COVID-19: A Hiroshima-Nagasaki death toll

Bill Sims Contributing columnist

Bill Sims Contributing columnist

Covid-19 again, and yet I was stunned by this statistic: We have had more COVID-19 deaths in America than the total number who died as a result of the combined nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. American deaths are currently somewhere north of 220,000 fatalities. The average estimates of deaths occurring in the four months following the two Japanese bombings is 180,000.

Another wartime analogy struck home. In Erik Larson’s book, “The Splendid and the Vile” about Winston Churchill, Larson describes what it was like during the German bombing raids against English cities, in particular in London: “The odds that any one person would die on any given day were slim, but the odds that someone, somewhere in London would die on any given day were 100%.” And so it is with the coronavirus.

I’d love to stop writing about the Covid-19 pandemic, but the epidemic refuses to just go away. In fact, events seem to be getting worse. The trend is that cases are moving from urban to rural areas of the state. Also trending as of the second week in October, over half of our states are surging again. Governor DeWine estimates that we are probably only halfway through the pandemic. That rather optimistic estimation may rest on the assumption that we get a vaccine by the end of the year, and that once we have it, people will actually opt to get vaccinated. Three drug companies, Astra-Zeneca, Eli Lilly, and Johnson and Johnson, have had to pause their Covid-19 vaccine trials, which is not unusual for vaccine trials, but it reminds us that these things can’t be accelerated beyond safety concerns.

This past week Ohio set two all-time consecutive daily records for Covid-19 cases: 2,039 on Wednesday and 2,178 on Thursday. Just one month ago on Sept. 20, Ohio had 726 new cases. That would be a 300 percent increase. These new numbers caused DeWine’s rhetoric to soar: “(It’s) a sign that the storm clouds are gathering… We could be in for a very, very heavy storm.”

Given the idea that issues tend to register more emphatically on a local level, the death totals in Ohio are now close to equaling the total population of the city of Hillsboro. At the risk of redundancy, it’s as if the entire population of greater Hillsboro passed away. Worse, many health experts and data analysts believe the actual number of Ohio deaths is much higher than those officially reported. Cases of the virus are also on the increase across schools in Highland County, including 36 cases among those ranging in age of 0-19 years.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Michigan now estimates there will be over 400,000 U.S. deaths from the corona virus by year’s end, and that is on the conservative side of their estimated range.

Another astonishing statistic is that 55.7 percent of deaths in Ohio have occurred in long-term care facilities. These data from the Ohio Department of Health don’t include any individuals who may have died from the virus before April 15.

The full weight of the pandemic’s effects is realized, of course, by more than morbidity and death rates. Jobless rates are climbing again. According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Department, there have been 1.8 million jobless claims in Ohio over the past six months, more than all claims filed in Ohio over the previous four years. Ohio is short 450,000 jobs of a full recovery and the US is short 10.7 million jobs of a full recovery.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I know more than one person in Highland County who’s contracted the virus with serious if not lethal outcomes. As the pandemic turns for the worse and we head into the seasonal flu, and the promise of a twindemic, why am I seeing increasing numbers people abandoning the health department’s advice to wear masks and social distance? Do we really want to see another Hiroshima-Nagasaki death outcome added to the already sizeable U.S. total?

And Halloween? It’s a fun annual event in normal times, but as this unremitting deadly virus attacks anew, I’m not sure we need any more ghosts in Highland County.

Bill Sims is a Hillsboro resident, an author, and runs a small farm in Berrysville with his wife. He is a former educator, executive and foundation president.

Bill Sims Contributing columnist Sims Contributing columnist