The world hit a grim milestone on Monday, with one million reported deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Over 33 million cases of coronavirus have also been reported around the world, though experts estimate that the real toll is higher.
What started as an outbreak of 27 cases in Wuhan, China at the end of December quickly turned into a global pandemic that circled the globe.
The spread of COVID-19 has had devastating effects on the world’s economy, shut down schools and businesses, and changed daily life for many people. From travel restrictions to mandatory mask use, the world is a drastically different place since last year.
The United States, which has marked the highest death toll in the world due to the novel virus, surpassed 200,000 COVID-19 deaths on September 22, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
“It is completely unfathomable that we’ve reached this point,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins University public health researcher, while Dr. Anthony Fauci said that “the idea of 200,000 deaths is really very sobering, in some respects stunning.”
Scientists say that a small silver lining has been that as the disease has taken its toll, they have been able to better understand the way the virus operates. Medical professionals report that they have been able to find better ways of treating COVID-19, from keeping patients on their bellies to determining when steroids help or harm patients. Dr. Gary Gibbons, director of the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, said that “the case fatality rate is actually improving over time as physicians get more adept at taking care of these very sick patients,” reports the Associated Press.
Several vaccine trials are currently underway as scientists race against time to try to put a vaccine on the market faster than ever before, and the federal government has outlined a plan to make a coronavirus vaccine available for free to all Americans once the trials are completed and the vaccines are approved.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that the vaccination campaign will be “much larger in scope and complexity than seasonal influenza or other previous outbreak-related vaccination responses.”
Global leaders have asked for a fair approach to the coronavirus vaccine, calling for all global citizens, not just those in first-world countries, to have access to the vaccine once it is available.
In an impassioned speech to the United Nations last week, Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández said that “this pandemic has revealed much of the real inequality of the world we live in. We have seen that when there are scarce provisions of a medication that the country that produces it keeps the product… what about the rest of the countries? Should those people die? What will happen with the vaccines? Who will have access to them?”