More people in the U.S. have now died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, than were killed in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The milestone raises the question of whether the country will mobilize to mend America’s social safety net and health care system the way it mobilized against terrorism after the plane hijackings.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed on 9/11, while the coronavirus death toll rose to 3,173 on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
That number is only expected to rise. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said on Monday that the virus outbreak could ultimately kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans and infect millions.
“But I don’t want to be held to that,” Fauci said, “because it’s such a moving target.” It is “very, very unlikely” the country would see millions of deaths due to COVID-19, Fauci noted, adding that he would rather people not worry about worst-case scenarios.
The comparison to the devastating 2001 terrorist attack is one that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has made in past weeks as the number of coronavirus cases across the state tick steadily upward.
“[It] reminds me of 9/11, where one moment, which was inconceivable, just changed everything,” Cuomo said on March 19.
He continued: “Children who were young at that time, but of school age, watched on TV. They didn’t know if their parents were coming home. I think it changed their whole outlook on life after 9/11.”
“This is a situation like that.”
While the two situations “obviously” have their differences, the governor said, they are alike in how they have completely upended life for New Yorkers and people across the country.
“Yesterday, you were going to work and you’re ready to go to the office party,” Cuomo said. “Today … you’re worried about health and you’re worried about your job and you’re worried about economics and you’re dealing with personal issues and you’re dealing with family issues. And it’s all happening at once.”
New York has by far the country’s most confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the most deaths, largely concentrated in densely packed New York City. A hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, docked Monday along the west side of Manhattan to treat patients not affected by the coronavirus in order to free up hospital beds on land.
Globally, nearly 40,000 people have died of COVID-19.
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