The US death toll from coronavirus topped 200,000 Tuesday, a number unimaginable eight months ago when the Scourge first hit the world’s richest nation with its sparkling laboratories, high-profile scientists, and supplies of medicines and supplies.

“It is absolutely unfathomable that we have reached that point,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a health researcher at Johns Hopkins University.

The dismal milestone, by far the highest confirmed death toll from the virus in the world, was reported by Johns Hopkins based on numbers from state health officials.

However, the real death toll is believed to be much higher, partly because many COVID-19 deaths have likely been attributed to other causes, especially early on, before widespread testing was done.

The number of COVID-19 deaths in the US is equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 67 days. It’s roughly the same as the population of Salt Lake City or Huntsville, Alabama.

And it’s still climbing. The death toll averages nearly 770 per day, and a much-cited University of Washington model predicts that the US toll will double to 400,000 by the end of the year when schools and colleges reopen and cold weather sets in. A vaccine is unlikely to be widely available by 2021.

“The idea of ​​200,000 deaths is really very sobering, breathtaking in some ways,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s foremost infectious disease expert, on CNN.

The US has reached what is certain to be a referendum on President Donald Trump’s management of the crisis, six weeks before a presidential election.

In a Tuesday interview with a Detroit television station, Trump bragged about an “amazing” and “incredible” job, adding, “The only thing we’ve done a bad job at is public relations because we couldn’t get people off of it convince – which is basically the wrong news – what a great job we have done. “

And in a taped speech at a virtual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Trump hit Beijing over what he called the “China virus” and demanded that it be held accountable for causing “this plague.” on the US has triggered “Welt.” China’s ambassador dismissed the allegations as unfounded.

For the past five months, America has been by far the world leader in the number of confirmed infections and deaths. The US has less than 5 percent of the world’s population but more than 20 percent of the reported deaths.

Only five countries – Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Spain, and Brazil – have higher per capita COVID-19 deaths. Brazil ranks second with around 137,000 countries on the list of countries with the most deaths, followed by India with around 89,000 and Mexico with around 74,000.

“All the leaders in the world have taken the same test, and some have succeeded, others have failed,” said Dr. Cedric Dark, an ambulance doctor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston who has seen death firsthand. “In the case of our country, we have failed miserably.”

Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans are disproportionately high in deaths, underscoring the economic and health disparities across the United States.

Pandemic readiness

It shouldn’t go that way for the US.

Earlier this year, the US had recently received recognition for its readiness for a pandemic. Health officials seemed confident when they met in Seattle in January to address the first known case of coronavirus in a 35-year-old Washington state resident who had returned from visiting his family in Wuhan, China.

On February 26, Trump held up pages from the Global Health Security Index, a measure of preparedness for health crises, and stated, “The United States is ranked as the number one best prepared.”

A volunteer hands bread and pastries to a resident affected by the economic aftermath of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic during a distribution from the San Antonio Food Bank in Texas [File: Adrees Latif/Reuters]

It was true The U.S. has outperformed the 194 other countries in the index thanks to its labs, experts, and strategic inventory. The US could also boast of its disease trackers and plans to quickly deliver life-saving information during a crisis.

The leadership of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been respected for sending aid to fight infectious diseases around the world.

But the secret coronavirus slipped into the United States and spread undetected. The surveillance at airports was relaxed. Travel bans came too late. It was only later that health officials realized the virus could spread before symptoms appeared, which made the screening imperfect.

The virus entered nursing homes where infection control measures were already inadequate and claimed more than 78,000 lives.

Inequalities have also been exploited in the United States: nearly 30 million people in the country are uninsured, and there are large racial and ethnic health disparities.

Austin-Travis County Ambulance Service doctors transport a nursing home with coronavirus symptoms in Austin, Texas on August 3, 2020.  Texas had the third highest number of COVID-19 cases in the Un

Austin-Travis County Ambulance Service doctors transport a nursing home with coronavirus symptoms in Austin, Texas on August 3, 2020 [John Moore/Getty Images via AFP]

At the same time, gaps in leadership led to bottlenecks in test supply. Internal warnings to ramp up mask production were ignored, allowing states to compete for protective equipment. The governors led their states in different directions, adding to the public confusion.

Trump downplayed the threat early on, voicing unfounded ideas about the behavior of the virus, promoting unproven or dangerous treatments, complaining about too many tests making the US look bad, despising masks and turning face coverings into a political problem.

On April 10, the president predicted the US would not see 100,000 deaths. This milestone was reached on May 27th.

Nowhere has the lack of leadership been seen as more critical than in testing, a key to breaking the chain of contagion.

“From the beginning we lacked a national test strategy,” said Nuzzo. “For reasons I can’t really understand, we refused to develop one.” Such coordination “should be brought out of the White House”, not independent of any state, she said. “We will not restore our economy until every state has this virus under control.”

Overlooked cause of death

The actual number of deaths from the crisis could be significantly higher: According to CDC figures, 215,000 more people than usual died in the US in the first seven months of 2020 for all reasons. The death toll from COVID-19 was estimated at around 150,000 over the same period by Johns Hopkins.

Researchers suspect some coronavirus deaths have been missed.

Other deaths may have been caused indirectly by the crisis, causing such turbulence that people with chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease were unable or unwilling to seek treatment.

Dark, the ambulance in Baylor, said before the crisis: “People used to look to the US with a certain amount of awe. For democracy. For our moral leadership in the world. Support science and use technology to get to the moon to travel.” “”

“Instead,” he said, “it really exposed how anti-scientific we have become.”

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