The U.S. reached a grim new milestone yesterday: The coronavirus death count officially passed 100,000, although experts say the true number of deaths is likely higher.
My thought bubble: It's difficult to even conceptualize 100,000 deaths.
- We've already reached a place that was previously unfathomable for most of us, and we don't know what other terrible milestones await us in the future.
The big picture: A couple of months ago, we began to hear horrible stories about Italian hospitals being overrun by coronavirus patients to the point where doctors had to make harrowing decisions about who received treatment, and who didn't.
- That never happened here. These 100,000 people didn't die because our health system ran out of capacity to help them. They died because, absent a treatment, there was nothing else that could be done for them.
- These people were disproportionately minorities, older Americans and people with pre-existing medical conditions.
That doesn't mean these deaths were inevitable. More robust testing and contact tracing earlier on could have led to earlier interventions or prevented new infections.
The bottom line: We don't know the death rate of the coronavirus, because we don't know how many people have had it, due to a lack of testing. But we can reasonably assume that only a small percentage of Americans have been infected so far.
- That means that even though most people haven't had the virus, and even though most of the country adopted stringent social distancing measures for at least a little while, and even though our health care system wasn't overwhelmed, 100,000 Americans still died.
- That's a sober warning as every state begins to reopen.