Over the past week, an average of 491 Americans died of COVID each day, according to The data was collected by New York times. The week before, the number was 382. The week before, 494. And so on.
Over the past five months or so, the United States has lined up something of a COVID death plateau. That’s good in the sense that after two years of sudden highs and lows, the past five months are the longest we’ve had without a significant increase in deaths since the start of the pandemic, and current numbers are well below omicron highs last winter. (The number of cases and hospital admissions continued to fluctuate, but thanks to the protection from severe disease offered by vaccines and antiviral drugs, they mostly decoupled from ICU admissions and deaths; but the curve, finally, was flat.) Although the daily death figures have stopped rising, they have also stopped declining. Approximately 3,000 people die every week.
We can stay on this plateau for some time now. Lauren Ansel Myers, director of the University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Models Consortium, told me that as long as no dangerous new variable emerges (in which case those predictions will go out the window), we can only see a slight spike in deaths this fall and winter, when it’s likely Cases may go up, but maybe – or at least hopefully – nothing too serious. However, it is likely that deaths will not drop much from their current levels until early 2023, with the lull of the winter wave and the additional immunity this increase should give. In the most optimistic scenario that Myers formulated, deaths at that point could be up to half their current level. Maybe a little less.
By all accounts, many people still die every day. No one can say for sure what 2023 might hold, but as a reference point, 200 deaths per day would translate to 73,000 deaths over the course of the year. COVID . will remain Among the top 10 causes of death In America, in this scenario, fatalities are approximately twice the rate of a flu season or car accidents for a year.
COVID deaths continue in part because we let them. America has largely decided to deal with the pandemic, even though the pandemic stubbornly refuses to do with America. The country has lifted almost all restrictions on epidemics, and epidemics have been funded for emergencies drying. For the most part, people settled on whatever level of caution or disregard suited them. a Pew Research Survey From May it was found that COVID didn’t even break Americans’ list of the top 10 issues facing the country. Only 19 percent said they consider it a major problem, and it’s hard to imagine that number dropping anywhere but down in the months since. COVID deaths have turned from an emergency to an acceptable collateral damage to the American way of life. background noise.
On one level, this is horrific. Declaring the pandemic over simply means abandoning the vulnerable communities and the elderly who are now, more than ever, bearing the brunt of its burden. However, on an individual level, it’s hard to blame anyone for looking away, especially when, for most Americans, the risk of serious illness is lower than it has been since early 2020. It’s hard not to overlook when each day’s identical numbers are grim, When devastation becomes turmoil. It’s hard every day to look at a number – 491, 382, 494 – and experience that number for what it is: the early end of many individual human lives.
People get used to these daily tragedies because it would be very painful not to happen. “We are, in a way, the victims of our own success,” Stephen Taylor, a psychiatrist at the University of British Columbia who has written one book on epidemiology and is working on another, told me. It is our ability to adapt that has allowed us to weather the worst of the pandemic, and it is also what prevents us from escaping completely from the pandemic. We can normalize anything, thick and thin. “We are so flexible in adapting to threats that we are even used to it,” Taylor said.
Where does that leave us? As the nation makes its way out of the pandemic – and to its credit All from her permanent damage—What do we do with the psychological burden of a death toll that may not drop dramatically for a long time? Total inurement is not an option. There is no limit to empathy, as the feeling of each death resonates in you on an emotional level. The challenge appears to be carving out some kind of middle path. Caring enough to motivate ourselves to make things better without caring so much that we end up paralyzed.
Maybe we will find this way. Most likely, we won’t. In the early stages of the pandemic, Americans spoke at length about the fabled “new normal.” We were anxious to imagine how life could be different – even better – after a tragedy that focused the world’s attention on disease prevention. We are now staring at what this new normal might look like. The new normal is to accept 400 COVID deaths per day as the way things are. It is so completely resigned to the burden that we forget that it is a burden at all.
By the time I started reading this story, someone in the United States had died of COVID. I can tell you a story about this person. I can tell you that he was a retired elementary school teacher. That he was planning a trip with his wife to San Diego, because he had never seen the Pacific Ocean. He was a long-suffering Knicks fan and baked a hell of a peach cobbler, and when he visited his grandchildren, he’d get on his arthritic knees, play Connect Four, and always let them win. These details, while hypothetical, may grieve you — or grieve you more, at least, more than when I simply told you that since this story began, one person has died of COVID. But I can’t tell you this story 491 times in one day. And even if I could, could you bear to listen?