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Our view: One million of us dead from COVID

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As if losing the Republican primary election for U.S. Senate wasn’t enough, former N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory ended his campaign with more bitter news: A case of COVID.

After thanking his supporters in a tweet on Wednesday, McCrory added: “Have not been as responsive because I got diagnosed with Covid yesterday. It’s no fun!”

We, and many others, can second that conclusion.

“I love u all,” McCrory added. “Appreciate all your prayers for Ann and me. God bless.”

We wish the former governor a quick recovery.

Some might think it was inevitable that he was infected, considering all the hands he shook during his campaign. With masks down and sequestration largely a thing of the past, it’s easy to forget how easily transmissible COVID is.

But even though restrictions have been lifted, and many of us are done with COVID and its inconvenient restrictions, COVID is not done with us.

Cases are increasing in Forsyth County, with 853 new cases — a 19% increase from the previous week — reported two weeks ago, the Journal’s Richard Craver reported. Statewide, 23,021 new cases were reported. And since some are treating themselves at home after testing at home, that’s likely to be an undercount.

The difference now is that, thanks to vaccines and boosters, fewer cases lead to death. But while there were no additional deaths to report in Forsyth County these last two weeks, there were 39 more deaths elsewhere in North Carolina.

COVID deaths in the U.S. hit a grim milestone earlier this month: 1 million, according to a New York Times database, data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That, too, is likely to be an undercount, but those who tally the numbers have been conservative in their estimate, relying on evidence that can be supported rather than hearsay or rumors.

Millions more have been left behind to mourn the loss of their loved ones.

Some critical factors remain relevant as we continue to deal with the scourge. Among them is the degree of denial that has accompanied the disease. To this day, some argue that COVID isn’t real or that vaccines are ineffective or even detrimental. Misinformation and conspiracy theories about the dangers of the vaccines continue to proliferate online, leading too many to think they’re more of a risk than the deadly disease itself.

Often such claims turn out to be misinterpretations of data — in one case, a supposed list of dangerous side effects “leaked” from Pfizer turned out to be a list of side effects that would be cause for concern if they appeared with any frequency.

They haven’t.

Also among the challenges is the continued politicization of COVID, with our understanding of its severity and treatment — including our trust in orthodox medical authorities — apparently determined by party loyalty.

In that regard, conservatives are at a disadvantage. Residents of counties that went heavily for Donald Trump in the last presidential election are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than those who live in areas that went for President Biden, according to an analysis conducted this month by National Public Radio. This higher rate is directly related to the reluctance of Republicans to be vaccinated.

States that went most heavily for Trump — including Wyoming and West Virginia — have among the highest rates of COVID deaths, while states that voted heavily for Biden — such as Massachusetts and Vermont — have among the lowest.

“How you vote should not predict whether you die of COVID,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Brown University School of Public Health, told NPR.

We agree. And that’s why we’ve tried to support and encourage the best, most authoritative medical information while criticizing the unproved and dangerous remedies and tactics promoted by lesser authorities.

Of the 1 million we’ve lost, nearly 320,000 lives nationwide could have been saved if more people had chosen to get vaccinated, according to a recent analysis by Brown University.

We still need to practice caution and avoid risky situations — even those who have been vaccinated and boosted. But these remedies have allowed our communities — our common areas and shared amenities — to open at minimal risk of permanent consequences. It’s not too late to join the vaccinated and walk about with well-earned confidence.

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