COVID-19 Death Toll Approaches 200,000, a Tragic Milestone of Mismanagement

Statement by Dr. Kathleen Rest, Executive Director, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Sep 21, 2020

WASHINGTON (September 21, 2020)—The official U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is expected to rise above 200,000 this week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the nation has seen more than 6.7 million total cases since the outbreak began earlier this year. These cases are disproportionately concentrated among Black and Latinx communities. With only 4 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. has experienced more than 20 percent of the world’s COVID-19 cases and deaths. It’s a national tragedy exacerbated by failures in government to act quickly, provide clear information, and keep people safe, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Dr. Kathleen Rest, executive director of UCS.

“It is with deep sadness and respect that we honor the more than 200,000 lives lost to COVID-19 this year. This isn’t just a statistic—each one of these deaths represents the painful loss of a family member, a friend, a community member.

“Beyond the horrifying death toll, the damage done by COVID-19 to our country is staggering. The millions of cases of COVID-19 have disrupted the lives of those suffering and their families and caused widespread hospitalizations and lingering health effects. The pandemic has upended the economy and separated us from family and friends. It has created severe economic hardship for many families and put incredible strain on essential workers in industries from health care to food service. And the official number of confirmed deaths from COVID-19 almost certainly underestimates the total number of deaths caused by the pandemic.

“The loss of life and adverse health effects are falling disproportionately on those from low-income and Indigenous communities and communities of color. As we grieve for the lives that have been lost, we must acknowledge how this crisis has demonstrated the effects of systemic racism—including environmental injustice, economic oppression, and discrimination in the health care system. These disparities have unfairly exposed those most at risk in our country to the most devastating impacts from the pandemic. The scientific and medical community must acknowledge these disparities and fight for a just and equitable response to COVID-19.

“The grief of these losses is made even more painful by how much of this death toll was preventable. Our leaders have let us down by failing to listen to scientists and health professionals.

“Federal, state, and local leaders must commit to doing everything they can to provide clear guidance, implement protective measures, fund medical research, and support essential workers in the difficult months ahead. We can never regain the lives we lost, but we can honor them by working to prevent more needless deaths.”