As the coronavirus’ death toll in the U.S. surpasses 100,000 victims, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a moment to reflect on this tragic milestone and commemorate those we’ve lost.
You can listen on your favorite podcast app or read the transcript below.
Amith Mooliya, son of Ananda Mooliya: My dad was a hardworking man.
Sonja Sanders, daughter of Doris Granderson: She was always the life of the party.
Tony Clomax, brother of John Herman Clomax, Jr: He was a great storyteller. Sometimes he stretched a little bit, you know, to make it more entertaining.
Alexis Fontaine, granddaughter of AnnMarie Thelma Robain: She was a kind person, a giving person. She loved to cook, she loved to travel and she loved her politics.
Fred Haggerty, Jr., son of Dr. Fred E. Haggerty: He always had a kind thing to say to somebody.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Yesterday, the number of people who have died from Covid-19 in the United States surpassed 100,000. Doesn’t even feel like I can say that number out loud without getting a pit in my stomach.
I know you’ve probably heard this number by now, but please let that settle in for a minute.
Too often we see numbers on the screen, and we forget the real stories of people who are not here today because of this virus. We have known at least for the last few weeks that this tragic milestone would come, but it makes it no less painful.
Everyone’s going to try and contextualize it, comparing the tragic number of deaths to past wars, terrorist attacks, plane crashes, natural disasters.
But one way this should not be described as is inevitable.
I’m Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent. And this is “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction.”
Six months ago, most of the world had never even heard of this novel coronavirus, Covid-19. It was a virus that would change their whole lives.
Some people would develop a cough, a fever and then have a sudden decline. Some would require a breathing machine. Some never even made it to the hospital. Most dying alone.
Because of the brutal contagiousness of this virus, family members of the sick and dying could not even be there.
So here we are, left with memories and sadness and a sinking feeling that we could have done better.
And that’s perhaps the most painful part of this whole thing. So many of these deaths could have been prevented. We saw countries around the world afflicted with the same disease around the same time and yet have a miniscule fraction of the infections and deaths of the United States.
Yes, South Korea. It is one-seventh the size of the United States. But they have had fewer than 300 people die total. Not 3,000, not 30,000, but fewer than 300. They didn’t have a new magical therapy or a vaccine. They had nothing we didn’t have. It was that they acted early, and we now know it made an exponential difference in lives saved.
About one in seven Americans now knows someone who has died from the coronavirus. I am one of them.
My friend Dr. James T. Goodrich, a truly gifted neurosurgeon. We first met when I was just a resident. It would be a couple decades before I got a chance to operate side by side with him during a groundbreaking operation separating the McDonald twins, little baby boys conjoined at the head.
Dr. Goodrich was considered the most experienced neurosurgeon in the world when it came to doing that operation. When he died due to Covid, we lost someone truly irreplaceable. The memory I’ll always hold on to about him is his smiling eyes peeking out from his surgical mask, doing the thing that he loved more than anything else.
So let’s honor the memory of the more than 100,000 lives lost by committing ourselves to taking this virus seriously.
I will go ahead and just say it: It sucks. What is happening right now is awful. Our country and the world have become infected. And now we are dealing with an illness so different than any illness ever experienced by someone living today. It is a once-in-a-century illness, and it sucks.
We don’t know exactly why we were stricken with this illness at this time in our collective human history. But that doesn’t mean we can’t act.
We must act.
There are lessons to be learned not only from the past, but from countries who have battled against the same virus with greater success. It is a tough comparison, but it is a fair one. Even the greatest country on earth can learn at a time like this from other countries. And it is more important than ever.
You know, this past Monday was Memorial Day, where we honor and mourn those who lost their lives while serving with the United States military.
Today, we should do the same. Honor 100,000 victims of Covid-19. After all, so many of them were heroes, too: first responders who helped keep the country running and kept others safe.
Wherever you are today, whatever you’re doing, let’s try to take a moment to commemorate those we have lost. And then in their memory, let’s strengthen our commitment to beating this virus.
Whether you’re a scientist working on a vaccine, a health care worker treating patients or someone at home practicing physical distancing, we all can and must do our part to help.
I will say this over and over again, especially on a day like today: We are all in this together.
John Herman Clomax, Jr.
Dr. Fred E. Haggerty
Mary and George Schneider
Siew Eng Tan
Timothy “Olan” Montgomery
AnnMarie Thelma Robain
Carlos Arturo García
Alfred J. Lizzio
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Gupta: CNN has launched a new webpage to honor those who we’ve lost to this pandemic. Please take a look at cnn.com/covidvictims.
There you can find more tributes from family and friends in honor of their loved ones.
We’ll be back tomorrow. Thanks for listening.
If you have questions, please record them as a voice memo and email them to email@example.com — we might even include them in our next podcast. You can also head to cnn.com/coronavirus and sign up for our daily newsletter, which features the latest updates on this fast-moving story from CNN journalists around the globe. For a full listing of episodes of “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction,” visit the podcast’s page here.