Covid-19 has now killed as many Americans as the 1918-19 flu pandemic

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More than 1,900 people are dying in the US daily on average – the highest level since early March
Covid-19 has now killed as many Americans as the 1918-19 flu pandemic – more than 675,000.

The US population a century ago was just one-third of what it is today, meaning the flu cut a much bigger, more lethal swath through the country. But the Covid-19 crisis is by any measure a colossal tragedy in its own right, especially given the incredible advances in scientific knowledge since then and the failure to take maximum advantage of the vaccines available this time.

"Big pockets of American society – and, worse, their leaders – have thrown this away," said Dr Howard Markel a medical historian at the University of Michigan.

Like the 1918-19 flu, the coronavirus may never entirely disappear from our midst. Instead, scientists hope it becomes a mild seasonal bug as human immunity strengthens through vaccination and repeated infection. That could take time.

Medical staff care for people with influenza at an emergency tent hospital in Brookline, Massachusetts, in October 1918. Photograph: Everett/REX/Shutterstock

"We hope it will be like getting a cold, but there's no guarantee," said Rustom Antia, a biologist at Emory University, who suggests an optimistic scenario in which this could happen over a few years.

For now, the pandemic still has the United States and other parts of the world firmly in its jaws.

While the Delta variant-fueled surge in infections may have peaked,…
Guardian staff reporter
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