Andy Slavitt, a senior advisor to Mr Biden, opened the Covid-19 briefing on Monday with a reminder that the country was on the verge of reaching a “grim milestone”.
“Everyone who has lost is someone whose lives and gifts have been cut short,” said Slavitt. “Our hearts go out to those who mourn loved ones who are so much missed. For those of us in the administration, the opportunity makes us more determined to turn the tide on Covid-19 so the losses can subside and the healing can begin. “
With him was Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s foremost infectious disease specialist, who in late March predicted that at a time when just over 2,000 Americans were lost to Covid-19, up to 200,000 Americans could be lost to the disease – a number which seemed astronomical at the time. Today it would look like a blessing.
“As sobering a number is, we should be prepared for it,” said Dr. Fauci at the time.
In a Monday interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, Dr. Fauci said that while some of the devastation was inevitable, much of it could have been avoided.
“It’s so hard to just go back and try to do a metaphorical autopsy on how things were going. It was just bad. It’s bad now, “said Dr. Fauci, adding, “If you look back historically, we have done worse than most other countries and we are a highly developed, rich country. “
The last public health disaster of comparable magnitude was the 1918 pandemic influenza, which killed an estimated 675,000 Americans. Nancy K. Bristow, chair of the history department at the University of Puget Sound and author of American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic, learned a lesson from this.
“There will be a real urge to say, ‘See how well we are,” she said, warning of tendencies to “rewrite this story into another story of American triumph. “