The official death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continues to rise to staggering heights. In the United States, more than 570,000 lives have been lost due to the disease. Worldwide, the number exceeds 2,890,000. The daily number of cases and deaths is growing internationally, as the further spread of new and more contagious variants threatens to exceed last year’s decline.
Moreover, the actual number of deaths attributed to the disease and its consequences is in reality far higher. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that the number of “excess deaths” in 2020, those deaths above expectations based on previous years’ averages, exceeded 503,000, 42 percent more than officially recorded coronavirus deaths.
But even this mass mortality is only one reflection of the reality of the pandemic. Just as millions of people have died, tens of millions of them are suffering and continue to suffer from what in a rational society could be a preventable disease.
Among them are a multitude of children who have lost a parent to the coronavirus. An article in JAMA Pediatrics magazine, written by Rachel Kidman and her colleagues published Monday, reveals that “an estimated 37,000 to 43,000” children in the U.S. now suffer from parental grief as a result of the pandemic, three-quarters of whom are adolescents . In contrast, about 20,000 American children lost their parents as a result of the Vietnam War.
And as Kidman notes, these are just children who have lost a parent, not another relative or person who is their primary caregiver, nor have they looked at the impact of the many thousands of parents who have lost children or a wider circle of friends, co-workers and families knew those who died.
Kidman and her co-authors also note the dangers of failure to contain the disease. If left unchecked, her team estimated that there would be a total of 1.5 million pandemic-related deaths in the U.S., leaving “116,900 parentally grieving children.” In other words, if society wants to “live with the disease,” as it is now being promoted by political, corporate, and media officials, at least another 75,000 to 80,000 young people who have lost at least one parent to the coronavirus must grow up.
However, it is precisely this arithmetic that the Biden administration is on, as it calls for a complete reopening of personal learning in schools, while at the same time constantly abandoning safety guidelines. Schools have been shown to be among the main ways of spreading the pandemic, both through teachers and students, and are especially dangerous now that, according to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, “ [more contagious and deadly] Variant B.1.1.7 is now the most common vine circulating in the United States. “
Moreover, despite the cynical claims of the Biden administration about the cost of schooling and children’s mental health, that cost is already huge. New findings published in Lancet Psychiatry The journal found that among more than 236,000 patients with COVID-19 in the United States, 34 percent were diagnosed with a neurological or psychiatric condition within six months of the initial infection. Common symptoms are anxiety and mood disorders, while seven percent had a stroke and another seven percent developed drug abuse disorders. For thirteen percent of respondents, this was the first recorded neurological or psychiatric diagnosis.
In general for all those who have had coronavirus, these results suggest that more than 45 million people have or will acquire a neurological or mental problem as a result of COVID-19.
The study also documented further long-term effects caused by the coronavirus even after patients “recovered.” Doctors at Danderyd Hospital and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden recently reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that 11 percent of people who had only mild cases of COVID-19 still suffer from loss of smell, loss of taste or fatigue eight months after contracting the disease, significantly impairing their health and quality of life.
Other reports have documented various aspects of what is called post-viral or Long COVID syndrome. Last summer, more than 87 percent of patients discharged from hospitals in Italy reported having at least one of the following – fatigue, shortness of breath, joint and chest pain – more than two months after symptoms of the coronavirus itself began. A study in China revealed similar conditions at least six months after the discharge of patients with COVID-19. Even those who suffered from the disease but were asymptomatic developed these health problems.
Such studies give a bleak picture of more than 133 million people suffering from a potentially deadly disease. They discover tens of millions of survivors who live daily for months with the possibility of chronic and extraordinary health problems, and tens of millions wonder if they were unknowingly exposed and contracted or may have already contracted an exhausting symptom that will be with them for months.
It is also unclear when, or even whether, such long-term symptoms will cease. This virus is at best only 18 months old, which means that no one knows what the long-term effects will be after 10, 20 or 30 years. The physical and mental health of millions has potentially been permanently destroyed, at a devastating and unlimited cost.
In the budget of the financial oligarchy and the government that serves it, such considerations are not of consequence. Deaths and long-term illnesses are just statistics. But it was in fact hundreds of thousands of living, breathing people, killed by the criminal policies of the Republican and Democratic administrations, and millions of others are now being forced to disappear.
The argument of every capitalist government in Europe and the United States – that society must “live” with the virus – has an unacceptable cost to lives, health, and heartache. No, humanity cannot “live” with this virus and cannot “live” with a capitalist social order that refuses to contain it.