The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 311,000 this week just as the country began dispensing COVID-19 shots in a monumental campaign to conquer the outbreak.
The death toll was reported by Johns Hopkins University from data supplied by health authorities across the U.S. The real number of lives lost is believed to be much higher, in part because of deaths that were not accurately recorded as coronavirus-related during the early stages of the crisis.
Globally the virus is blamed for more than 1.6 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The Texas Department of State Health Services is reporting 24,660 deaths in the state, including 123 in Angelina County.
COVID-19 is the most impactful respiratory pandemic the world has faced in more than a century, medical personnel say.
The death toll is disheartening. The numbers of confirmed and probable cases of the disease are staggering.
And yet, the only thing spreading faster than the disease are the lies and misinformation about it. PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking website, called claims that deny, downplay or disinform about COVID-19 the biggest lie of 2020.
Making matters worse, lies about the coronavirus continue to be spread, further exacerbating the crisis. Denialists have offered explanations that amount to little more than junk science, while others falsely accused hospitals of padding their coronavirus case numbers to generate bonus payments.
Some of the other COVID-19 lies include: it’s no worse than the flu; wearing a mask causes the coronavirus; hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, is a cure; and that the vaccine would be used as a cover story for secretly implanting microchips to track the movements of Americans.
In his column on this page, state Rep. Trent Ashby says Texas’ first shipment of 1.4 million doses of the vaccine will be delivered by the end of December. He said at this time more than 224,000 doses have been delivered to 110 hospitals and medical schools, spanning 34 counties.
He also decried the slow rollout of the vaccine in rural Texas, writing to John Hellerstedt, Department of State Health Services commissioner, that the exclusion of rural hospitals on the initial list of providers receiving the vaccine is a mistake.
‘‘Many rural Texas counties are experiencing a higher proportional surge in COVID-19 cases than their urban and suburban counterparts,’’ Ashby wrote in that letter.
Any health service region that cannot keep rates below 15% must roll certain businesses and services back to only 50% capacity, according to Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders issued earlier this year. A trauma service area may be allowed to increase capacity if that area manages to keep a COVID census below 15% for seven consecutive days.
There are a few simple steps that everyone can take while we impatiently wait on a vaccine. What’s complicating the issue is our refusal to follow those directions: Practice social distancing. Wear a mask. Wash your hands.