Andy Slavitt, Biden’s senior adviser, opened Monday’s Covid-19 briefing with a reminder that the country was about to reach “a dismal milestone.”
“All the lost are people whose lives and gifts were cut short,” Slavitt said. “Our hearts go out to all those who are grieving for loved ones we miss so much. For those of us in the administration, the occasion makes us more determined to turn the tide of Covid-19 so that losses decrease and healing can begin. “
With him was Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, who predicted late last March, at a time when there were just over 2,000 Americans lost to Covid-19, that as many as 200,000 Americans die from the disease, a number that seemed astronomical at the time. Today, it would seem like a blessing.
“As sobering as the number is, we must be prepared for it,” Dr. Fauci said at the time.
In an interview Monday 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 very difficult to go back and try, you know, do a metaphorical autopsy on how things were. It was just bad. It’s bad now, ”said Dr. Fauci, adding:“ If you look back historically, we have fared worse than most other countries, and we are a rich and highly developed country. ”
The last public health disaster of comparable proportions was the 1918 influenza pandemic, which is estimated to have 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,” drew a lesson from that.
“There will be a real push to say, ‘Look how well we’re doing,'” he said, warning against inclinations now to “rewrite this story in another story of American triumph.”