BY IVAN PENTCHOUKOV
More than one million people have died as of Monday from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly known as the coronavirus, a grim landmark for a pandemic that has smothered the global economy and changed the way of life for billions of people around the world.
“It’s not just a number. It’s human beings. It’s people we love,” said Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan who has advised government officials on containing pandemics and lost his 84-year-old mother to the CCP virus in February.
“It’s our brothers, our sisters. It’s people we know,” he added. “And if you don’t have that human factor right in your face, it’s very easy to make it abstract.”
The true extent of the death toll from the pandemic remains unknown due to potential concealment by some countries—most prominently by China—where the ruling communist regime has instituted a harsh crackdown on information about the disease.
Discounting the CCP’s concealment, the United States accounts for 205,000 deaths—the largest amount worldwide. Parts of Europe are getting hit by a second wave, and some experts fear the same fate may await the United States. Nearly 5,000 deaths are reported each day on average, according to official government data collated by Johns Hopkins University.
“I can understand why … numbers are losing their power to shock, but I still think it’s really important that we understand how big these numbers really are,” said Mark Honigsbaum, author of “The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria and Hubris.”
When the virus overwhelmed cemeteries in the Italian province of Bergamo last spring, the Rev. Mario Carminati opened his church to the dead, lining up 80 coffins in the center aisle. After an army convoy carted them to a crematory, another 80 arrived. Then 80 more.
Eventually, the crisis receded and the world’s attention moved on. But the pandemic’s grasp endures. In August, Carminati buried his 34-year-old nephew.
“This thing should make us all reflect. The problem is that we think we’re all immortal,” the priest said.
The CCP concealed the contagion from the Chinese people and the world’s people for at least six weeks after becoming aware of the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan. By the time world leaders were notified, the virus had already spread far and wide.
In the United States, President Donald Trump moved quickly to ban travel from China at a time when his political opponents were focused on the impeachment proceedings.
The pandemic’s toll of 1 million dead in such a limited time rivals some of the gravest threats to public health, past and present.
It exceeds annual deaths from AIDS, which last year killed about 690,000 people worldwide. The virus’s toll is approaching the 1.5 million global deaths each year from tuberculosis, which regularly kills more people than any other infectious disease.
But, “COVID’s grip on humanity is incomparably greater than the grip of other causes of death,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University. He noted the unemployment, poverty, and despair caused by the pandemic, as well as the deaths from the myriad of other illnesses that have gone untreated by our overwhelmed health system.
For all its lethality, the virus has claimed far fewer lives than the so-called Spanish flu, which killed an estimated 40 million to 50 million worldwide in two years, just over a century ago.
That pandemic came before scientists had microscopes powerful enough to identify the enemy or antibiotics that could treat the bacterial pneumonia that killed most of the victims. It also ran a far different course. In the United States, for example, the Spanish flu killed about 675,000. But most of those deaths did not come until a second wave hit over the winter of 1918-19.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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