US COVID-19 cases fall for 4th consecutive week: 9 CDC stats to know

17 Downward trend Synonyms. Similar words for Downward trend.

COVID-19 cases have declined nationwide for the fourth consecutive week, according to the CDC’s COVID data tracker weekly review published Oct. 15.

Nine numbers to know:

Reported cases

1. The nation’s current seven-day case average is 84,555, a 12.5 percent decrease from the previous week’s average.

Hospitalizations 

2. The current seven-day hospitalization average for Oct. 6-12 is 6,659, an 8.8 percent drop from the previous week’s average.

Vaccinations

3. About 218 million people — 65.6 percent of the total U.S. population — have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 188.3 million people, or 56.7 percent of the population, have gotten both doses. 

4. About 9.3 million booster doses in fully vaccinated people have been reported.

5. The seven-day average number of vaccines administered daily was 841,731 as of Oct. 14, a  11.3 percent decrease from the previous week.

Variants

6. Based on projections for the week ending Oct. 9, the CDC estimates the delta variant accounts for more than 99 percent of all U.S. COVID-19 cases.

Deaths 

7. The current seven-day death average is 1,241, down 13.4 percent from the previous week’s average. Some historical deaths have been excluded from these counts, the CDC said.

Testing

8. The seven-day average for percent positivity from tests is 5.7 percent, down 4.1 percent from the previous week.  

9. The nation’s seven-day average test volume for the week of Oct. 1-7 was about 1.49 million, down 5.4 percent from the prior week’s average.

How much worse will the ‘delta surge’ get? Watch these 7 factors.

https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2021/08/09/delta-surge

Last spring, my Advisory Board colleagues and I were optimistic that the United States could be trending toward a “good” outcome in the Covid-19 pandemic. But now, the delta variant is coursing through the country. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably asking yourself just how worried we should be. When will we hit a peak and see hospitalizations—which are on the rise in many parts of the country—decline? Amid the constant headlines of case numbers, vaccine efficacy, mask mandates, and other Covid-19 news, I think it’s crucial to step back and ask: What factors really matter?

Let’s be very specific about which factors we should be following—and which we should deprioritize. Below, I’ve identified seven factors to pay close attention to and two factors that may be more distracting than helpful.

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7 factors to watch amid the delta surge

1. The transmissibility of the delta variant in the United States

One of the most striking factors underlying the delta surge is its heightened transmissibility—this is the most transmissible Covid-19 variant we have seen yet. The delta variant, B.1.617.2, now accounts for over 83% of new infections in the United States. And unlike past variants, this one is spreading among both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. In fact, CDC documents recently revealed that vaccinated individuals may spread the virus just as easily as unvaccinated people, given similar levels of viral load between the two groups.
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There is also a third group of people that we know even less about in the context of the variant’s transmissibility: people who are unvaccinated but potentially have some degree of natural immunity from previous coronavirus infection. Nobody knows exactly how long their immunity will last and what levels of protection they have against the delta variant. But early research has indicated that natural immunity may not supply sufficient protection against the delta variant.

Understandably, this is all worrisome. But it is important to consider the effect of infection on different populations. And that brings us to our next factor.

2.Vaccine effectiveness against serious illness from delta—and uptake among unvaccinated individuals

No vaccine can provide 100% protection—and it’s important to remember that most vaccines are designed to prevent serious illness and death, NOT to prevent infection. That is why media reports about fully vaccinated individuals getting infected with the delta variant can be misleading. The important indicator to watch for is not necessarily the infection rate, but how many of those infections lead to serious illness or death. If a breakthrough infection is usually asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, the main concern is spreading the variant to at-risk populations—namely, unvaccinated people and those with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions.

The bad news is, we don’t currently have great data on this. The latest CDC data showed that less than 0.004% of fully vaccinated individuals had a breakthrough case that led to hospitalization and less than 0.001% died from a breakthrough case of Covid-19. But CDC Director Rochelle Walensky later clarified that those numbers are based on data from January through June, meaning they do not take into account the worst of the delta variant surge, which picked up in earnest in late June and early July.

But there is some reason to be optimistic: Among the 469 breakthrough cases tracked from the Provincetown outbreak in early July, only four led to hospitalization—and there were zero deaths. And preliminary studies from around the globe suggest that all three vaccines available in the United States still offer protection from the delta variant: two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech is 88% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 and 96% effective against hospitalization, a single dose of Moderna’s two-dose vaccine is 72% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19, and Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine is 85% effective at preventing severe disease. Even among those vaccinated individuals who do end up in the hospital, we can look at new data from Singapore showing that patients hospitalized due to the delta variant are less likely to require supplemental oxygen and clear the virus faster relative to unvaccinated patients. All of this is reassuring as the data suggests vaccines are largely keeping their promise to stave off serious disease, hospitalizations, and death.
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This early research suggests that vaccine uptake will remain one of the most crucial factors in determining how worrisome the current surge is—and how it will impact the health care delivery system. After several months of decline, the national vaccination rate is now at its highest level in over a month, and we are observing the most notable increases in vaccine uptake in states with the highest case rates.

3. Vaccine immunity duration

The delta variant has not only prompted a renewed push to increase vaccinations among the previously unvaccinated, but it has also raised questions about the duration of immunity among those who may have been vaccinated several months ago. While the latest data on vaccine duration is not specific to the delta variant, it does suggest that overall efficacy may begin to decline around the six-month mark.

That information, coupled with the increase in breakthrough infections since the delta variant emerged, has accelerated the debate over whether booster shots are needed. Federal regulators are currently researching whether a booster shot is required, and recently announced plans to accelerate extra vaccine doses to immunocompromised individuals. We expect that this is an area where the research will continue to evolve quickly—researchers are learning more on a week-by-week basis. We’ll be keeping a close eye on what the latest research says and how the federal government responds in developing a plan for potential booster shots.

4. Severe Covid-19 cases among children under 12

Rates of Covid-19 infection and severe illness have been relatively low among children. However, it’s worth noting that small numbers of children have been hospitalized from the virus, and it can cause long-term side effects like MIS-C and “long Covid-19.” CDC has not yet released data showing delta variant symptoms among children, but some children’s hospitals have reported increases in hospitalizations related to the delta variant.
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Pfizer and Moderna are in the process of clinical trials testing the safety of their vaccines for children under 12. But it may be months before those trials lead to decisions, and children in some parts of the country have already begun to return to school in person. Without a vaccine, a child’s only practical defense against spreading and getting the virus is following public health guidelines like hand washing and mask wearing. But some states—Iowa, Florida, Montana, Arizona, and North Dakota—have passed laws that prevent local governments from mandating masks. Many more states have passed laws making mask mandates harder to implement, like the Kansas law allowing citizens to sue their local government over Covid-19 restrictions.

As school resumes in the United States, we will have to pay close attention to the transmissibility Covid-19 among unvaccinated children, the severity of such cases among children, and the potential long-term effects.

5. Hospitalization rates, particularly at the local level

Plain and simple—the higher the number of hospitalizations, the more worried we should be. Hospitalizations tell us how many people have more severe cases of Covid-19. But they also tell us what level of strain the U.S. health care system is under.

So, what are we seeing right now? CDC’s latest 7-day average shows nearly 50,000 people hospitalized across the United States, which is similar to rates seen last summer. Unsurprisingly, there is regional variation, with some states experiencing worse flareups than others. Most of the highly impacted regions have low vaccination rates: On Monday, there were more Covid-19 hospitalizations in Florida than at any other time in the pandemic. In Louisiana, hospitalizations have spiked to “never-before-seen levels,” breaking the previous record set in January—and leading to expectations that facilities will be overwhelmed again. As we move forward, we may see “hyperlocal outbreaks,” where low-vaccination regions surrounded by high vaccination areas could end up with concentrated outbreaks.
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It’s important to keep an eye on local vaccination rates because it’s clear that unvaccinated individuals and communities are more vulnerable. But that doesn’t mean communities with higher vaccination rates are immune. Given the fact that there is more interconnectedness than ever between communities today, and the fact that we haven’t achieved true herd immunity even in areas with relatively high vaccination rates, even “highly” vaccinated communities could see outbreaks. For example, intensive care units are filling up with Covid-19 patients in Santa Monica, California, where roughly 80% of residents are vaccinated.

At this point, it seems clear that there will be a heightened strain on hospitals relative to the previous few months of “calm”—and data from abroad suggests it may get worse before it gets better.

6. Covid-19 trends in ‘bellwether countries’

Recent decreases of Covid-19 cases in India and the U.K. are a heartening sign that recovery from a delta surge is possible. In India, cases peaked at over 400,000 a day in May. Last week, they experienced roughly 39,000 daily cases with a 48% decrease in the daily death count—a stark reduction. In the U.K., cases have dropped from roughly 47,000 in mid-July to nearly 27,000 the first week of August, even after their government lifted nearly all Covid-19 restrictions.

Sudden spikes may have been fueled by mass congregations of people: the EuroCup in England, April election rallies in India, and fourth of July celebrations in the United States. The subsequent declines in India and the UK suggest that delta could move through a crowd quickly and limiting large crowd gatherings could help stem the spread. It’s also possible that herd immunity is behind the rapid decrease, due to the combination of vaccination rates and infection levels. That could be a hopeful sign for regions of the U.S. that are struggling with high infection rates now but seeing increases in vaccinations.

But we’ll want to continue watching the research closely. Scientists aren’t yet sure exactly what lead to the rapid declines, meaning we can’t be entirely confident that the United States. will follow the same trajectory as the U.K. and India.

7. Global vaccination rates—and the emergence of new variants

The United States is just one part of an interconnected world. It impacts (and is impacted by) global trends in health. It’s overwhelmingly clear—everything we do is a collaboration, and moving through this pandemic is no exception.
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To date, about 27% of the global population has been vaccinated. The latest vaccination rate is roughly 42.5 million doses per day, which means it will take at least another five months to cover 75% of the world’s population. Just a few short months ago, the global vaccination rate had us estimating we’d need more than 4.6 years to achieve global herd immunity with two-dose vaccine regimens.

Five months is better than 4.6 years, but that assumes the vaccination rate will remain the same. With ongoing vaccine hesitancy and inequitable access in low-resource countries, we shouldn’t just assume this will be the case. If we see a drop in global vaccination rates, we will see an extension in the time it takes to reach a semblance of global herd immunity. The more time we spend in this phase, the more opportunities the coronavirus has to mutate into the next variant. And the next variant could be even more transmissible and deadlier than the delta.

Even with President Biden’s pledge to donate half a billion Pfizer vaccines to 92 low- and lower middle-income countries by June 2022, stronger efforts are needed to see a faster global impact. And efforts to increase the global vaccination rates could mean trade-offs elsewhere. For example, the World Health Organization has pled for a moratorium on booster shots until September to allow lower-resourced nations ability to receive initial vaccinations.

2 factors that may be distracting your response to the delta surge

Knowing what not to focus on is just as important as knowing what to focus on. And there are two factors in particular that have grabbed a lot of the headlines—but that actually tell us very little without additional context.

1. Covid-19 case counts

Case counts alone are no longer sufficient for tracking the severity of any variant, or the virus as a whole. But with the advent of the vaccine and better understanding of how to treat the virus, the calculus has changed, and so too should the metrics we give our attention to. It’s been clear for some time that the goal is not necessarily to eliminate Covid-19 (in fact, research increasingly suggests it’s highly likely to become endemic). Instead, we should aim to protect against severe illness and ensure our system has enough capacity to treat sick patients. Severity of illness—and corresponding hospitalization rates—are far more important metrics to track at this point.
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As detailed above, the latest research continues to suggest that vaccines are highly protective in preventing severe illness, even against the delta variant. So as more people get vaccinated, case count numbers are likely to become less accurate. They run the risk of either overestimating the problem (if most cases are only mildly symptomatic) or underestimating the problem (if we miss a lot of asymptomatic people who can still spread the virus to the more vulnerable).

2. The percentage of total infections and hospitalizations that are breakthrough cases

We’ve all seen the recent headlines highlighting the large numbers and percentage of breakthrough infections. Here’s the thing to remember: This is exactly what we would expect to see as vaccination rates increase. The number of breakthrough infections and hospitalizations will increase as more people get vaccinated. The outbreak in Provincetown highlights this well. Yes, roughly 75% of cases were among vaccinated individuals, but most individuals there were vaccinated. Naturally, a high percentage of the cases would be “breakthrough.” And remember, very few were hospitalized and no one died from a breakthrough case as a result of that outbreak.

Breakthrough infections alone are not a bad thing. Breakthrough illness, on the other hand, is more worrisome. If we see the rates of breakthrough illness increase, then it’s time to worry a bit more.

Parting thoughts

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the constant updates related to Covid-19. While there are more than seven factors you could follow, I believe these are the most important right now. And the clear thread that runs through all of these is that vaccines remain one of the key solutions to move through this pandemic. It’s becoming clearer that Covid-19 is unlikely to go away—new variants will arise and so will respective public health measures. But if there is one thing I can confidently say right now, it is that the more vaccinations that are administered in the United States and around the world, the less worried we can all be.

Is the delta surge truly ending? Here’s why some experts aren’t so sure.

The Delta Surge May Collapse Faster Than You Think | MedPage Today

With Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths declining across the country, some people are hopeful about a potential end to the delta surge. However, public health experts continue to encourage safety measures and vaccinations to mitigate another potential winter surge.

Is the delta surge declining?

According to the New York Times, delta-driven coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are declining. Since Sept. 1, the number of daily new Covid-19 cases in the United States has decreased by 35%. In the past two weeks alone, the number of new daily cases has fallen by 24% to around 101,000.

In addition, new Covid-19 deaths have decreased by 12% to 1,829 a day, and hospitalizations have decreased 20% to fewer than 75,000 a day—a first since early August, the Times reports.

“Barring something unexpected,” Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner, said, “I’m of the opinion that this is the last major wave of infection.”

Edwin Michael, a professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida, agreed with Gottlieb’s assessment, saying, “[T]his might be the last wave, pending any new variants that arrive, and the boosters will help with that.”

According to STAT News, some experts suggest that the United States has reached an “inflection point,” in which the coronavirus is gradually transitioning from an epidemic phase to an endemic phase. As an endemic virus, the coronavirus will still cause infection, disease, and death, but it will be more manageable.

When asked whether Covid-19 could be endemic, Stephen Kissler, an epidemiologist at Harvard University‘s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said, “We’ve still got a little work left to do, but my hope is that we’re approaching something ever closer to normalcy.”

Health experts continue to urge caution

However, even with the delta surge on an apparent decline, many public health experts continue to urge caution, saying that the pandemic is still a threat, the Times reports.

“We don’t want to celebrate even though we feel like we’re on the back end of this surge—we learned our lesson from doing that,” said Kirsten Bibbins, an epidemiologist and physician at the University of California, San Francisco. “[I]n this pandemic, you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington, agreed. “We’re not out of danger,” he said. “This virus is too opportunistic and has taught us one lesson after another.”

Mokdad said he was worried people would disregard public safety precautions by wearing masks less often and traveling more, just as they did when earlier surges declined—potentially fueling a jump in cases in December and January.

Some experts are also concerned about the potential emergence of a new coronavirus variant that could kick-start another surge, much like the delta variant did at the beginning of the summer.

“There were similar conjectures [about the pandemic ending] before the delta variant appeared and knocked all our assumptions for a loop,” said Stephen Morse, an epidemiologist at Columbia University Medical Center. “We don’t know whether [a new variant will emerge], but we weren’t expecting delta either.”

In addition, there is still the possibility of a surge in cases during the winter months, STAT News reports.

According to Sen Pei, who studies the transmission dynamics of infectious disease at the University of Columbia‘s Mailman School of Public Health, viruses survive better in cooler, drier weather, and people will gather indoors more frequently in the fall and winter. Holiday gatherings could also lead to more close social contact, further increasing the risk of spreading the virus.

Vaccination remains a necessity to combat surges

Most Covid-19 deaths during the latest surge were among the unvaccinated, the Times reports. Today, around 68 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated—leaving the United States vulnerable to future surges.

In particular, areas with low vaccination rates, along with a lack of public safety precautions, may be more likely to experience Covid-19 surges in the future, STAT News reports. According to data from the University of Iowa, rural Americans are already twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than urban Americans.

“It is becoming clearer that any challenge to hospital capacity this fall and winter is likely to be dictated by regional vaccination rates,” modelers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s PolicyLab said.

Currently, vaccination rates in the United States have slowed to fewer than 700,000 doses a day, the Commonwealth Fund reports.

However, a simulation model of 10 states by the Commonwealth Fund found that increasing daily vaccination rates by 50% over the pace they were at in the last week of August would lead to 344,341 fewer Covid-19 cases; 19,500 fewer hospitalizations; and 6,900 fewer deaths across the next six months. These potential reductions were largely concentrated in the Southern states included in the model, such as Texas and Florida.

Vaccination works best as prevention,” the Commonwealth Fund said. “Quickly increasing population immunity now can prevent needless Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths while keeping hospital beds open and staffed for people with other serious health problems.”

U.S. hits 700,000 COVID deaths

https://www.axios.com/covid-deaths-700000-us-6dd0223d-562a-41b9-a780-ef54e646b07e.html

The U.S. surpassed 700,000 deaths from the coronavirus on Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Why it matters: A summer of division over vaccine and masking mandates only added to the surge in cases caused by the Delta variant. The U.S. went from 600,000 deaths to 700,000 in the span of three-and-a-half months.

  • Public health experts have become increasingly frustrated as thepandemic of the unvaccinatedspread across the country.
  • Roughly 70 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated, AP reports.

Coronavirus vaccine mandates are working — for now

Coronavirus vaccine mandates imposed by employers seem to be working so far, suggesting that most vaccine holdouts would rather get the shot than lose their job, Axios’ Caitlin Owens writes.

Why it matters: Every vaccine helps in our fight against the coronavirus, although the U.S. still has a long way to go.

Driving the news: States with vaccine mandates for health care workers that have taken effect, like California and New York, have seen a large uptick in vaccinations.

  • These, of course, are blue states and have higher vaccination rates to begin with. But some health systems in red states, like Texas, have seen similar results when their mandates took effect.
  • High-profile mandates outside of the health care sector have also been successful. For instance, United Airlines achieved nearly 100% vaccination among its employees, and Tyson Foods announced that more than 90% of its workers are now vaccinated.
  • The Biden administration announced that it will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly, but this hasn’t yet been implemented.

Yes, but: Hospitals and long-term care facilities are already stretched so thin that it won’t take a mass exodus for them to feel the effects of layoffs.

  • In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order last week to help provide relief to health systems struggling with staff shortages.
  • The Biden administration announced nursing home workers will soon be required to be vaccinated, which could be a much tougher lift. Only about two-thirds of nursing home staff are vaccinated.

What they’re saying: “As we get down to the harder core unvaccinated who are more resistant, what we are seeing is that reality is a more powerful tool to change behavior than information and messaging,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of KFF.

An unsettling start to the school year

https://mailchi.mp/a2cd96a48c9b/the-weekly-gist-october-1-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

As a long hoped-for sign of the “return to normal”, most children went back to in-person learning this fall. And with the patchwork of COVID safety protocols and masking policies across school districts, classrooms became a learning lab for scientists studying the efficacy of masking and other precautions.

Unsurprisingly, getting a bunch of unvaccinated kids back together caused a surge in pediatric COVID cases. But recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data from 500 counties demonstrate just how effective mask mandates have been at mitigating outbreaks.

The graphic above shows that cases in counties without school mask mandates increased at nearly three times the rate of those with mask mandates. In the five-week period spanning the start of the school year, cases in counties without a mask mandate rose by 62.6 cases per 100K children, while cases in counties with a mask mandate rose by only 23.8 per 100K. COVID outbreaks are incredibly disruptive to learning; according to a recent KFF survey, nearly a quarter of parents report their child has already had to quarantine at home this school year following a possible COVID exposure.

Even once vaccines are approved for children under 12, recent data suggest that a majority of parents will be hesitant to vaccinate their child. Just over half of 12- to 17-year-olds have received at least one dose of the vaccine so far, and only a third of parents of 5- to 11-year-olds plan to vaccinate their child right away, once the shot is approved.

Many want more information, or are worried about side effects—concerns that will best be assuaged by their pediatricians and other trusted sources of unbiased information.

Statistics of the Day on Vaccination

The magic of 70% and masks.

May be an image of text that says 'Stark correlation between California counties' vaccination and case rates Region: Bay Area GaS San Joaquin Valley Northern California Southern California STATE 50 ga 25 45% population with least one dose California's new COVID cases are settling down after this summer's surge, and a divide has clearly emerged.'

This chart shows that once 70% of the population gets at least one shot and mask compliance is very good: you can beat this virus.

Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective in kids ages 5 to 11

https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/572967-pfizer-says-its-covid-19-vaccine-is-safe-effective-in-kids-ages-5-to-11

COVID vaccine for kids 5-11: Pfizer says low dose safe, effective

Pfizer on Monday announced that testing showed that its COVID-19 vaccine was “safe” and “well tolerated” by children ages 5 to 11 and “robust neutralizing antibody responses” were observed.

The pharmaceutical company said that a “favorable safety profile” had been observed in its trial of the vaccine among children under the age of 12. For its trial, the company used doses a third of what is administered to people ages 12 and up.

“Over the past nine months, hundreds of millions of people ages 12 and older from around the world have received our COVID-19 vaccine. We are eager to extend the protection afforded by the vaccine to this younger population, subject to regulatory authorization, especially as we track the spread of the Delta variant and the substantial threat it poses to children,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said.

“Since July, pediatric cases of COVID-19 have risen by about 240 percent in the U.S. – underscoring the public health need for vaccination. These trial results provide a strong foundation for seeking authorization of our vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old, and we plan to submit them to the [Food and Drug Administration (FDA)] and other regulators with urgency,” he added.

Pfizer’s trial included 2,268 participants between the ages of 5 and 11. According to the company, the doses resulted in side effects comparable to what was observed among the trial for patients ages 16 to 25. It also said that it expects to include its results in an upcoming submission to the FDA for emergency use authorization.

In the U.S., no COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for children under the age of 12, leaving many children and the adults who are in close proximity to them particularly vulnerable during the most recent surge brought on by the delta variant.

National Institute of Health Director Francis Collins on Sunday said he believed parents and teachers should be placed in the same category as health care workers in terms of COVID-19 risk, due to their close contact with children who are ineligible to be vaccinated.

In August, the number of pediatric hospitalizations in the U.S. due to COVID-19 reached a record high of nearly 2,000. While children are generally believed to be less likely to develop severe cases of the coronavirus, new variants continue to pose the potential threat of causing more severe symptoms.

This announcement comes shortly after an advisory panel for the FDA voted last week in favor of recommending a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people over 65 and in certain high-risk groups. The panel voted against administering a third dose to all vaccine-eligible people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 75 percent of the eligible population — ages 12 and up — has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Around 64 percent of those over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated.

The pandemic marks anothergrim milestone: 1 in 500Americans have died of covid-19

At a certain point, it was no longer a matter of if the United States would reach the gruesome milestone of 1 in 500 people dying of covid-19, but a matter of when. A year? Maybe 15 months? The answer: 19 months.

Given the mortality rate from covid and our nation’s population size, “we’re kind of where we predicted we would be with completely uncontrolled spread of infection,” said Jeffrey D. Klausner, clinical professor of medicine, population and public health sciences at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. “Remember at the very beginning, which we don’t hear about anymore, it was all about flatten the curve.”

The idea, he said, was to prevent “the humanitarian disaster” that occurred in New York City, where ambulance sirens were a constant as hospitals were overwhelmed and mortuaries needed mobile units to handle the additional dead.

The goal of testing, mask-wearing, keeping six feet apart and limiting gatherings was to slow the spread of the highly infectious virus until a vaccine could stamp it out. The vaccines came but not enough people have been immunized, and the triumph of science waned as mass death and disease remain. The result: As the nation’s covid death toll exceeded 663,000 this week, it meant roughly 1 in every 500 Americans had succumbed to the disease caused by the coronavirus.

While covid’s death toll overwhelms the imagination, even more stunning is the deadly efficiency with which it has targeted Black, Latino, and American Indian and Alaska Native people in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

Death at a younger age represents more lost years of life. Lost potential. Lost scholarship. Lost mentorship. Lost earnings. Lost love.

Neighborhoods decimated. Families destroyed.

“So often when we think about the majority of the country who have lost people to covid-19, we think about the elders that have been lost, not necessarily younger people,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, executive vice president at the Seattle Indian Health Board and director of the Urban Indian Health Institute. “Unfortunately, this is not my reality nor that of the Native community. I lost cousins and fathers and tribal leaders. People that were so integral to building up our community, which has already been struggling for centuries against all these things that created the perfect environment for covid-19 to kill us.”

Six of Echo-Hawk’s friends and relatives — all under 55 — have died of covid.

“This is trauma. This is generational impact that we must have an intentional focus on. The scars are there,” said Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of President Biden’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force and associate dean for health equity research at Yale University. “We can’t think that we’re going to test and vaccinate our way out of this deep pain and hurt.”

The pandemic has brought into stark relief centuries of entwining social, environmental, economic and political factors that erode the health and shorten the lives of people of color, putting them at higher risk of the chronic conditions that leave immune systems vulnerable to the coronavirus. Many of those same factors fuel the misinformation, mistrust and fear that leave too many unprotected.

Take the suggestion that people talk to their doctor about which symptoms warrant testing or a trip to the hospital as well as the safety of vaccines. Seems simple. It’s not.

Many people don’t have a physician they see regularly due in part to significant provider shortages in communities of color. If they do have a doctor, it can cost too much money for a visit even if insured. There are language barriers for those who don’t speak English fluently and fear of deportation among undocumented immigrants.

“Some of the issues at hand are structural issues, things that are built into the fabric of society,” said Enrique W. Neblett Jr., a University of Michigan professor who studies racism and health.

Essential workers who cannot avoid the virus in their jobs because they do not have the luxury of working from home. People living in multigenerational homes with several adult wage-earners, sharing housing because their pay is so low. Even the fight to be counted among the covid casualties — some states and hospitals, Echo-Hawk said, don’t have “even a box to check to say you are American Indian or Alaskan Native.”

It can be difficult to tackle the structural issues influencing the unequal burden of the pandemic while dealing with the day-to-day stress and worry it ignites, which, Neblett said, is why attention must focus on both long-term solutions and “what do we do now? It’s not just that simple as, ‘Oh, you just put on your mask, and we’ll all be good.’ It’s more complicated than that.”

The exacting toll of the last year and a half — covid’s stranglehold on communities of color and George Floyd’s murder — forced the country to interrogate the genealogy of American racism and its effect on health and well-being.

“This is an instance where we finally named it and talked about structural racism as a contributing factor in ways that we haven’t with other health disorders,” Neblett said.

But the nation’s attention span can be short. Polls show there was a sharp rise in concern about discrimination against Black Americans by police following Floyd’s murder, including among White Americans. That concern has eroded some since 2020, though it does remain higher than years past.

“This mistaken understanding that people have, almost this sort of impatience like, ‘Oh, we see racism. Let’s just fix that,’ that’s the thing that gives me hives,” Nunez-Smith said. “This is about generational investments and fundamental changes in ways of being. We didn’t get here overnight.”