how to convince them that they also need to be vaccinated.
TT: What does it take to convince them?
– I think you have to listen to what they are worried about, and slowly try to convince them.
Should have come earlier
He seems to see a change in attitude since the vaccinations started.
– I think I notice that people are a little more open, that you are a little more interested now in the vaccine and that you are starting to see the benefits.
But the vaccine is only part of the work, keeping your distance and wearing a mouth guard will continue to be important.
– I think the new president and his team take this much more seriously and do the right things, says Carlos del Rio and continues:
– I just wish they had done it earlier.
Gustav Sjöholm / TT
December 31, 2019: China informs the World Health Organization WHO of an unknown virus that has caused 41 cases of pneumonia in the multimillion-dollar city of Wuhan in Hubei Province. The first victims are said to have fallen ill in early December.
January 1, 2020: A fish and meat market, which also sells wildlife, is closed in Wuhan as several of the cases are linked there.
January 7: WHO announces that the new virus has been identified as a previously unknown virus in the coronavirus family.
January 11: China reports the first death of covid-19, a 61-year-old man who traded in the Wuhan market.
January 20: The first case of the United States is confirmed, a 35-year-old in the state of Washington, who returned from a visit to Wuhan to the United States on January 15.
January 30: Nearly 10,000 cases have been reported in 21 countries.
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