Among the world’s wealthy nations, only the U.S. has an outbreak that continues to spin out of control. Of the 10 worst-hit countries, the U.S. has the seventh-highest number of deaths per 100,000 population; the other nine countries in the top 10 have an average per capita GDP of $10,195, compared to $65,281 for the U.S. Some countries, like New Zealand, have even come close to eradicating COVID-19 entirely. Vietnam, where officials implemented particularly intense lockdown measures, didn’t record a single virus-related death until July 31.
Forty-five days before the announcement of the first suspected case of what would become known as COVID-19, the Global Health Security Index was published. The project—led by the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security—assessed 195 countries on their perceived ability to handle a major disease outbreak. The U.S. ranked first.
It’s clear the report was wildly overconfident in the U.S., failing to account for social ills that had accumulated in the country over the past few years, rendering it unprepared for what was about to hit. At some point in mid-September—perhaps by the time you are reading this—the number of confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. has passed 200,000, more than in any other country by far.
If early in the spring, the U.S. had mobilized its ample resources and expertise in a coherent national effort to prepare for the virus, things might have turned out differently. If, in midsummer, the country had doubled down on the measures (masks, social-distancing rules, restricted indoor activities and public gatherings) that seemed to be working, instead of prematurely declaring victory, things might have turned out differently. The tragedy is that if science and common sense solutions were united in a national, coordinated response, the U.S. could have avoided many thousands of more deaths this summer.
Indeed, many other countries in similar situations were able to face this challenge where the U.S. apparently could not. Italy, for example, had a similar per capita case rate as the U.S. in April. By emerging slowly from lockdowns, limiting domestic and foreign travel, and allowing its government response to be largely guided by scientists, Italy has kept COVID-19 almost entirely at bay. In that same time period, U.S. daily cases doubled, before they started to fall in late summer.
Seven months after the coronavirus was found on American soil, we’re still suffering hundreds, sometimes more than a thousand deaths every day. An American Nurses Association survey from late July and early August found that of 21,000 U.S. nurses polled, 42% reported either widespread or intermittent shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gloves and medical gowns. Schools and colleges are attempting to open for in-person learning only to suffer major outbreaks and send students home; some of them will likely spread the virus in their communities. More than 13 million Americans remain unemployed as of August, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data published Sept. 4.
There is nothing auspicious about watching the summer turn to autumn; all the new season brings are more hard choices. At every level—from elected officials responsible for the lives of millions to parents responsible for the lives of one or two children—Americans will continue to have to make nearly impossible decisions, despite the fact that after months of watching their country fail, many are now profoundly distrustful, uneasy and confused.
- India recorded 8,069 Covid-19 deaths in the past week, a sharp rise of 14.5% over the previous week (7,050 deaths, a 1.7% rise), with fatalities averaging more than 1,100 per day. For the first time, the national death toll remained above 1,000 on all days of the past week.
- Fresh cases reported during the week also rose by 11%, as more than 640,000 infections were detected.
- Both the case count and death toll in India during the week (September 7-13) were the highest in the world. While India has been reporting the highest number of Covid cases globally since August, the country’s rising death toll has overtaken other countries in September so far.
- Maharashtra crossed a grim mark of over 1 million Covid-19 case count after nearly 25,000 new infections (24,886) were confirmed on Friday. The state accounts for nearly 22% of India’s total cases. If it were a country, Maharashtra would be the fifth worst-hit globally, with 10,15,681 cases, and may soon cross Russia’s count of 1.05 million cases.
- Friday: 97,937 new cases (a record) and 1,249 fatalities
- Total: 4,653,193 cases and 77,384 fatalities
- Six other states — Uttar Pradesh (7,103 new cases), Odisha (3,996), Punjab (2,526), Madhya Pradesh (2,240), Rajasthan (1,660) and Gujarat (1,344) — also reported their highest daily count yet.
Pfizer ready to distribute vaccine in US before year-end
- US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which has been working alongside Germany’s BioNTech on an mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine, said it will be ready to distribute the vaccine to Americans before the end of the year if found to be safe and effective. The company is prepared to distribute “hundreds of thousands of doses” if the FDA approval is in place, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said.
- Pfizer’s is one of the three highly-anticipated vaccine candidates in the world, alongside those developed by Moderna and Oxford University. It is currently undergoing Phase III trials. On Saturday Pfizer said it will expand those trials to 44,000 participants to collect more safety and efficacy data and to increase the diversity of the study’s participants by enrolling, among others, adolescents as young as 16 years of age.
- Bourla’s statement comes weeks after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notified state and city officials in the country to prepare to distribute a coronavirus vaccine to priority groups as early as November. The CDC’s technical specifications for two candidates described as Vaccine A and Vaccine B seem to match the products developed by Pfizer and Moderna, The New York Times had reported.
- Health minister Harsh Vardhan said the government is considering emergency authorisation of Covid vaccine so that it can be made available at the earliest for those in high-risk groups, including senior citizens and healthcare workers.
- Also, patients who recover from Covid may continue to report a wide variety of signs and symptoms, including fatigue, body ache, cough, sore throat and difficulty in breathing, according to a fresh protocol issued by the health ministry for managing such patients. More here.
- NEET: Attendance for the NEET-UG exam on Sunday was between 85% and 90%, the National Testing Agency said, based on random sampling. Those who missed the exams after testing positive will get another chance to take the test.
- Serum Institute of India paused the trials of Covishield, Oxford University-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, following Wednesday’s showcause notice issued by the central drug regulator. “We are reviewing the situation and pausing India trials till AstraZeneca restarts them. We are following the Drug Controller General of India’s instructions and will not be able to comment further on the same,” the Pune-based company said.