On February 6, 2020, a 57-year-old woman died at her home in Santa Clara County, a city south of San Francisco. Her death was considered suspicious by the California authorities, who were already on guard awaiting the arrival of the coronavirus on the west coast of the United States, the gateway for most diseases in the United States. This was the first death caused by the virus in the country, a diagnosis that took two months to confirm due to testing problems during the Donald Trump Administration. This woman has been followed by a million more victims, a figure that the nation has reached this Thursday.
Each American killed by covid has left an average of nine relatives in mourning. Approximately nine million people, 3% of the population, feel a permanent void in their life that was once filled by a parent, child, sibling, spouse, or grandparent. It is estimated that at least 150,000 children have lost a parent or guardian across the country. The figure has been confirmed by the White House. The country adds about 300 deaths a day, on average, this spring.
“Today we reached a tragic milestone: one million American lives lost to COVID-19,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement. “As a nation, we must not be numb to so much pain. To heal you have to remember. We must remain vigilant in the face of this pandemic and do everything possible to save as many lives as possible, just as we have done with more tests, vaccines and treatments than ever before”, added the president, who has ordered, in honor of the victims and their loved ones, that the American flag fly at half-staff “until sunset on May 16” at the White House and public buildings.
Since the start of the pandemic, the figures of the member countries gathered by the World Health Organization (WHO) give a total of 5.4 million deaths from covid-19 in these two years. The agency stated last week that the pandemic caused between 13 and 17 million deaths in the world, from January 2020 to December 2021, around triple the total official balances, showing the devastation of the worst pandemic experienced in the world. planet for a century.
After several months of remission of the pandemic in the most mourning country in the world (ahead of Brazil, India and Russia), the United States has registered a daily increase in cases for a month. According to data updated on April 22, about 14% of deaths from covid-19 in the US have occurred among non-Hispanic blacks and African Americans.
The increase occurs in a context in which the mask is no longer mandatory, an accessory that was the cause of political war between Democrats and Republicans for several months. Its use is now only advised indoors, and the fourth dose of the vaccine is available only to those over 50 years of age. 66% of Americans have their complete vaccination schedule. In mid-February, the West Coast buried the mask in the face of falling cases. The governors of California, Oregon and Washington then announced the end of the obligation for schools, while California announced that it was no longer requiring it for the non-immunized.
Los Angeles County today registers just over 32,000 deaths, out of a total of almost three million cases. California, the most populous state in the country with almost 40 million inhabitants, has the highest number of deaths, more than 90,000 deaths, with 9.3 million cases. The hardest hit have been blacks and Latinos. However, in mortality rate, the number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, California is number 12 with the fewest deaths among the 50 states. Arizona, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Alabama rank highest in mortality with more than 400 deaths per 100,000 population.
The tragedy has had an urban face. Cities and urban centers were the ones that have registered the most fatalities throughout the pandemic. Los Angeles is followed by Phoenix, with more than 17,300 deaths; Chicago, with 14,300; King County, just outside Frenso, 12,800; Queens, in New York, with 11,875; Houston and Miami, with 10,900 deaths; Las Vegas, with 8,458; Detroit, which added 7,900 and Bronx, with 7,743 deaths. These are the ten cities with the most deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The relaxation of the measures has left an increase in infections. California registers some 8,000 new daily infections, 20% more in the last two weeks. The rise is due to omicron subvariants, more transmissible than the preceding strains, although their effects seem less serious in a country where 66% of the population is vaccinated, although this figure stands at 90% for those over 65 years of age. Some cities on the West Coast are ordering the return of masks for their employees and on public transportation.
New York, the ground zero of the tragedy
Georgina Aguirre, an Ecuadorian who arrived in the United States in 1989 with her daughter, became one of the first fatalities of the pandemic in New York in the spring of 2020, when the city was ground zero for the coronavirus in America. The refrigerated trucks were not enough then to store the bodies rejected by the saturated morgues. Her covid ended her at 59 years old. She “she It was she who gathered everyone around her, family, neighbors, friends; the magnet that she pulled everyone, but because of this virus she had to die alone, as if we had abandoned her. That’s how we buried her, alone, ”she recalled a week ago her daughter, Karly, to a group of neighbors after an anniversary mass, in a populous neighborhood in northern Manhattan.
Aguirre’s death was not only a personal, intimate tragedy -more private if possible due to the impossibility of complying with the collective funeral rites due to confinement-, but a prototypical example of the impact of the coronavirus on the Hispanic community, which together with the African-American It was the hardest hit by the virus. Another example of the inequality that runs through a city that has lost 40,256 of its almost nine million inhabitants to the virus since March 2020; 67,892 deaths in the whole of the State.
Black and Latino New Yorkers were dying at twice the rate of their white or Asian neighbors, according to preliminary data published in April 2020. The death rate from covid among the Latino population was 22.8 per 100,000 inhabitants and that of the black population, of 19.8 per 100,000. By comparison, 10.2 whites died, and 8.4 Asians. The nature of essential workers of most of the victims, from food deliverers to health personnel, police or firefighters, is another characteristic that unites them, having exposed them more to contagion. Also the disparity in vaccination between these communities: African Americans and Latinos have been the most reluctant to be inoculated. The racial disproportion in the impact of the virus was corroborated last February by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC, federal health agency).
As a global figure, corresponding to the country as a whole, if all American adults who died from covid had died at the same rate as whites with a university education, 71% fewer people of color would have died. Although the publication of the data, disaggregated by race, caused some initial discomfort in New York, the public defender of the city achieved his goal that the local and state Governments provide them, as a reminder of the racial gaps that exist.
More than two years later, New York today holds its breath at the spread of the BA.2 omicron sub-variant. The alert level has gone from low to medium in the last two weeks, although the widespread vaccination of the population (79% have received the entire guideline, and 86% of those over 65) keeps the number of deaths to a minimum , 17 a day on average in the last 14 days, an increase of 24%. An infinitesimal percentage compared to that registered at the different peaks of the pandemic, such as that of the delta variant: the holes dug in the esplanade attached to the Greenwood cemetery, in Brooklyn, were reproduced daily.
The onslaught of the coronavirus in the State of New York has left many questions unanswered, such as the total number of deaths in nursing homes, a matter covered in its day by the team of then Governor Andrew Cuomo and that, among other causes, It ended up costing him his job. Also on the socioeconomic impact of the tragedy. The services sector is the one that has recovered the least, due to the special incidence of the virus in its workers. Only 8% of workers in the financial district of Manhattan have returned to their jobs five days a week; the rest continue to telework. Tourism is also far from having recovered, despite the reopening of borders to travelers from abroad, with the exception of China.
Other devastating effects are being noted with a delay: the end of the anti-eviction moratorium to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, last January, has once again reactivated eviction processes that, in the midst of escalating inflation, once again hit those hardest hit by the pandemic: the tenants of the projects, as social housing is known, an overwhelming majority of African Americans and Latinos. The stimulus checks from the federal government also ended, and in September, the extra aid for unemployment. Hence, the new wave of the BA.2 subvariant, although less lethal than the previous ones, finds a large sector of the population exhausted by the efforts of two years of fighting the virus.