There was no day darker in New York than April 9, 2020. On that day, Covid-19 claimed 1,052 lives, according to Johns Hopkins University, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to nearly 11,000 in just three weeks.
The prospect of losing 1,000 people a day was just unfathomable. But on that day it became real, as the coronavirus raged out of control, with very little hope of stopping it.
Yet we were fortunate. The number of deaths each day dropped from there, dipping under 100 by the end of May. While our losses would creep up a couple more times — both in early 2021 and at the start of this year — we would never come anywhere close to the number of souls lost on April 9, 2020.
Today, outside of seeing people here and there wearing masks, the coronavirus has seemingly become a fleeting memory. Hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. Treatments are encouraging. And we have vaccines.
But the pandemic isn’t over. And we have to stop acting like it is. No, we don’t need to lock down or stay six feet away from everyone. But we can’t keep acting like it’s 2019, either.
Every three months, a committee of global experts associated with the World Health Organization meets in an online videoconference to determine whether or not the pandemic is still a pandemic. The committee met in April for the 11th time, and arrived at the same conclusion it did in its 10 previous meetings: We are still in a pandemic.
Even with vaccines, treatments, and lower hospitalizations and fatalities, there is still a great deal of concern about what’s next for the coronavirus. Mutations — which create the many variants we’ve seen over the past 18 months — top that list, because no one knows what the next version of Covid will be like. The primary variants since Delta have been highly transmissible, but not as dangerous — especially to those who are fully vaccinated and in generally good health.
But it’s impossible to say what the next variant will bring. And with thousands of people still getting infected each day in New York alone, there will be a next variant, and more after that.
Many of us have brushed off even being infected, because the dangers seem no greater than the flu these days. But we couldn’t be more wrong. Those who are older or immuno-compromised are still in grave danger if they are exposed to the virus. And the rest of us still face very serious long-term complications, like long Covid, which can lead to a number of health issues — some outright debilitating.
Experts estimate that as many as 30 percent of people who had Covid — even if they were asymptomatic — will develop long Covid. With about 85 million confirmed Covid cases already, that could equate to tens of millions of people who are, or will be in the near future, suffering from long Covid.
With few if any alarms sounded over hospitalizations and deaths, it’s no wonder we’ve become complacent. One poll, conducted by Axios-Ipsos last month, found that a little more than a third of Americans feared that returning to a pre-Covid lifestyle would be a “significant risk.”
That means the other two-thirds were not concerned.
We don’t have to lock ourselves inside our homes, but we must remain vigilant. Wearing masks around other people, keeping our distance unless absolutely necessary, and staying home when we’re not feeling well can really make a difference. Taking at least an at-home test before visiting someone who could be vulnerable to the disease is just the decent thing to do.
And, of course, we can’t forget vaccination — the most important tool we have in ultimately defeating this plague.
We don’t have to count too high to get to the number of people now dying in New York each day from Covid complications. But then again, even one death is too many. We have lost nearly 3,900 people in Nassau County. More than 69,000 in the state. And 1 million nationwide — more than the entire population of Delaware, North and South Dakota, Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming.
That number is still growing. So we must stay focused, and help one another get through this pandemic once and for all.