Home / Feature / Coronavirus death toll surpasses U.S. casualties from Vietnam War

Coronavirus death toll surpasses U.S. casualties from Vietnam War



Rayhan Ahmed Topader:


A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 227,000 people worldwide.

More than 3.1 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.The United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 1 million diagnosed cases and at least 60,966 deaths.The coronavirus is spreading from America’s biggest cities to its suburbs, and has begun encroaching on the nation’s rural regions. The virus is believed to have infected millions of citizens and has killed more than 34,000.Yet President Donald Trump this past week proposed guidelines for reopening the economy and suggested that a swath of the United States would soon resume something resembling normalcy. More than 20 experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology and history shared their thoughts on the future during in-depth interviews. The scenario that Trump has been unrolling at his daily press briefings that the lockdowns will end soon, that a protective pill is almost at hand, that football stadiums and restaurants will soon be full is a fantasy, most experts said. We face a doleful future,” said Dr.Harvey Fineberg, a former president of the National Academy of Medicine.

In late March, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who runs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, announced that an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from COVID-19. Ten days later, he lowered that figure to 60,000 a number that is already almost obsolete. Early data shows that the virus is disproportionately affecting both men and communities of color. African Americans comprise more than a fifth of the dead, according to a study on April 27, making the mortality rate 2.7 times higher than for white Americans. It’s been many decades since Americans died en masse on U.S. soil. The last comparable historic death toll was the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed 675,000 Americans. More recently, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 left 1,200 people dead. The terror attacks of Sept.11,2001, killed 2,977. If Fauci’s higher projection materializes, deaths related to COVID-19 will still pale next to the American Civil War, in which nearly a half million Americans died, and World War II, in which 291,557 died in battle. But compared to war and disasters that the majority of Americans alive today can remember, this pandemic is on pace to set deadly records. The pandemic in the United States reached a grim milestone, as more Americans have now died from the coronavirus than in the Vietnam War. In less than three months since the first confirmed death, COVID-19 has killed 58,365 people in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University, surpassing the 58,220 U.S. military deaths in Vietnam.

While far more Vietnamese military and civilians were killed in the nine-year conflict as many as 612,000 civilians and 1.26 million soldiers were killed in total the coronavirus has quickly outpaced the lethality of the United States’ most costly war since WWII. As NPR notes, the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Vietnam was 1968, when 16.899 soldiers were killed for every 100,000 U.S. residents; the rate of the coronavirus is almost double that. While the highest nationwide death tolls have topped 2,000 on six separate days in April, the highest single-day count in Vietnam was on January 31, 1968, when 246 personnel were killed on the second day of the Tet Offensive. New York’s Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi raised the comparison to President Trump: If an American president loses more Americans over the course of six weeks than died in the entirety of the Vietnam War, does he deserve to be reelected? Though Trump has responded to difficult questions at the coronavirus press conferences by attacking reporters, he responded directly, comparing the death toll to the “original projections” without social distancing of 2.2 million. Earlier in the conference, he also raised the expected death toll to 70,000 more than double that of the next closest country. The US has by far the most confirmed Covid-19 cases and deaths, surpassing 1 million confirmed cases. The United States has surpassed 1 million confirmed Covid-19 cases, just a few months after the novel coronavirus first arrived in America.

The confirmed number of cases, based on the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center’s tally, is almost surely an undercount. The US’s initial response to the outbreak was stifled by undertesting and, while America’s testing capacity has increased in the last month, experts say there are still likely many more cases than are actually included in the official counts. Various attempts to roughly capture the share of the population that has been exposed to the coronavirus through serological testing seem to confirm that the US has not fully measured the extent of the outbreak within its own borders. And within a matter of days, the US is also likely to pass another ominous milestone: more than 60,000 confirmed deaths from Covid-19. The current total sits north of 55,000 and more than 1,000 Americans are dying every day from the virus. President Donald Trump once claimed that such a toll would count as a victory, given the projections of millions of deaths if there were no social distancing measure put into place. The ultimate cost in lives of the coronavirus remains to be seen, and, again, experts believe the actual number of people to die from the disease or because the health system has been overstretched is likely much higher than the official count.The US has by far the most confirmed Covid-19 cases (Spain is second with about 230,000) and deaths (Italy is next, with about 27,000), though many countries have the same issues with undertesting and asymptomatic cases make it difficult to track the virus.

China has also acknowledged initially undercounting its cases and outside reporting suggests the pandemic has been deadlier there than the official numbers suggest, though it is difficult to assess whether it has been worse than in America. The US health system was less prepared for a pandemic than those of other wealthy nations. A high uninsured rate, high out-of-pocket health care costs, and low medical system capacity combined to make the country more vulnerable to a pathogen before the coronavirus ever came to our shores. America’s lax response in the early days of the outbreak only compounded those structural problems. Everyone working in this space would agree that no matter how you measure it, the US is far behind on this, Jen Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Vox in mid-March of the initial coronavirus response.

As the US implements dramatic measures to control the spread of Covid-19, with schools and businesses closing and general social distancing underway, the country is still struggling to understand the full scope of the outbreak because of the slow start of testing. It has undeniably hindered the US respons The testing failure is putting additional strain on our already challenged health system, Cynthia Cox, director of the Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker, said in March. The combination of all of these factors will make the US worse off than similar countries.

Testing is not only important because it gets people diagnosed and appropriate treatment if they have an infection, it also establishes how widespread a virus actually is.

Experts know the size of the problem, they know the rate at which people are being hospitalized or dying, and they can follow its movements. But the United States faltered in rolling out corona virus tests, initially putting America behind its economic peers in tracing the outbreak. A manufacturing problem with the test kits that were initially sent out in the field, and a delay in approving commercial tests, set the nation back in stopping or slowing down Covid-19. Even as testing capacity has ramped up in the US, as of April 27, America is still lagging behind other places in the world hit hardest by the virus in the share of its population being tested. The US has tested about far fewer people per million residents as Italy, a focal point of Europe’s outbreak, and Germany, considered a model of rapid and widespread testing. There have been nearly 5.4 million tests conducted in the US for its population of 329 million, but the number of tests per capita conducted varies greatly by state. The US has finally started to catch up to the rest of the developed world in responding to Covid-19. But as case numbers and deaths continue to increase, we’re still learning the full scope of the crisis.

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