More than one million people have died in the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins, by far the highest death toll of any country.
While the death toll from the coronavirus sets the United States apart, the country’s large population of 332.5 million does not explain the staggering death rate, which is among the highest in the world.
For every 100,000 people, 291 people died from Covid-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. Among the 20 most affected countries, only two other countries, Brazil and Poland, have higher death rates per 100,000 inhabitants.
Deaths directly attributable to Covid-19 are only one measure of the toll of pandemics. Deaths from drug overdoses hit an all-time high in 2021, killing at least 100,000 Americans. Chronic conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and dementia have contributed to the excess death toll, a number that includes other conditions exacerbated by the pandemic, as well as deaths caused directly by Covid-19. This number crossed the one million threshold in mid-February.
The extraordinary toll singled out the United States among rich and peer nations, exposing inequities, a single and fragmented health care system and polarized politics, which likely deepened the crisis, researchers said.
To understand why we’ve had such a bad experience with the pandemic, we need to think about the systemic issues that were already in place when the pandemic arrived, said Steven Woolf, a social epidemiologist and population health researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University. And, on top of that, mishandling of the pandemic by the government and by the public, frankly.
The pandemic has brought to light long-standing racial and ethnic disparities in health, as blacks, Latinos and Native Americans have been infected, hospitalized and died of Covid-19 at rates that were sometimes double those white Americans.
The drivers of these outcomes, the disproportionate likelihood that people of color will not enjoy the same quality of housing, employment, and access to health care as white Americans, are well known and documented. Such disparities are the intended or unintended consequences of policy decisions, according to a recent commentary from the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The United States nevertheless struggled to correct its trajectory. Vaccines were slow to reach minority, low-income and rural areas at first. A recent study showed how at least one advanced Covid-19 therapy, monoclonal antibodies, were least likely to reach the highest-risk patients for whom they are recommended.
It has only exacerbated the struggles we currently have and has drawn back the curtain on all the issues we have faced for so many years, said Terrence Shirley, CEO of the Community Health Center Association of Mississippi. Community health centers help treat indigent and marginalized Americans who cannot afford health care.
The all-consuming nature of the pandemic has also allowed preventable and treatable infectious diseases to thrive. Thousands of young children, especially in low-income households, have fallen behind on routine vaccinations. Rates of sexually transmitted diseases have reached the highest numbers in American history as overstretched and underfunded local health agencies reallocated resources to Covid-19.
Meanwhile, adolescent mental health in particular has suffered, as millions have been cut off from mental health services provided by schools. Pediatricians, children’s hospitals and psychiatrists have declared a mental health crisis among the nations young people, and a recent CDC study showed how emergency room visits for eating disorders have risen dramatically among young people. teenage girls.
Millions of children have also been pushed into food insecurity, as the number of children receiving school meals has plummeted. Missed school time seems to have widened the academic achievement gap.
The United States has seen worse health outcomes for a few years now. Life expectancy in the United States is the lowest of any high-income country, Woolf said. There are a variety of reasons for this, but all of these played out directly in the pandemic.
However, Americas reliance on an expensive, private and exclusive healthcare system is not the only to blame. Although policies that exclude 28 million uninsured people from health care have likely made matters worse, they are just one example of how fragmented policy has made Americans’ health worse.
Fundamental concepts of American governance have also proven problematic during the pandemic. In just one example, the US Constitution makes public health the responsibility of each state, creating a patchwork of different responses to the pandemic.
Culture and environment also seem to have played a role. Americans are more likely than citizens of other countries to engage in what public health researchers consider risky behavior, such as owning a gun, smoking, consuming more calories and exercising less . Polarized politics makes it more difficult to put in place safeguards against these behaviors.
Hesitant responses from federal, state and local governments compounded existing problems and ultimately allowed pandemic-related public health advice to become political and cultural balloons.
Less than two-thirds of Republicans have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, compared to 91% of Democrats, according to the January 2022 Kaiser Family Foundations Vaccine Tracking Poll. hear, according to the same poll, is how the pandemic has worn them down.
This has led to another conundrum as more and more pandemic prevention measures are abandoned, Americans will be faced with how to live with a disease that can be chronic and debilitating, even if it is not as deadly.
Death isn’t the only serious outcome of Covid, said David Putrino, director of rehabilitation innovation for Mount Sinai Health System. Putrino has seen thousands of cases of long-said Covid, where many varied and sometimes severe symptoms persist for months. A recent analysis by the Center for American Progress found that the syndrome resulted in an estimated 1.2 million additional people with disabilities in 2021.
We’re tackling the acute illness, Shirley said, and not solving the problems that might prevent the illness in the first place.
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