At 200,000 COVID Deaths, The U.S. Response Is Even Worse Than It Was At 100,000

Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour / Public Domain


Former Baltimore health commissioner Leana Wen writes that the U.S. is worse off now than it was in May.

Having recently crossed the threshold of 200,000 coronavirus deaths, the United States is in a worse place than it was when 100,000 deaths were reached, former Baltimore health commissioner Leana Wen wrote in The Washington Post.

  • In late May, the U.S. saw about 20,000 new infections per day, Wen noted. That number has doubled, currently standing at about 40,000 new infections per day.
  • This is troubling as the country heads into the fall and winter months, “when the combination of quarantine fatigue and cold weather could drive people to congregate indoors and substantially increase transmission.”
  • Adding to concerns, restrictions are being lifted, she wrote — even in states where infections are on the rise.
  • Wen observed:

In 27 states, the number of infections this week is higher than it was last week. In 14, the test positivity rate is in the double digits, which means the true infection rate is much higher.

  • And despite a coronavirus vaccine drawing ever closer, more people are leery of getting one when it becomes available. Those who say they are willing to get the vaccine has dropped from 70 percent to about half, Wen wrote.

The newly doubtful aren’t vaccine skeptics who distrust science; to the contrary, they began to worry when they heard President Trump talking about vaccine approval in connection with his election prospects. They fear that speed and political expediency will drive the approval process, instead of safety and efficacy.

  • Meanwhile, Wen noted the issue of wearing masks continues to be highly partisan.

The president himself holds large indoor rallies, sometimes in open defiance of local ordinances against mass gatherings. Masks have become a partisan symbol. An influential model predicts that if 95 percent of Americans wear masks, we could save 100,000 lives by the end of the year. This doesn’t seem likely, unfortunately — the same model estimates current national mask usage to be 45 percent.

  • Finally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — generally “regarded as the premier public health entity in the country, if not the world” — has sown confusion and lost trust amid the pandemic.

The measures one might expect from a competent administration are unlikely to take shape, Wen lamented. Those measures include:

Announce a national strategy. Scale up testing. Take the muzzle off scientists, and let our government’s top public health experts lead.

In the absence of federal leadership, the public must look out for itself, she concluded — which means following the advice public health and infectious disease experts have been recommending for months.

The United States [is] on track to have 200,000 more covid-19 deaths by the end of this year. We are in a worse place now than we were in May, but I still believe in the willpower and resiliency of the American people. It will be up to each of us to protect ourselves and our loved ones — and in so doing, reduce infection in our communities and our country.

Read the full op-ed.


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