By Revathi Siva Kumar
All 50 states set to reopen gradually despite the rising numbers.
As America starts opening up after two months of lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus pandemic, public health experts are worried with the number of fatalities edging towards an alarming 100,000 mark.
Although the number of cases has shown a downward trend of late, as of 1 pm on Monday, the Memorial Day, nearly 1.7 million Americans have been infected, with 99,461 fatalities, making the United States, by far, the worst hit nation. At the moment, the nation that boasts of the most modern, expensive and expansive healthcare infrastructure in the world accounts for more than 30 percent of all the reported Covid cases and nearly 29 percent of deaths.
Thousands of new cases are being reported every day, even as all 50 states are making plans for varying degrees of opening up. Seven states showed a rising trend in newly reported cases in the previous fortnight, but that is attributed mainly due to an increase in the testing.
The White House has announced guidelines for states to open up based on the decline in cases in the past fortnight. The criteria are not uniform, but adjusted for every state.
It’s distressing to note that the virus has spread like wildfire throughout the nation since February end when only a few cases were spotted in the US.
Measures were quickly taken to slow the spread of the infection, yet more hotspots have been identified and death toll has steadily climbed up. Some critics suggest that the real numbers are actually much higher than projected.
“There’s probably less underreporting as time goes on,” notes Robert N. Anderson, the chief of mortality statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
After some number crunching in every state, some predicted that about 100,000 to 110,000 Americans, have been killed by Covid, according to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff.
He reached the estimate with the help of a Harvard statistician, Rafael Irizarry. They studied the data examining the death rates during this spring season, compared to many in previous years.
While some states have not been affected too much, and some show that death rates have dropped due to fewer car accidents, there have been huge surges in deaths in other states.
“Overall, in a bit more than two months, the United States lost more Americans to the coronavirus than died over seven decades in the Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars,” he wrote.
Each state is taking a different approach to opening up. Some states reopened too soon, while others decided to stick to a more cautious manner of doing things.
For instance, in New Jersey with the second-most number of cases per capita in the US, residents remain confined to lockdown, while only some of the industries got back to work.
In Connecticut offices reopened. Alaska had fewer cases earlier, but new cases have recently been identified. Yet various businesses are resuming work.
Was it reasonable to remove the lockdown given the rising graphs? President Donald Trump announced the reopening on May 3 even as the number of fatalities was shooting towards the 100,000 mark.
It would have been logical to increase social distancing and clamp down the lockdown further. Yet, Trump decided to reopen some businesses saying it was important to do so.
Just two weeks earlier, he had predicted that the fatalities could be “substantially below the 100,000” mark, even half that number at 50,000.
“We shouldn’t lose one person over this,” he said suggesting things could have been worse if the government had not acted.
“If we didn’t do it, the minimum we would have lost was a million two, a million four, a million five, that’s the minimum. We would have lost probably higher, it’s possible higher than 2.2 million.”
But he still favored lifting restrictions that had driven nearly 40 million into unemployment arguing that the government had armed itself to deal with the situation as workplaces started filling up again. “This virus will pass,” he said, “We may have to put out a fire.”
However, the disease curve is unlikely to be flattened for a while. Even as efforts to develop cures and vaccines have been speeded up all over the world, the only remedy for now seems to be to increase social distancing and rigorously promote masks and clean, hygienic habits.