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The US Sets Another Grim COVID-19 Milestone
On Tuesday, the day of the United States Presidential election, the country saw an additional 91,530 COVID-19 (Coronavirus, 2019) cases, according to John Hopkins University. Wednesday saw an additional 102,830, while Thursday saw a record-breaking 121,054 new cases to go along with 1,187 reported deaths, a 20% increase from the same day last week.
Getting the pandemic under control was one of the few major talking points for Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden, who hammered President Donald Trump (R – New York) over his handling of the situation. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. has over 9.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 236,131 deaths.
When asked how the lack of Universal Healthcare in the United States impacts healthcare costs in general and related to COVID-19, Dr. Jamila Taylor, Director of Health Care Reform and Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation, made the following remark during a virtual town hall hosted by Healthline Media on Presidential Healthcare Policy:
…There are still gaps for many people, and those gaps tend to fall hardest on African Americans, Hispanics, and other people of color. A big reason for this is a lack of Medicaid expansion in southern states, a region where about half of African Americans live. Even for those people who do have insurance, affordability remains a top concern; whether it’s out of pocket costs…copays…or even insurance premiums.
While going without a complete answer, the lack of Universal Healthcare puts U.S. citizens in a predicament when receiving care for COVID-19. In September, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on a patient whose family received a bill for $97,000 for a 10-day hospital stay after his death in May.
“FAIR Health, a data company, estimated that hospitals charge an average of $73,300 for a COVID-19 hospital stay and that private insurers allowed about $38,221. Costs were higher for patients who were admitted to the intensive care unit or needed extensive care, such as a ventilator, and less for those with shorter hospital stays,” Inquirer details.
Patients in nations with Universal Healthcare coverage receive little to no charge, depending on where they live. However, COVID-19 has put strains on healthcare systems in other parts of the world as well.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought hidden, dangerous knock-on effects for health in Africa. With health resources focused heavily on COVID-19, as well as fear and restrictions on people’s daily lives, vulnerable populations face a rising risk of falling through the cracks,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, in a memo to journalists from WHO.
Due to COVID-19, an additional 1.37 million children across Africa missed the Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccine that protects against tuberculosis (TB). An extra 1.32 million children under the age of one missed their first dose of measles vaccine between January and August 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.
“Now that countries are easing their restrictions, it’s critical that they implement catch-up vaccination campaigns quickly,” Dr. Moeti continued. “The longer, large numbers of children remain unprotected against measles and other childhood diseases, the more likely we could see deadly outbreaks flaring up and claiming more lives than COVID-19.”
Another memo released by the WHO highlights the negative effect COVID-19 has had on immunization efforts across the world for measles and polio.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on health services and in particular immunization services, worldwide,” commented Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “But unlike with COVID, we have the tools and knowledge to stop diseases such as polio and measles. What we need are the resources and commitments to put these tools and knowledge into action. If we do that, children’s lives will be saved.”
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF Executive Director) Henriette Fore added the following, “We cannot allow the fight against one deadly disease to cause us to lose ground in the fight against other diseases.”
Fore cautions that while fighting COVID-19 is ‘critical’ other diseases threaten the lives of millions of children around the world, in some of the poorest areas of the world. WHO and UNICEF estimate $655 million ($400 million for polio and $255 million for measles) is needed to address the immunity gaps.
The damaging effects of COVID-19 are clear, placing the need for individuals worldwide to adhere to safety guidelines regarding the virus at an all-time high. The problems will exacerbate until the curve is flattened on a global scale.