A wide-angle photo of the Mall surrounding the Washington Monument tells the grim story. Tiny white monuments to victims of the disease stretch to the horizon.
Scores of eyewitnesses file through a winding path to the Monument, obviously moved by their firsthand glimpse of the scale of the nation’s COVID-19 death toll.
Compare this pandemic with polio fatalities, reduced from 15,000 in the 1950s to just ten in the 1970s. The clear difference: people then took seriously the threat of a polio epidemic and almost universally, quickly took available polio preventive vaccines.
Today, only 56% of Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19
As Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top official on the COVID-19 pandemic put it: “It’s a false narrative to consider that the disease is not a national health crisis.” (Deaths from the epidemic recently reached a record daily high in Russia).
According to The Hill website, only 4.74 million Americans have received a COVID-19 booster shot so far, based on Centers for Disease Control data. That’s just over one and a half percent of the nation’s population.
As President Biden put it in a nationwide appeal on October 2: “The vaccines are safe, free, and easy. We’ve made an extraordinary program in our fight against COVID-19 over the past eight months.” Hundreds of thousands of families have been spared the unbearable loss that too many Americans have already endured during this pandemic.
“If you haven’t already, please get vaccinated. It can save your life and the lives of those you love. It will help us beat COVID-19, Mr. Biden concluded, and move forward, as one nation.”
The grim, highly undercounted global COVID-19 death toll estimate as of October 4
Highest rates reported beyond the United States, likely a fraction of the total worldwide, are in India, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Russia, Turkey, and France. Altogether, a gross estimate of the daily global total of COVID-19 fatalities as of early October including the United States was 4,800,375 — with many still uncounted or underreported.
Some success stories: learning from history
It’s possible that past experience has been key in shaping successful efforts at curbing COVID-19, particularly in small, relatively isolated nations like those of Southeast Asia.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offers a striking example. When her country inaugurated the strictest lockdown ever last March, her government launched what one local observer said was designed to mobilize collective adherence to restrictive measures in a nationwide crusade including “staying within their so-called quarantine bubble.”
Southeast Asia’s SARS epidemic in 2003 offered lessons nearly two decades later. Key were early diagnoses, and widespread testing and tracing programs.
Prime Minister Ardern launched a vaccine campaign early on and relied on veteran public health officials to promote it. New Zealand had advantages in controlling the virus, according to the PBS Newshour. It was able to re-open last June after no new cases for 18 days, with only a couple of relatively brief closures since.
Overall new cases remain low, and New Zealand’s death toll from COVID-19 remains at 18 in a country of about five million. Ms. Ardern was re-elected last October with the highest vote for her Labour Party in a half-century.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More