Experts from Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center Friday said the recent milestone of 1 million COVID-19 deaths in the United States should serve as a sharp warning that the nation needs to improve disease surveillance, rebuild confidence in public health agencies and invest more in vaccine development.
“We have all been affected by the pandemic, but no more than those who have experienced the death of a loved one,” he said. Brian Garibaldi, CRC Clinical Director and Medical Director of the Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit. “I think it’s important to take the time to reflect on that.”
The United States officially crossed the 1 million death toll on Tuesday, according to CRC data. Johns Hopkins and other experts agree that the number of U.S. and global deaths is likely to be much higher, but that they have gone undetected by inaccurate tracking methods employed by governments.
The recognition of such faulty systems and the lack of the presence of a national strategy for recording home tests has served to undermine public confidence in its healthcare institutions.
“We need to work to restore our faith and trust in medical institutions and health authorities such as the CDC and the WHO,” Garibaldi said. “We need to actively combat misinformation as a threat to public health and the nature of our society.”
Beth BlauerCRC chief data officer and associate vice-provost of Public Sector Innovation, said a figure of 1 million deaths was “unmanageable” at the start of the pandemic and that the milestone is a “gloomy reminder” that Americans continue to die every day of COVID- 19.
“We can not afford to be numb to the numbers.”
Head of CRC Vaccination
But the lack of reliable test data has left the nation “flying blind with a very limited understanding of where the disease is and which communities are being disproportionately affected,” Blauer added.
As Blauer has warned CRC’s Pandemic Data InitiativeSeveral states have begun to reduce their public reporting and tracking, just as new increases are being reported across the country.
“At times, we were able to be very precise about where we sent test resources and vaccine information,” Blauer said. “We’re going to lose the ability to be precise about how we target interventions and mitigations.”
William MossCRC vaccinology manager and CEO of International Vaccine Access Centersaid the nation also needs to do much better to increase vaccination coverage beyond the 67% of the U.S. population who are considered “fully vaccinated,” a category that is changing as recommendations require additional doses.
“This is such a tragic milestone,” Moss said. “But it has been made even more tragic by the fact that many of these deaths could have been prevented by vaccination.”
“We can not afford to be numb to the numbers,” he added. “We need to continue to be vigilant, and one of our best tools is vaccination.”
“It cannot become the new normal that we allow a preventable disease to kill hundreds, if not thousands, of people every day,” he said. “We have seen with careful attention to data, wearing masks, appropriate social distancing, and with vaccines, that we can virtually eliminate death from respiratory viral pathogens if we recognize where they are and act on the data.”
“It can not become the new normal that we allow a preventable disease to kill hundreds, if not thousands, of people every day.”
CRC clinical manager
National and international leaders and the public need to “recognize that climate change is a public health problem.”
“When we think about this pandemic, it’s the third time in the last 20 years that there has been a new coronavirus that has spread from person to person, and each one is worse than the one before,” he said. “This is a general reminder that zoonotic diseases are on the rise as climate change has changed the way we interact with animals in our environment, and the interconnectedness of our world means we need to intensify surveillance, not just in the United States, but everywhere. “
The emergence of monkey pox in Europe and North America should serve as an additional reminder that the global public health industry must also continue to develop new vaccines to be prepared for the next virus that jumps from animals to humans.
Crystal WatsonThe CRC’s public health chief and a senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said the pandemic is still not over and that it will continue to play a significant role in health in the United States and the world for years to come.
“The public health impact of these deaths is much more prevalent than this official figure,” Watson said. “People who have died of COVID have left family and friends, loved ones, and very sadly left children without parents and grandparents to take care of them. And in some cases parents who have to continue without their children.
“The duty goes beyond the deaths themselves,” she added.