Yesterday the United States reported over 3,000 deaths from COVID in a single day. It happened weeks before Christmas, just as we are starting to see cases due to Thanksgiving travel. This does not bode well for what the numbers will be in early 2021 and beyond if there is not a major governmental intervention. What will be the peak of the daily death count? 5,000? 7,000? 10,000?
Much of the rest of the world is seeing similar trends to the US. During the first wave, when all eyes were on Italy, that country’s daily deaths peaked at 921. Italy had 993 deaths on December 3.
Assuming that the vaccines that have been developed are effective, I think the most optimistic projection, which remains barely within reason, is that the pandemic could be over by the end of May. A less optimistic but more realistic projection is that it could be over by the end of August. Other scenarios are more bleak.
It is unconscionable that there is any expectation of life continuing as normal. Or anything close to it. We should be on a war footing. In a lot of ways this is like a war. To borrow from a German proverb; every war leaves behind three armies; an army of dead, an army of wounded, and an army of thieves.
The army of dead is going to be massive. If the United States averages 2,000 deaths per day for the rest of 2020 and 1,000 deaths per day until the end of August 2021, COVID will have killed 580,000 people in the United States. The Civil War killed 750,000. World War II killed 405,000. The Civil War lasted four years. So did World War II, for the United States. If no one in the US died of the virus after August 31, the pandemic would have lasted just under nineteen months.
The army of wounded is going to be almost all of us who survive. The number of people infected with COVID who suffer permanent damage or lasting symptoms is much higher than the percentage of people who die. I have seen estimates anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent of surviving patients. Which is, right now, somewhere between 3 and 7 million in the US. In addition to those who will suffer lasting physiological symptoms will be those wounded in all the other ways this will have torn lives apart. It is also clear that this suffering will disproportionately impact BIPOC communities, as suffering in the US always does. As of November 10, approximately 1 in every 950 black people in the US has died of the disease. 1 in every 1,300 Latinx people. 1 in every 1,900 white people.
The army of thieves, comprised of those who profited during and from the pandemic, is going to be miniscule compared to the armies of dead and wounded. But it is they and their enablers who will have caused the ranks of the other armies to swell beyond all comprehensible measure.
At the onset of the pandemic it seemed like there was an agreed upon strategy of how we would get through it. When cases and hospitalizations spiked, we would have to go into lockdown; when cases and hospitalizations decreased, restrictions would ease. That cycle would continue until an effective vaccine or treatment could end the pandemic.
There were less than five COVID deaths in Illinois the day that JB Pritzker announced the lockdown in March. There were 229 deaths yesterday. During the first wave daily deaths in Illinois peaked at 197 on May 13. At the lowest point of the curve during the summer, daily deaths were in the single digits. The lockdown worked. That is an irrefutable fact. When businesses were forced to close and people were paid to stay home, fewer people died. When businesses were allowed to open and people were not paid to stay home, more people died. A lot more people.
We could save a lot of lives. But it will take a lockdown and a massive relief package. Those responsible for businesses being open and for the withdrawal of payments for people to stay home are committing mass murder. There is no other way to put it.
If we do not go into a lockdown backed by an aid from the government, well, as Werner Herzog once said; “Civilization is like a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos and darkness.” The ice is cracking and many of us are falling through.
General COVID case and death numbers from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
Math on how many people had died broken down by racial category performed by author. Total population by race, as provided by the US Census Bureau (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219) divided by the total number of COVID deaths by race, provided by APM Research Lab (https://www.apmresearchlab.org/covid/deaths-by-race)
Total US population as of July 1, 2019: 328,239,523
Black population 13.4% = 43,984,096
43,984,096/46,211 = 952
Latinx population 18.5% = 60,724,312
60,724,312/46,912 = 1,294
Indigenous population 1.3% = 4,267,114
4,267,114/2,251 = 1,896
White population 60.1% = 197,271,953
197,271,953/123,429 = 1,598