On Feb. 14, 2020, President Donald Trump spoke to a White House audience about the virus then engulfing Wuhan, China. “We have a very small number of people in the country, right now, with it,” he said. “It’s like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we’re in very good shape.” But we weren’t in good shape. A little more than two years later, the United States is passing the ghastly milestone of at least 1 million deaths from the pandemic virus, and still counting.
This marks the gravest public health disaster in a century, outstripping all the combat deaths in both world wars, Vietnam and Korea. Largely because of the pandemic, life expectancy in the United States declined 2.39 years, the greatest fall in eight decades. The disease caused by the coronavirus became a leading cause of death all through the pandemic, and as recently as January, more people age 15 and older died of covid than of cancer. In addition, the pandemic is leaving lasting personal scars, including long covid and mental health troubles in years ahead.