Numb to the Numbers

With just about all of the states now reopening their economies, the conventional wisdom among most Americans is that the worst days of the coronavirus are behind us.

Yet the reality is that hundreds of Americans continue to die and tens of thousands more are contracting the disease each and every day.

This past Monday, April 12, for example, the New York Times — which gets its data from Johns Hopkins University — reported that 476 Americans died from the virus and that there were 72,286 new cases on that day.

Admittedly, these numbers pale in comparison to the 3000 Americans who were dying and the 300,000 new cases that were being reported each day at the pandemic’s height this past winter.

But even these lower daily figures still are huge, rivaling the numbers that were in evidence last spring and summer.

Yet despite the ongoing tragedies of friends and family members across the country who are succumbing to the pandemic, there has been a complacency developing among most Americans about the virus.

To be sure, all of us are suffering from virus fatigue, attributable to the quarantining, restrictions, and omnipresent fear of catching the disease.

In addition, with the vaccine rollout proceeding ahead of projections, most of us believe that the worst is behind us.

And while that may be true, we still have a rough road ahead. With the announcement earlier this week that the one-and-done Johnson & Johnson vaccine is linked to serious side-effects in a tiny number of recipients, the national vaccination program will be facing a slowdown.

More ominously, the so-called United Kingdom variant of the virus now is the dominant case-type in the U.S. — and that variant has been shown to be 60% more contagious AND 67 percent more deadly.

Even more worrisome, the variants that have been attributable to Brazil and South Africa are thought to be more resistant to vaccine-efficacy AND have been shown to reinfect persons who previously had caught the disease.

The arithmetic is this: More Americans still are dying each and every week from the coronavirus than were killed on 9/11. Let that sink in for a moment.

For those of us who like to compare the fight against COVID-19 to a war, the proper analogy to WWII is this: We may have won the war in Europe (V-E Day was on May 8), but American troops still were fighting and dying in the Pacific in epic battles on Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, we are not at the end of this pandemic and, in view of the huge numbers we are seeing nationwide, we may not even be at the beginning of the end.

Although we may be at the end of the beginning, it is premature to let our guard (which is to say, our masks) down. The reality that we all must acknowledge is this: We still have a long way to go before we can declare victory over COVID-19.

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