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Doctor Delkhah Shahin checks on a 34-year-old, unvaccinated COVID-19 patient at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, California on September 2, 2021. Photo: Apu GOMES/AFP-Getty Images

This weekend, we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people. But we've lost track of the fact that at least that many will die of COVID-19 within the span of two days.

The big picture: 9/11 was a shocking attack that sparked massive domestic foreign policy changes and conflict in two countries. While the pandemic has certainly led to enormous policy and lifestyle changes, the daily drumbeat of hundreds of COVID deaths in America isn't garnering the attention it once did.

  • Case and death counts still make headlines, but they aren’t influencing our national conversation as much.  
  • Instead, these COVID deaths have faded into background of daily life. Many Americans not directly involved in patient care are paying little attention to, or are even trying to ignore, the ongoing pandemic.
  • While the early weeks and months of the pandemic were coupled with a sense of unity around a shared enemy, the national tenor feels as divisive as ever as we battle over vaccines, masks and other measures aimed at turning the tide against the virus.

We saw this phenomenon with each surge of this pandemic before vaccines had a chance to be widely distributed yet at the end of 2020. Deaths were rapidly rising, yet creating less impact over time.

  • “In fact, the more who die, sometimes the less we care,” psychologist Paul Slovic told the Washington Post in December.

Between the lines: Now deaths are on the rise again, with about 1,500 COVID deaths a day in the U.S.

  • This grim comparison — as well as our collective compassion — is challenged by the fact we now have a vaccine.
  • The bulk of patients who end up seriously ill or dead from COVID are unvaccinated — many by choice. Meanwhile, those killed or seriously injured on Sept. 11 had no choice.

The bottom line: But people are still dying every day from COVID-19 — a lot of people.

  • As we take time this weekend to absorb the massive loss the nation experienced on a single day two decades ago, it'd be valuable to use this moment to also consider the enormity of the daily losses America is suffering from COVID.

Go deeper

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Dec 17, 2021 - Health

Weight of COVID pushing health care workforce to breaking point

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New waves of COVID infections are crashing into a health care system whose workers are at a breaking point — if not already past it.

Why it matters: Hospital workers have had little relief from COVID over the past two years. And that burned-out, dispirited workforce is again being overwhelmed by surges from Delta, while facing the specter of yet another wave from Omicron.

Dec 18, 2021 - Health

COVID-19 deaths among pregnant people surged amid Delta, CDC data show

CDC director Rochelle Walensky during a meeting with President Biden and members of the COVID-19 Response Team on the Omicron variant in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 9. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The number of pregnant people who died of COVID-19 surged in August and September as the Delta variant spread nationwide, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention out this week.

Why it matters: The data underscore the importance of pregnant people receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, especially as the quickly emerging Omicron variant starts to spread, according to CDC director Rochelle Walensky.

Dec 18, 2021 - Health

COVID testing site lines spike ahead of holidays

Cars line up at a rapid antigen coronavirus testing site at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens near Miami, on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

With a rise in coronavirus cases across the country and the holiday season in full swing, getting a COVID-19 test has become harder with testing sites already starting to see long lines, NBC News reports.

Driving the news: COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing across the country, and the U.S. is averaging 122,000 new cases per day as the holiday season gets underway and will bring more people together.