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Rethinking US policy and practices at 200,000 COVID-19 deaths

Date: Sep 19 2020

Contact: Media Relations

Statement from APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD

As the U.S. hits another solemn milestone — 200,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 —our country is again at a crossroads. Our sluggish response has brought us to this point but it is now time for change. 

Nationally, we need a reboot; to retool our thinking, overcome politics and squabbling, inertia and emotional responses, and fully commit to a science-based approach that will help us all to overcome this pandemic. We also must acknowledge that with each day we are learning more about this deadly virus.  As new treatments and preventive measures are discovered, we need to allow for these changes and do our best to communicate clearly to the public – the process of science can be everchanging and as public health we commit to keeping you fully informed with the most up-to-date life-saving measures available.

The more than 6.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. equate to the total population of Delaware, Wyoming, Montana, Vermont, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska and Rhode Island…combined!

We need to listen to and follow expert advice, not leave the door open for any ambiguities. We’ve been given a very clear roadmap to slow the virus that we must follow: wear masks, sustain proper physical distancing and wash our hands. 

We should not deny the threat of the virus. Joining large events attended by hundreds or thousands of people without masks is a mistake and will put people at unnecessary risk.

And we must think about the impact on those who have health issues that are aggravated by COVID-19, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney and lung disease.

Too many people are dying, unnecessarily, with a disproportionate toll on Black, Hispanic, American Indian and poorer communities.

It is likely that a vaccine will not be widely available until mid-next year. Until then, and even then, the most important thing we can do is take the safety precautions that science has advised for months.

In July, when COVID-19 had killed more than 142,000 people in the U.S., and cases reached 4 million, I had high hopes that that we could reduce the spread. It’s not too late.

We have made inroads in some communities and states that have taken safety precautions seriously, without regard to politics, but with the sole purpose of enhancing public health. It’s a matter of life or death; let’s follow their lead.

Please share APHA’s collection of COVID-19 guidance at COVIDGuidance.org and COVIDGuia.org and the key public health messages conveyed at apha.org/topics-and-issues/communicable-disease/coronavirus/shareables. 



The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at www.apha.org.