As fatigued as we all are of COVID-19, it would be disrespectful today not to recognize and mourn the horrible milestone we'll likely cross by Monday — the deaths of 1 million Americans to a virus that could and should have been snuffed out last year had it not become another ridiculous political culture war talking point.
One million of us dead is not just a number.
It is one million people who, had we never heard of this virus in early 2020, would still be breathing and laughing and loving among us.
And one million of us dead is something none of us would ever have imagined possible in the modern and technical world in which we live. Even now, it's hard sometimes to wrap our heads around the impact of one million dead.
Thanks to a wonderful recent Washington Post opinion video about this unprecedented American tragedy, here are some eye openers:
Within weeks of the first reported U.S. COVID death, that of a middle-aged man in Washington state, the virus had killed more people than all of the plane crashes in the U.S. in the previous 20 years.
By late March 2020, it had killed more people than were lost in Hurricane Katrina's 2005 hit on New Orleans.
By early April that year, COVID had killed more Americans than all the service members killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
About two weeks later, the virus was killing so regularly that it was like being hit by a 9/11 terrorist attack every other day, and by late May it had claimed its first 100,000 lives.
By December, 300,000 of us were gone, and by March: 542,000.
During the winter of 2021, about 2,500 people died daily — roughly the equivalent of having a Pearl Harbor attack every day for three consecutive months.
Vaccinations slowed the disease, and July 2021 saw the lowest monthly toll in more than a year — 8,600.
But then came vaccine resistance. And the delta variant. In September and October another 100,000 of us succumbed and COVID's cumulative toll of 744,000 deaths that fall surpassed the losses of the 1918 influenza pandemic in the U.S.
On delta's heels came omicron and more than 2,000 a day died in January and February this year — more than 125,000 deaths in two months.
The Washington Post notes:
"Historians estimate the death toll for the American Civil War to be about 750,000 military and 50,000 civilian deaths. COVID killed tens of thousands more people, in about half the time."
Today, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising in a majority of American states in what appears to be the first widespread increase since the peak of omicron early this year, according to The New York Times.
Virus cases are up here, too: As of Friday, 14-day changes in cases per 100,000 residents were up 88% in Tennessee, up 55% in Georgia and up 67% in Alabama, the Times reports.
Nationally, 78% of people are vaccinated, 66% are fully vaccinated and 31% are boosted.
In our states? Nowhere close.
Our fully vaxed numbers hover between 51% and 55% and in the last two weeks, cases of the highly contagious BA.2 subvariant of omicron have more than doubled in states across the country from West Virginia to Utah.
There is some good news in the Times report. Though it's clearly too soon to count COVID as over, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows more than 60% of Americans have been infected with the virus at least once, "lending credence to the belief that the modest effects [milder cases] of this surge could reflect growing immunity from previous infections and vaccinations.
That is encouraging. Still, it doesn't bring back the 1 million lives we've lost — 1,151 here in Hamilton County.
Hug your family and friends. And stay safe out there.