As we near the one year mark for many who have been waging the isolating battle for wellbeing during Covid, global case counts have surpassed one hundred million. Of those infected, over 2.1 million have died.
Though the United States has only 4% of the world’s population, it accounted for 25% of all Covid cases and nearly twice the deaths of the next hardest-hit country by casualties, Brazil. America’s lack of a cohesive response to Covid is much to blame for these tragic numbers. A study from researchers at MIT and Vancouver School of Economics comparing deaths in countries that required masks early on, like South Korea, and those that did not, found that if Americans had been required to wear masks since March 2020, at least 40,000 lives could have been saved. America has now lost more people to Covid than World War II.
Globally, the Covid travesty has forced millions to die alone, isolated from their loved ones. We have lost millions of parents and grandparents; brothers and sisters; friends and coworkers. Tens of millions of people now live with holes ripped in their lives by a tiny little virus. These numbers – these lives – at a point become difficult for the human mind to contextualize. Consider this graphic. It contains 40,000 dots. If each dot were to represent an American life lost to covid, it would need to be 10 times larger. It would need to be 50 times larger to represent the world’s casualties.
These figures omit excess deaths, which for the US have risen 9,532% from January 2020 – Dec 31 2021.
What can we learn from the great tragedy of 2020, which follows us into this new year, bringing threats of variants and vaccine distribution inequalities and years of economic repercussions? There is great harm in politicizing the health and wellbeing of nations. We must be willing to concede some of our modern privelages for the benefit of all. We must embrace each other from afar and build each other up to conquer this threat together. And conquer we will. An estimated 5.3 billion doses of vaccine are coming this year from Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca. Potential expansion could net an additional 3 billion doses.
We will soon see our loved ones again and gather in crowds doing those forgotten social things that we humans can’t help but love. As the horror recedes from reality into memory, it will leave in its wake a new world. A new way of life where perhaps we are not tied to an in-person office five days a week. A new appreciation for the opportunity to travel, even if it is just to go home for the holidays. A newfound respect for in-person services like schools and the critical jobs done by essential workers. From these most trying times, a light finally shines at the end of the tunnel with the potential to remake us all. As Hellen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” So who will we become, humanity?