Washington | The official death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to reach 200,000 deaths on Monday in the United States, the hardest hit country in the world and where the coronavirus currently kills four times more proportionally than in Europe.
According to Johns Hopkins University, 199,517 inhabitants of the United States have died of the coronavirus out of 6.8 million recorded cases, ahead of the European Union (144,000 dead), Brazil and India. China, the cradle of the pandemic, officially has fewer than 5,000 dead. The United States still records nearly a thousand deaths every day, which, compared to the population, is four times the European death rate, according to Our World in Data.
Six weeks before the presidential election of November 3, this thousand daily deaths is, for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, the symbol of President Donald Trump's incompetence in the face of the greatest test of his mandate.
“The primary responsibility of a president is to protect Americans. But he won't. It's absolutely disqualifying, ”Joe Biden said last Wednesday.
Donald Trump is waiting for a vaccine to turn the page on the pandemic. He hopes for October, just before the election, and logistical preparations are underway to distribute the doses of the vaccines as soon as the ongoing clinical trials produce conclusive results. Only one U.S. manufacturer, Pfizer, believes October is possible, but that won't affect the majority of Americans until April 2021, according to the president, or even mid-2021, according to senior officials.
But betting on vaccines is not a short and medium term strategy, experts repeat. In the absence of widespread testing, better tracing of contact cases and real discipline in barrier gestures, hundreds of thousands of Americans could still die by the time the president returns to normalcy so much.
We need “a preventive screening approach to test asymptomatic people, as well as those who are most at risk because of their job or their environment,” Thomas Tsai, epidemiologist at Harvard, told AFP.
“COVID will be the third leading cause of death this year in the United States,” lamented Tom Frieden, who headed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) under Barack Obama. “The staggering toll of the virus is testament to the failure of the national response, but it is not too late to reverse the trend.”
Series of errors
“We passed 200,000 in July,” said Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Institute, citing the figures for excess mortality observed. The initial lack of testing led to the virus' toll being underestimated, which has since improved.
“We are the exception, we were not ready, we did not have enough tests and we do not learn from our mistakes”, adds the doctor to explain why the virus kills more than in Europe, despite the marked improvement in hospital treatment.
First mistake, according to him: unlike Europe, the United States did not wait to have reduced the epidemic to a very low incidence before deconfining, in May and June, encouraged by a Donald Trump deaf to the warnings of its experts.
“We reopened everything and we pretend everything is fine,” he says.
Daily life certainly remains disrupted. In many cities, schools have made their return to school virtually, restaurants and bars remain closed indoors, and the wearing of masks has become widespread.
But outbreaks continue to erupt in a large part of the territory, especially in the Midwest, for example on university campuses.
This error was built on an original fault: Donald Trump left – abdicated, say the critics – to the 50 state governors the responsibility for health mobilization, ranging from decisions to deconfinement to the criteria for reopening schools.
“We had this crazy patchwork of responses across the country that created utter confusion,” William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University told AFP. “We should and could have had a unified, coherent, strong and national response.”
The health system will be particularly put to the test in the fall and winter, with the seasonal flu. For fear of a double epidemic, authorities have ordered a record number of influenza vaccines.