Lauren Dempsey, MS in Biomedicine and Law, RN, FISM News
The United States has met another sad landmark in the COVID-19 pandemic with a reported 1 million deaths caused by the virus. The bell at the U.S. Washington National Cathedral sounded 1,000 times to mark the milestone, and President Biden has ordered the American flag to be flown at half-staff for five days in memory of all those that have died.
On Thursday the President spoke about this “tragic milestone” of lives lost, describing each death as an “irreplaceable loss” and trying to comfort loved ones by describing the loss of his first wife and daughter.
Biden said in a statement, “One million empty chairs around the dinner table. Each leaving behind a family, a community, and a nation forever changed because of this pandemic. Jill and I pray for each of them.” He also used this opportunity to call on Congress to approve critical funding to “remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible, as we have with more testing, vaccines, and treatments than ever before.”
Every loss of life is tragic, no matter the cause; however, some experts believe that between 250,000 and 300,000 deaths could have been prevented if more Americans had gotten vaccinated and boosted. Dr. Anthony Fauci told Amna Nawaz of PBS, “The idea of 1 million deaths in an outbreak, that is historic in nature. We have had nothing like this in well over 104 years. One of the parts about it that adds to the tragedy is that many of those deaths were avoidable, avoidable if people had been vaccinated.”
Dr. David Dowdy from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimates that 300,000 lives could have been saved, saying, “Three hundred thousand people is the size of a midsize city. And to think we could have prevented that number of people from dying just by doing a better job of getting a very safe and highly effective vaccine into people is tragic.”
However, vaccines weren’t available during the beginning of the pandemic, and there was no treatment protocol for inpatient or outpatient treatment of COVID-19. Many providers didn’t have the ability to appropriately treat COVID-19 because there was very little known about the virus. Patients were often put on ventilators for low levels of oxygen in the blood, even when they weren’t exhibiting typical symptoms like gasping for air or an elevated heart rate. The main focus was mitigation strategies, symptom management, and compulsory vaccines once the FDA authorized the EUA.
Public health officials and infectious disease experts refused to acknowledge that co-morbidities and lifestyle had an impact on the disease process and patient outcomes, despite evidence showing that individuals who were obese or affected by chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease were at higher risk for not only contracting the virus, but also dying from it.
Unfortunately, due to flawed reporting, we may never know the exact number of Americans that have died as a result of COVID-19. Some argue that the number may actually be higher since some may not have been tested, while others believe that the number is much lower, as people that died from pre-existing disease or other health issues that happened to test positive at death were counted in the official numbers.
The WHO estimates that the global death toll from COVID-19 is around 6.7 million; however, those that died from COVID-19 as well as those that indirectly died from pandemic-related situations is closer to about 15 million. However, Dr. Fauci warns that “by no means is it over,” adding that “we still are experiencing a global pandemic.”