Today marks the 79th anniversary of the Japanese attack on The US naval base Pearl Harbor on Oahu Island, Hawaii. A pivotal moment in US history which helped to bring the US into WWII as an active participant, not just a supplier of arms. This attack was part of a coordinated attack on US and British military posts, including Guam, the Philippines, Wake Island, Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
During the attack on Pearl Harbor, 2403 individuals lost their lives, including 68 civilians. The loss of life, and the direct attack on US soil was a major factor in changing public opinion from isolationism to actively participating in WWII.
This same generation which lost lives at Pearl Harbor, are once again seeing the massive loss of lives. Only this time, it is from a virus. What spurred millions of people to change their views on actively participating to stop an enemy, is flippantly being ignored and downplayed today. Our 7-day moving average of deaths is over 2200, very near the number of lives lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
On Sunday, our hospitalizations remained over 100,000 for the 5th day straight, with this number increasing every day. Testing positivity rates are increasing for many states or remaining high, which only foreshadows what our hospitalization/death rates will be in the next 2-3 weeks/4-6 weeks respectively.
Rural areas initially spared in the beginning of the pandemic are now experiencing levels seen early in the pandemic in NYC. These rural areas lack the resources and hospital capacity which large cities have, and most rural hospitals cannot provide the same level of care as what is available in tertiary hospitals.
These lack of resources and the lack of advanced care capabilities is rapidly becoming apparent as certain states start to have a higher mortality rate per 100,000 than states like NY or NJ. With the holiday season around us, we will likely see increases in all three categories in the days and weeks after each holiday.
When epidemiologists predicted that we will likely see 200,000 deaths by October, there were many who dismissed their claims and laughed at the absurdity. Yet October came as well as did 200,000 deaths, and as we entered December, we had over 250,000 deaths, adding 50,000 deaths in less than 45 days. As we continue to have a seven day moving average of over 2,000 deaths a day, we will add more than 50,000 deaths within the next 30 days, and it’s likely this number will will be closer to 100,000 in the next 30 days.
I wish we, as a society, would reflect on how our actions/lack of action will impact our country. Already, many are struggling with finances, others are struggling with health, and many are struggling with the exhaustion and stress of working with COVID every day. As nurses, we have seen our co-workers get sick, we have seen friends and colleagues die, and we are seeing an unusually high number of patients die. We went into this profession to save lives and to provide a caring touch, yet most of us (even those in the ICU and ED) are only used to death rates of <10% of patients. Yet with COVID, we are seeing longer ICU stays (which allows more bonding time) and higher mortality rates, which adds considerably to compassion fatigue. When nurses have exhausted their compassion, they burn out, and it’s highly likely that we will lose considerable numbers of nurses to other professions.
As a nation, we need to do a better job of caring for others. We need to set aside our own pleasures and undertake the difficult task, much like those from previous generations. If, and only if, we are willing to make these sacrifices, will we as a society be able to avert an overwhelming number of deaths and the destruction of much of our economy.