COVID-19 is Leading Cause of Death: Time to Act

Mobile morgue in New Jersey, April 27. Credit: Lawrence Purce. source

This week, COVID-19 became the leading cause of death in the U.S. with a weekly high of 12,000. This surpasses the deaths from heart disease per week, our deadliest killer, as well as from strokes or lung cancer. There have been over 15 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and close to 300,000 deaths. As bad as these figures are, they are likely to get far worse in the coming weeks. Healthcare workers are desperately trying to keep up, and there are fears that some hospitals may need to ration care because of staffing shortages, lack of ICU beds and vital equipment like PPE and ventilators. We have not even seen the effects of the Thanksgiving weekend yet, let alone the fallout that we could anticipate from the holiday gatherings for the rest of the year. Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimate the death toll could reach over 500,000 by April, with a daily peak of 3,000 deaths per day in January.

Many of us feel numb to the rising numbers and are tired of the empty ‘frontline workers are heroes’ line spread by those in the government, business owners or in social media. Those at the frontline of this pandemic really are heroes though, since they are the ones being put at greater risk in order to care for the sick in hospitals and clinics, or maintaining essential industries like agriculture. But if we really want to honor our heroes, we need to radically shift how we’re treating the severity of this pandemic. All non-essential work needs to be postponed, people need across-the-board rent and mortgage forgiveness, and a stimulus package that lasts as long as the pandemic. Considering the fact that businesses in the U.S. have made over $637 billion since COVID-19 hit, the resources are there to implement all necessary precautions to keep us out of harm’s way as much as possible before a large percentage of the population has been vaccinated.