World Hits 2 Million Covid-19 Deaths With Cases Still Surging

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    Led by the U.S., the world has hit a frightening Covid-19 threshold, with 2 million people dead and few expectations for the numbers to start dropping any time soon.

    “You want to get to the point first where the virus can’t outrace you,” said Gregg Gonsalves, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health and co-director of the Global Health Justice Partnership. “It’s very hard to project out in any fine level of resolution how many people will be dead from this, in even 6 months to a year.”

    With the rollout of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine and the Moderna Inc. shot going slowly in the U.S., and virtually non-existent in many parts of the world, the odds of controlling the outbreak before the summer at the earliest are slim, especially because it can take weeks for an infected person to die.

    “We have a great forest fire of a pandemic happening,” Gonsalves said in a phone interview. “But if you have just a bucket of water in a forest fire, then you aren’t doing well.”

    Overall, the U.S. is leading all countries in deaths with 388,705, with Brazil, India, Mexico and the U.K. next in line. Covid, meanwhile, has already killed more people than malaria and tuberculosis combined in the past year, and is nearing the peak number of annual deaths seen from AIDS, which occurred in 2005.

    French Prime Minister Jean Castex sees a gradual exit from the pandemic in his country, potentially by next summer.

    “This tragedy our country is living, that the world has been living for months and which weighs on so many of us, the utmost priority to get out of this crisis is the recourse to vaccination,” Castex said Thursday at a news conference in Paris. “But we must collectively show patience and responsibility, because it’ll be several months before vaccination will be able to sufficiently protect us.”

    relates to World Hits 2 Million Covid-19 Deaths With Cases Still Surging

    Jean Castex, center, speaks with people following a news conference in Paris on Jan. 14.Photographer: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

    Read More: Mapping the coronavirus outbreak across the world

    In the U.S., public health officials say that most people will have access to the vaccine by summer, which will start to choke off the virus and create some level of protection.

    Ali Mokdad is a population scientist and professor of global health at the University of Washington, where the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has been tracking and modeling the outbreak for the past year.

    The institute projects that the world won’t get to about 3 million deaths by the end of 2021, meaning that fewer than 1 million people will die from coronavirus this year. The group’s latest analysis projects 2.89 million deaths worldwide by the end of the year.

    “All the way to December, it’s not going to be another million,” Mokdad said in a telephone interview. When it comes to infections, he said, “we are not going to see any more situations in the U.S. with 4,000 deaths a day.”

    People need to wear masks until 75% of the population is immunized, Mokdad said, which could happen sometime this summer. That assumes, he said, that the vaccines continue to roll out, that no further side effects emerge, that there is no new mutation that makes it less effective and that Americans don’t start to celebrate too soon.

    “Cases are going to come down simply because of the vaccine and the weather,” he said. “It‘s on us to keep doing what we need to do.”

    Still, studies haven’t confirmed whether the vaccine will stop the spread of the virus itself, instead showing it protects those who receive it from contracting a symptomatic or severe infection. Still, as more and more people obtain some protection against the immediate ravages of the pathogen, the death and hospitalizations rates should start to slow.

    Gonsalves, though, is concerned that even if the U.S. is able to stem its outbreak, the virus will continue to surge elsewhere. “If you can’t put it out everywhere,” he said, “you can’t put it out anywhere. You are always going to have travel seeding new outbreaks.”

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