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WHO's Unwanted Anniversary

March 11th, 2021 marks one year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 a global pandemic. As the WHO director mentioned in a speech that day, there were 118,000 cases globally by in 114 countries, with 4, 291 deaths. The use of the word Pandemic is not used lightly by the WHO. The last time a global pandemic was declared was 12 years ago for the H1N1 flu of 2009, also known as Swine flu, which originated in Mexico and quickly spread to the United States. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that there were 60 million cases and 12, 469 deaths alone. The global death count for that first year of Swine flu is estimated to be between 100,000 and 400,000. The COVID-19 pandemic dwarfs the Swine Flu in both number of cases and deadliness. 

According to John Hopkins University, to date, COVID-19 has killed at least 2, 623, 286 people worldwide. In the United States alone, at least 529, 377 Americans lost their lives to the disease, the most of any other country. This number of deaths is rather difficult for one to wrap their head around, given that the global population is 7.8 billion and the US population 328.2 million, these deaths truly represent a small percentage of the population. We must remember that for every one death, and for each infection, tens of additional lives are also affected, from loved ones to coworkers. In short, the number of people personally affected by the pandemic is several times that of the death count or case count. In fact, according to the New York Times, one in three Americans has lost someone to the coronavirus. 

For the second time in human history, we have developed a vaccine within the first year of the outbreak, with the achievement first achieved in 2009 in response to the Swine Flu. The Swine Flu pandemic, however, benefitted by being an Influenza outbreak. There was an abundance of resources, like antiviral drugs and past experience with influenza, that helped reduce the impact of the pandemic. The coronavirus, on the other hand, was both more contagious and less well understood, so the feat of getting a virus developed in one year is worth celebrating. Not to mention, not one, but three vaccines have received an emergency use authorization from the FDA, and rumor has it that a fourth AstraZenica vaccine  will apply for emergency use authorization in a few weeks.  

The vaccine offers hope for a better year in 2021. Since the triumphant December day vaccines started to roll out, 95.7 million doses have been administered, representing 18.8% of the US population, and couting. Case numbers have also been steadily dropping, with some schools making moves to resume or expand in-person learning. However, there are still a lot more doses needed to reach herd immunity, and with a new, deadlier strain of the virus going around, receiving the vaccine doesn’t mean you can walk around mask-free in public and attend large gatherings. Fortunately, though, the CDC guidelines do reward the fully vaccinated with newfound privileges, such as the right to visit with small groups of fully vaccinated people and unvaccinated people with low risk for severe Covid-disease indoors without wearing masks or practicing social distancing. States, including Texas, Virginia, Maryland, Arizona, among others, have lifted their Coronavirus restrictions given the increasing vaccination rate and falling case numbers. 

The House passed the 1.9 trillion dollar “American Rescue Plan” stimulus package on Wednesday, March 10th,  that includes a $1,400 check to most Americans. Those with kids may be eligible to receive $3,000 tax credit for each child between the ages of 6 and 17, and $3, 600 for children under 6. President Biden is scheduled to sign the bill on Friday, March 12

One year after WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic we now have hope, though we must still err on the side of caution. With a new virus strain and the coming Spring flu season, we must not walk too fast toward normalcy or else risk the improvements we have achieved, even if your state or local government has lifted its Covid restrictions. Here’s to a better 2021.

 

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