Program Success Magazine Fall 2020 | Page 4

continued from page 3

The Deadly Coronavirus Pandemic

of an elderly man worrying about using a ventilator that might be needed by someone younger .
Moments of national tragedy are usually met with elevating Presidential rhetoric . The country looks to its leaders to offer hope and give meaning to its collective suffering . Three days after the September 11th attacks , in a speech at Ground Zero , George W . Bush told the nation , “ I can hear you . The rest of the world hears you . And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon .”
Later , at a prayer service , Bush said that “ grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time . But goodness , remembrance , and love have no end .” After President John F . Kennedy ’ s assassination , Lyndon B . Johnson called on the country to “ put an end to the teaching and the preaching of hate and evil and violence ”; he urged Americans to turn away from “ the apostles of bitterness and bigotry .”
No such messages will be coming from this President . Donald Trump has abdicated both managerial and moral leadership . (“ I don ’ t take responsibility at all ,” he has said , and , “ It is what it is .”) Instead of helping the nation heal , he uses his bully pulpit to sow confusion , division , and distrust . He freely admits to misleading the public about the lethality of the virus ; he disrupts the efforts of public-health agencies , tarring them with his own brand of partisanship and misinformation ; he argues that talk of the virus is designed to damage his reëlection prospects . Meanwhile , his surrogates describe the pandemic , which sickens or kills thousands more Americans each day , in the past tense .
There are those , including the President , who question the veracity of the U . S . coronavirus death estimates . That skepticism doesn ’ t cohere with reality . Across the United States , excess mortality - the difference in the total number of deaths , from any cause , compared with a historical average - far exceeds official tallies of COVID-19 fatalities . In all likelihood , there are more , not fewer , COVID-19 deaths than we have confirmed . And the pandemic , in addition to devastating the economy , has caused enormous collateral health damage . Thousands of Americans have had their medical care postponed or cancelled , or have chosen to avoid health care altogether for fear of contracting the virus . Many have died .
In the United States , peaks of panic have given way to plateaus of resignation . The country continues to record tens of thousands of Inew coronavirus cases each day but remains without a coherent plan to alter that trajectory . Because we never truly subdued the virus , we ’ re experiencing our newest waves on rising seas . In May , after strict lockdowns , the number of newly diagnosed cases levelled off at around twenty thousand per day . But September ’ s number is closer to forty thousand . We ’ re performing more tests , and that helps explain the higher number of new confirmed cases . But it ’ s also true that the virus is circulating in more places than before .
Early in the pandemic , it became clear that a coherent and united national response would not be coming . States were left to procure supplies and equipment on their own . Individuals and families waded through mixed messages about how contagious and lethal the virus was - and about how they might keep themselves and their loved ones safe .
At the end of February , Jerome Adams , the Surgeon General , tweeted that masks are “ NOT effective in preventing general public from catching # Coronavirus ,” and Robert Redfield , the director of the C . D . C ., said that there was “ no role ” in the pandemic for masks worn by ordinary Americans . Those messages may have been intended to preserve mask supplies for health-care workers , but they seriously damaged the public ’ s trust in the information that was being provided by the country ’ s top health officials .
It wasn ’ t until early April after New York had logged tens of thousands of cases , and after the virus had seeded every state in the country , that the C . D . C . advised the public to begin wearing masks . ( Redfield has since said that “ cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus .”)
It ’ s easy to focus on national numbers . But the story of the American pandemic is really that of a virus bobbing across the country , searching for oxygen as it ’ s tamped down in one region or another . A pandemic that began in dense metropolitan areas has now made its way to every part of the United States . In the Northeast , states that once stored dead bodies in refrigerated trucks are now among the safest in the country .
Other states , including California and Ohio , took early and decisive action but have seen cases and deaths rise over time . At the beginning of June , new COVID-19 hot spots were more likely to be rural counties than urban ones . By then , the virus had crept into small towns and ski resorts , the Navajo Nation and the rural South , and into prisons , retirement communities , and meatpacking plants , leaving a trail of destruction in its wake .
By staying home and flattening the curve , Americans succeeded in buying time for many health-care systems to adjust . The likelihood of dying of COVID-19 has declined substantially since the pandemic began , in large part because we ’ ve gotten better at preparing for and treating the disease . A statistic called the case-fatality rate ( C . F . R .) measures the percentage of people who go on to die after being diagnosed with a disease . States where the pandemic hit early , New York , New Jersey , Massachusetts , ended up with C . F . R . s above seven per cent ; the national average is now about three per cent , thanks to lower death rates in states where the virus spread later . In recent months , therefore , the apocalyptic elements of the pandemic have receded from view . There are fewer places where endless