Opinion: Assessing COVID-19’s massive toll

As 2020 draws to a close, COVID-19 is massively surging to become the leading cause of death in the U.S. Containing the pandemic, which has killed more than 300,000 Americans, will require an “unprecedented” national response, according to a JAMA editorial by three experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The December 17, 2020 editorial—by Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership, Alan Geller, senior lecturer on social and behavioral sciences, and Tyler VanderWeele, John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Epidemiology—commented on a study published on the same date outlining the exponential increase in COVID-19 in the U.S.

“On December 9, 2020, deaths reached a record high of 3411, more than 2 per minute and roughly 400 more than the September 11, 2001, attack,” the editorial stated. “Such numbers elevate COVID-19 as a cause of death higher than heart disease and cancer, which, for decades, accounted for 1700 and 1600 deaths per day, respectively.”

The authors noted that, “ultimately, containing the pandemic will require national coordination of federal, state, and local leaders; dedicated resources for overwhelmed health care workers and hospitals; renewed support for underresourced state and local public health officials; and a coronavirus stimulus package that aids struggling schools and businesses, as well as the millions of people on the brink of eviction.”

Read the JAMA editorial: Deaths From COVID-19