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The United States hit a dizzying milestone on Monday more than 500,000 known deaths from coronavirus in a pandemic that lasted nearly a year. The country's total virus toll is higher than any other country in the world. It has far surpassed the early predictions of loss by some federal experts. And it means more Americans were killed by Covid-19 than in the battlefields of World War I, World War II, and Vietnam War combined.
"The magnitude of it is just horrifying," said Jeffrey Shaman, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University who modeled the spread of the virus and says the magnitude of the loss was not inevitable, but was a result of it. not controlling the virus. distributed in the United States.
The United States is responsible for about 20 percent of the world's known coronavirus-related deaths, but makes up only 4.25 percent of the world's population.
About one in 670 Americans has died from Covid-19, which has become a leading cause of death in the country, along with heart disease and cancer, and life expectancy has decreased more than in decades. The losses were terribly personal to the family and friends of the 500,000.
"It will never go away," said Chicago Reverend Ezra Jones of his grief for his uncle, Moses Jones, who died of the coronavirus in April.
The poignant milestone comes amid hopeful news: New virus cases and deaths have slowed dramatically, and vaccine distribution has gradually accelerated. But uncertainty remains about emerging virus variants, some of which are more contagious and potentially deadly, so it could be months before the pandemic is under control. Scientists say the U.S. death toll trajectory depends on the speed of vaccinations, the effects of the variants, and how closely people adhere to guidelines such as wearing masks and social distancing.
Last March, in the early days of the pandemic, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the official who coordinated the coronavirus response at the time, predicted that even with strict adherence- home orders, the virus could kill as many as 240,000 Americans – a number that seemed unimaginable at the time.
& # 39; As sobering as the number is, we have to be prepared for it & # 39; said Dr. Fauci at the time.
Less than a year later, the virus has killed more than twice as many people.
US deaths from Covid-19 accelerated as the pandemic wore on. The country's first known Covid-19 death occurred in Santa Clara County, California, on February 6, 2020, and 100,000 people had died by the end of May. It took four months for the country to register another 100,000 deaths; the next, about three months; the next, just five weeks.
The virus has reached every corner of America, devastating both densely populated cities and rural counties through peaks running through one region and then another.
In New York City, more than 28,000 people have died of the virus – or about one in 295 people. In Los Angeles County, the toll is about one in 500 people. In Lamb County, Texas, where 13,000 people live across a sprawling 1,000 square mile area, the loss is one in 163 people.
The virus has been torn apart by nursing homes and other long-term care facilities and spreads easily among vulnerable residents: they are responsible for more than 163,000 deaths, about a third of the country's total.
Virus deaths have also disproportionately hit Americans along racial lines. All in all, the death rate for black Americans with Covid-19 it is nearly twice as high as for white Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the death rate for Hispanics was 2.3 times higher than for white Americans. And for Indians it was 2.4 times higher.
Monday, on average, about 1,900 Covid deaths were reported most days – up from more than 3,300 at peak points in January. The delay came as a relief, but scientists said variants made it difficult to predict the future of the pandemic, and historians cautioned not to turn away from the magnitude of the country's losses.
"There will be a real drive to say, 'Look how well we are doing'," said Nancy Bristow, chair of the history department at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, and author of " American Pandemic: The The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Flu Epidemic. "But she now warned of the tendency to" rewrite this story into another story of American triumph. "
A month ago, the pandemic looked particularly bleak. Worldwide, more than 750,000 cases of coronavirus were recorded in one day. Infections were on the rise all over the United States. New variants identified in Brazil, Great Britain, and South Africa threatened the rest of the world.
But last month has seen a surprisingly rapid, albeit partial, turnaround. New cases have dropped to half their peak worldwide, driven largely by steady improvements in some of the same places that weathered devastating outbreaks this winter.
Cases are an imperfect measure, and uneven records and testing mask the scale of outbreaks, especially in parts of Africa, Latin America and South Asia. But in many countries with the highest infection rates, fewer patients are appearing in hospitals, leaving experts confident that the drop is real.
The silence in many of the world's worst outbreaks presents a critical opportunity to keep the virus in withdrawal as vaccinations begin to work. Experts believe that vaccines have done little to slow down most outbreaks so far, but a small group of countries, mostly wealthy ones, plan to vaccinate vulnerable groups by spring.
The positive signs bring a number of caveats and risks.
Many countries are still struggling. Brazil has a serious resurgence in light of a new variant discovered in the country. Hospital admissions in Spain are higher than they have ever been, even though the official figures show a decrease in new cases. And in a number of European countries – the Czech Republic, Estonia and Slovakia – the infection rate is deteriorating.
More contagious variants – or the withdrawal of social detachment and other control measures – can still cause new spikes in infections. A variant first discovered in Great Britain is rapidly spreading in the United States and has been implicated in peaks in Ireland, Portugal and Jordan.
And while most countries have seen a drop in the number of cases in the past month, the overall global reduction was largely driven by just six countries with massive epidemics.
With the number of coronavirus cases declining in the United States, the East Coast has emerged as a lingering hot spot – at least in relative terms.
Eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of recent cases border the Atlantic Ocean. New York and New Jersey are adding cases at higher rates than any state except South Carolina, with Rhode Island a short distance away. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire are all in the top 15.
"It's a mole," said Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of public health at George Washington University. "Part of the country sees a wave, and then another, and then it takes off." Several months ago, the Upper Midwest outnumbered other regions with new infections. Before that, the Sunbelt shot up.
Those waves of regional outbreaks could help explain why the East Coast is struggling compared to other parts of the country, said Ashish K. Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. While the Upper Midwest has similar frosty winters – keeping people indoors, where the virus can spread more easily – that region's earlier outbreak meant that it "didn't quite reach herd immunity, but fairly close," said Dr. Jha, "unfortunately in the wrong ways."
However, even the states seeing the most new cases are seeing a steady improvement. In the past two weeks, New York saw a 14 percent decrease in new cases and a 24 percent decrease in coronavirus-related deaths. The downturn in South Carolina is even more dramatic.
The number of Americans hospitalized for Covid-19 is the lowest since early November, according to data from the Covid Tracking ProjectGlobally, the new cases have fallen to half their peak.
"We are moving in the right direction, but not as fast as in other places," said Simone Wildes, infectious disease expert at South Short Health in Weymouth, Massachusetts, referring to the East Coast. She wondered if the regional slowdown was due in part to lower vaccination coverage among black Americans, with a high population in urban centers on the East Coast. "As more vaccines become available, we want to make sure that this particular group has all the information they need," she said.
State lawmakers across the country, most of them Republicans, are aggressively taking power from governors, often Democrats, who have taken extraordinary authority to limit the spread of the coronavirus for nearly a year.
In a sort of rearguard action, lawmakers in more than 30 states are seeking to limit the power of governors to act unilaterally in protracted emergencies traditionally proclaimed in short bursts following floods, tornadoes or similar disasters. Republicans are trying to exploit the widespread fatigue of many Americans toward closed schools, meeting restrictions, and mask mandates as a political club against Democrats.
Lawmakers view the issue as a matter of checks and balances, arguing that governors were given too much authority over too many aspects of people's lives. These lawmakers demand a say in how long an emergency can last, and insist that they be consulted on far-reaching injunctions, such as the closure of schools and businesses.
But governors answer that a pandemic cannot be fought by committees. They say the same Republicans who politicized science of the pandemic last year after former President Donald J. Trump waged another battle in the culture wars, should not be trusted with public health.
Last April, when governors came in all 50 states Declared emergencies for the first time in the country's history, support for their initial orders to slow the spread of the virus was generally twofold.
But that quickly evaporated when Trump, obsessed with the economy in an election year, downplayed the virus. Supporters echoed his resignation of health experts and defied governors who filled the vacuum of federal leadership to contain the pandemic – especially the Democratic governors who insulted the president and called out to "liberate" states like Michigan.
Across the country, lawmakers in 37 states have filed more than 200 bills or resolutions this year to limit the emergency powers of governors, according to lobbying firm Stateside, which targets state governments.
The sheer magnitude of illness and death caused by the coronavirus is reflected in numbers that have grown so far beyond the familiar standards of everyday life that they are sometimes difficult to understand.
Monday's news that the United States had recorded 500,000 Covid-19-related deaths in just a year is just the latest example.
One way to put that in context is to compare it to other major causes of death in 2019, the year before the pandemic broke out in the country.
500,000 dead is …
Three times the number of people who died in the US any kind of accident, including road accidents, in 2019 (167,127).
More than eight times the number of deaths due to influenza and pneumonia (59,120).
More than 10 times the number suicides (48,344).
More than the number of deaths by strokes, diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer's disease and related causes, combined (406,161).
Nothing but heart disease (655,381) and cancer (599,274) caused more deaths.
If the full data for 2020 is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Covid-19 will certainly be one of the main killers. But trying to project where it will score can be complicated. A very high proportion of the deaths from Covid-19 were people who were medically vulnerable because of other major health conditions such as cancer, lung or heart disease. Some of them probably would have succumbed to those causes and counted in those categories, had their deaths not been hastened by Covid-19.
Xavier Becerra, President Biden's nominee for health secretary, will appear before a Senate committee on Tuesday morning where he is expected to face tough questions from Republicans who are trying to portray him as an extremist and use his affirmation as a political bat against Democrats. for re-election in 2022.
Confirmed, he immediately faces a daunting task of leading the department at a critical time during a pandemic that has claimed half a million lives and taken a particularly devastating toll on people of color. He would be the first Latino to serve as the secretary of the Federal Department of Health and Human Services.
A former member of Congress and now California Attorney General, Mr. Becerra has no direct experience as a health professional. But he had a deep interest in health policy while in Washington, and has recently been at the forefront of health care legal efforts, leading 20 states and the District of Columbia in a campaign to enact the Affordable Care Act. protect against dismantling by Republicans. .
Republicans and their allies in the conservative and anti-abortion movements have called Mr. Becerra & # 39; s defense of the A.C.A. as well as his support for abortion rights. Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, took to Twitter on Monday, where he met Mr. Becerra has been labeled an “unqualified radical” in a post featuring a political ad targeting Democrats confirming Mr. Support Becerra.
"Any senator who supports him pays a price to the voters," Mr. Cotton wrote.
The Conservative Action Project, an advocacy group, issued a statement on Monday, signed by dozens of Conservative leaders, including several former members of Congress, complaining that Mr. Becerra had a "troubling track record" regarding "policies regarding to the sanctity of life, human dignity and religious freedom. "
In particular, they called his vote against banning "late abortion" and accused him of using his role as attorney general "to tip the scales in favor of Planned Parenthood," a group that advocates for abortion rights.
Democrats emphasize Mr Becerra's experience in leading one of the country's largest judicial departments through a particularly difficult period. In a statement, Senator Patty Murray, who will chair Tuesday's hearing as chair of the Senate Health Committee, said Mr. Becerra "had proven himself an executive leader" and emphasized his commitment to social justice.
"He has held companies accountable for ignoring Covid-19 safety rules and putting workers at risk," said Ms. Murray. And, she added, "he has worked throughout his career to advocate for communities of color in health, immigration, education, and more."
On the way to Tuesday's hearing, Mr. Becerra the Round on Capitol Hill; Monday he had met at least 40 senators. Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden transition, called him a & # 39; proven, qualified leader & # 39; with & # 39; decades of health policy experience & # 39; including & # 39; a strong track record in fighting to reduce costs for patients & # 39 ;.
Tuesday's session is the first of two confirmation hearings to be held this week by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. On Thursday, the panel will consider the nominations of Dr. Vivek Murthy for general surgeon and Dr. Rachel Levine for Assistant Secretary of Health.
If the Senate approves, Dr. Murthy would resume his role as surgeon general under former President Barack Obama, and Dr. Levine becomes the first openly transgender official to receive Senate confirmation.
The world needs monkeys, whose DNA is very similar to that of humans, to develop Covid-19 vaccines. But a global shortage due to unexpected demand from the pandemic has been exacerbated by a recent ban on the sale of wildlife from China, the main supplier of the lab animals.
The latest shortage has revived the discussion about creating a strategic monkey sanctuary in the United States, an emergency supply similar to that of the government for oil and grain.
As new variants of the coronavirus threaten to render the current batch of vaccines obsolete, scientists are rushing to find new sources of monkeys, and the United States is rethinking its reliance on China, a rival with its own biotech ambitions.
The pandemic has underscored how much China has control over the supply of life-saving goods, including masks and medicines, that the United States needs in a crisis.
American scientists have searched private and government-funded facilities in Southeast Asia and Mauritius, a small island nation off Southeast Africa, for stocks of their favorite subjects, rhesus macaques and cynomolgus macaques, also known as long-tailed macaques.
But no country can make up for what China delivered before. Before the pandemic, China supplied more than 60 percent of the 33,818 primates, mostly cynomolgus macaques, imported to the United States in 2019, according to analyst estimates based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The United States has about 22,000 lab monkeys – mostly pink-headed rhesus monkeys – in its seven primate centers. About 600 to 800 of those animals have been subject to coronavirus research since the start of the pandemic.
Scientists say monkeys are ideal specimens for coronavirus vaccine research before testing on humans. The primates share more than 90 percent of our DNA, and their similar biology means they can be tested with nasal swabs and their lungs scanned. Scientists say it is nearly impossible to find a substitute for testing Covid-19 vaccines, although drugs such as dexamethasone, the steroid used to treat former President Donald J. Trump, have been tested in hamsters.
The United States once relied on India to provide rhesus monkeys. But in 1978, India stopped its exports after Indian news outlets reported that the monkeys were being used in military tests in the United States. Pharmaceutical companies looked for an alternative and eventually ended up in China.
But the pandemic disrupted what was a decades-long relationship between American scientists and Chinese suppliers.
Over the past year, hospital intensive care units have been inundated with critically ill Covid-19 patients, who develop severe pneumonia and other organ disorders. At times, the influx of coronavirus cases overwhelmed the resources in the wards and the complexity of the care these patients needed.
An interactive image from The New York Times examines how the spikes in the coronavirus affected I.C.U. & # 39; s and their specialist medical staff.
New cases in the United States have fallen since their peak in early January, but nearly three-quarters of the I.C.U. beds were occupied during the week ending February 18.
The national average for adult I.C.U. According to the Society of Critical Care Medicine, the occupancy rate was 67 percent in 2010, although this number and all hospital admissions vary depending on the location, time of year and size of the hospital.
When the coronavirus rips through a community, I.C.U.s get full. Hospitals have been forced to improvise and expand capacity by creating I.C.U. & # 39; s in areas normally used for other purposes, such as cardiac or neurological care, and even hallways or guest rooms.
Elective surgery is often put on hold to keep beds available, and early in the pandemic, hospitals saw a huge drop in the number of people admitted for reasons other than Covid-19. I.C.U. staff, regardless of specialty, often spent most or all of their time with Covid patients.
"We are all exhausted," said Dr. Nida Qadir, the co-director of the medical intensive care unit at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. "We had to bend quite a bit."
Two European football giants, Atlético Madrid and Chelsea, will meet in the Champions League on Tuesday. The site of this highly anticipated game? Bucharest, Romania.
On Wednesday, Manchester City will play against the German Borussia Mönchengladbach. That match will take place in Budapest, the Hungarian capital, where English champions Liverpool beat German RB Leipzig last week.
In the Europa League, the continent's second-tier club championship, neutral venues are now almost as common as home games. Last week, Spanish and English teams played in Italy, and teams from Norway and Germany met in Spain. On Thursday, a week after London club Arsenal drew against Portuguese Benfica in Rome, the teams will meet again in the second leg of their away from home game near Athens.
The pandemic wreaked havoc on international sports schedules for a year, and that chaos continues to affect football's biggest club tournaments. The reasons – government regulations, travel restrictions and quarantine regulations – vary across Europe. In some countries, teams are still allowed to travel to and from their opponents' stadiums without any problems. In others, countries have blocked visitors from all over the country or have set strict rules that make such travel impractical in a football season when teams often play two or three games a week.
UEFA, the European Football Association that directs the matches, has decided that if restrictions adversely affect a match, it will be played on a neutral venue where travel is permitted. But the decision to play knockout matches in places seemingly chosen at random has led to confusion and not a bit of grumbling.
On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people gathered in the town of Codogno, about 55 kilometers south of Milan.
The group, including local dignitaries, army veterans and hospital personnel, gathered to unveil a small garden with a quince tree and a sculpture with three steel columns. On a platform below the columns were the words & # 39; Resilience & # 39 ;, & # 39; Community & # 39; and & # 39; Restart & # 39 ;.
The garden is one of Italy's first memorials to those who died after contracting the coronavirus, and it was dedicated on the anniversary of the day news broke that a 38-year-old Codogno resident who came to be known as Patient One, the virus. That man was the first known case of local transmission in Italy. The next day, the police sealed the city and no one could enter or leave.
“It was horrifying, absurd and unimaginable that this nightmare could unfold in Codogno,” said Francesco Passerini, the city's mayor and driving force behind the monument, in a telephone interview prior to the ceremony. “Almost everyone has lost someone,” he added.
For some, it may seem too early to create a memorial to a pandemic that is still raging. More than 200 people are reported to have died of Covid-19 in Italy on Sunday, and the country is in a state of emergency until at least the end of April, with strict travel restrictions.
But the monument in Codogno and others planned elsewhere in Europe are not intended as sweeping monuments of the historical moment, but as simple places to mourn and reflect.
While the pandemic has been difficult for many in Japan, the pressure on women has increased. As in many countries, more women have lost their jobs. In Tokyo, the country's largest metropolis, about one in five women live alone, and urges to stay at home and avoid family members have increased feelings of isolation.
Other women have struggled with the wide disparities in the distribution of domestic work and childcare while working from home, or have suffered from an increase in domestic and sexual violence.
The rising psychological and physical toll of the pandemic is accompanied by a worrying spike in female suicide. In Japan, 6,976 women died from suicide last year, nearly 15 percent more than in 2019. It was the first year-on-year increase in more than a decade.
Each suicide – and suicide attempt – represents an individual tragedy rooted in a complex accumulation of reasons. But the increase among women, which spanned seven consecutive months last year, worries government officials and mental health experts who have worked to reduce the highest suicide rate in the world. (While more men than women died from suicide last year, fewer men did so than in 2019. Overall, the suicide rate rose by just under 4 percent.)
The situation has compounded long-standing challenges for Japan. Talking about mental health problems or seeking help is still difficult in a society that emphasizes stoicism.
The pandemic has also heightened tensions in a culture based on social cohesion and dependent on peer pressure to encourage compliance with government requests to wear masks and practice good hygiene. Women, often referred to as primary care providers, sometimes fear public humiliation if they somehow fail to comply with these measures or become infected with the coronavirus.
In a widely published report, a woman in her thirties who was recovering from the coronavirus at home died by suicide. De Japanse nieuwsmedia grepen haar briefje aan en uitten hun angst over de mogelijkheid dat ze anderen had besmet en hen problemen bezorgde, terwijl experts zich afvroegen of schaamte haar misschien tot wanhoop had gedreven.
Lucia DeClerck, de oudste bewoner van een verpleeghuis in New Jersey, hoorde dat ze het coronavirus had opgelopen op haar 105e verjaardag, 25 januari, de dag nadat ze haar tweede dosis van het Pfizer-BioNTech-vaccin had gekregen, aldus Michael Neiman, de beheerder van het huis.
Eerst zei ze dat ze bang was. Ze hield er niet van om geïsoleerd te zijn, en ze miste het dagelijkse gebabbel van de parade van zorgverleners bij Mystic Meadows Rehabilitation and Nursing, een faciliteit met 120 bedden in Little Egg Harbor.
Ze vertoonde weinig symptomen. En binnen twee weken was ze terug in haar kamer, met haar rozenkranskralen in de hand, haar kenmerkende zonnebril en gebreide muts op.
Voor haar twee overlevende zonen, vijf kleinkinderen, 12 achterkleinkinderen en 11 achterkleinkinderen, die haar oma Lucia noemen, heeft ze een nieuwe naam: "De 105-jarige badass die Covid schopte."
Maandag kreeg ze een bericht van gouverneur Philip D. Murphy, die een telefoontje met haar beschreef tijdens een nieuwsbriefing over het coronavirus. 'Wat een opbouwend gesprek,' zei de gouverneur.
De familie van mevrouw DeClerck kwam in januari 2020 bijeen in Mystic Meadows om haar 104e verjaardag te vieren vóór het uitbreken van de pandemie. Toen ze hoorden dat ze het virus had opgelopen, zetten ze zich schrap voor het ergste.
Mevrouw DeClerck is een van de 62 inwoners van Mystic Meadows die het virus hebben opgelopen; vier patiënten stierven, waaronder drie die hospice-zorg ontvingen.
In januari werden bewoners twee keer per week getest, en een snelle test in de laatste week van de maand toonde aan dat mevrouw DeClerck het virus had opgelopen.
Ze was ook ingeënt, wat hoogstwaarschijnlijk heeft bijgedragen aan haar herstel. De eerste onderzoeken naar het massale inentingsprogramma van Groot-Brittannië lieten maandag sterk bewijs zien dat zelfs één dosis vaccin kan helpen om coronavirus-gerelateerde ziekenhuisopnames te verminderen.
Mevrouw DeClerck is niet de oudste persoon die het virus heeft verslagen.
De oudst bekende inwoner van Europa, zuster André, liep het virus op toen ze 116 was. Ze vierde deze maand haar 117e verjaardag met een glas champagne in een verpleeghuis in Toulon, Frankrijk.