Although the restrictions — masking, social distancing, etc. — that were imposed during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic are largely gone and forgotten by the vast majority of Americans, the unfortunate reality is that COVID-19 has not forgotten us.
More than 315 Americans still are dying each and every day from COVID-19 — that’s about 115,000 deaths per year — making COVID-19 the third leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer.
Ordinarily, those huge numbers would be cause for a public health emergency. But in comparison to the 3,000 deaths per day that were occurring during the first two years of the pandemic, we’ve become complacent.
We also would note that beyond the still-shocking death toll, COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc with our economy, with even the most conservative estimates asserting that thanks to time lost from work, hospitalizations, long-term medical care, and other disruptions, COVID-19 continues to cost us more than $500 billion per year — a huge sum attributable to a little bug.
Perhaps one reason why we have become so blase about the risks of COVID-19 — beyond “pandemic fatigue” — is that COVID-19 has become a deadly disease almost exclusively among our country’s senior citizens.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, people 65 and older accounted for 75 percent of all American Covid deaths. That dropped below 60 percent by September, 2021. But today, Americans 65 and over account for 90 percent of new COVID-19 deaths, even though 94 percent of American seniors have some level of vaccination.
However, far too many seniors have not received the new bivalent booster that became available a few months ago. Given that the immune systems of those over 65 are weaker to begin with and that the protection of the vaccine weakens over time, especially for seniors, the failure of senior citizens to get the latest bivalent vaccine booster has created a perfect opportunity for COVID-19 to infiltrate our senior population.
In our view, there are two takeaways from these statistics: First, every senior should get the new bivalent booster ASAP. Second, those who come into contact with seniors, whether in their personal or business lives, should wear a mask in order not to spread the disease to our most-vulnerable population.
Sorry to say, COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon. But two simple steps for our seniors and those who care about them — an updated vaccine and a mask — can go a long way toward mitigating the ongoing human tragedy of this pernicious disease.