‘We thought we were prepared and we weren’t: Expert looks back at COVID response as US nears 1 million deaths

The United States is approaching a grim milestone: 1 million deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The United States is approaching a grim milestone: 1 million deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

NBC News data showed Wednesday that 1 million deaths in the U.S. have been caused by COVID-19, while other virus tracking sources project that amount in the coming days.

For perspective, that’s greater than the entire population of Jacksonville. Behind each one of those deaths is a family missing a loved one.

With the availability of vaccines, treatments and much higher rates of resilience, the rate of hospitalizations has fallen to a fraction of its peak.

The Mayo Clinic says its COVID-19 patient numbers have remained “relatively low and stable,” while Baptist Health reports it has just 19 COVID-19 patients across its five hospitals.

UF Health is reporting 11 COVID-19 patients in its hospital. Chad Neilsen, UF Health Jacksonville director of infection prevention, said the general public and the medical community will likely be learning from the disease -- and how we responded to it -- for years to come.

“We’re going to look across the spectrum of the world to see who did this better, who preserved life better, how they handled their population differently than we did to see what are those best lessons that we can move forward,” Neilsen said.

The epidemiologist added that those lessons will be learned by examining how the United States tackled the coronavirus through vaccines and treatments, how its medical facilities and hospitals were able to handle the strain of mass outbreaks, and how governments and health departments communicated with the population in an attempt to fight the disease cooperatively.

“We thought we were prepared and we weren’t,” Neilsen said. “So I think that’s a big lesson learned for all of health care, all of government and aid agencies. We have a lot to do in terms of learning from what happened in the early part of this pandemic, in terms of how to respond potentially to the next -- and those lessons are coming.”

According to Johns Hopkins University, COVID-19 is responsible for 6,246,577 deaths worldwide as of this article’s publication.

A recent report from the World Health Organization said the total estimated number of deaths caused by COVID-19 --including deaths that resulted from COVID-19-related overflow in hospitals -- is 14.9 million around the world.


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