U.S. Reaches One Million COVID-19 Deaths, a Tragic Failure to Protect Public Health

Statement by Johanna Chao Kreilick, President, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published May 17, 2022

Washington (May 17, 2022)—This month, the toll of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic reached one million deaths in the United States. The ongoing crisis has been exacerbated by long-standing inequities in society, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Johanna Chao Kreilick, president of UCS.

“In just over two years, our country has lost more than a million people to COVID-19. This tragic milestone has left its mark on all of us. Every one of those deaths is not simply a statistic, but a human being forever lost to their family and community. Millions more have suffered severe illness, lost loved ones, or faced disruption to their lives and livelihoods. These harms have fallen hardest on BIPOC communities, low-income families, and people dealing with disabilities, underlying health conditions and chronic illness, exposing unacceptable injustices in health care access.

“The cost of the pandemic in human lives is all the more tragic because so many of these losses could have been prevented if leaders at the state and national level had followed the best available science. The past two years have shown the awful consequences when elected officials and public figures censor, suppress or ignore science, and when they undermine or attack the scientists and experts who carry it out.

“As we mourn the million lost, we must redouble our commitment to justice and public health. Communities across the country still need urgent assistance to get the information, treatment and vaccinations necessary to confront this crisis. We must make sure we support the care providers who have worked so hard, under incredible constraints and with inadequate funding, to protect their communities over the past two years. Our government must rebuild trust by making decisions based on science and the public interest and by providing clear, up-to-date guidance for schools, workplaces and businesses. We must stand up against the tide of willful disinformation that has undermined efforts to contain the pandemic. And we must invest in a stronger scientific enterprise to ensure that we can prevent the next pandemic.”

Please see a related blog post by UCS Fellow Derrick Jackson, titled “Nearly One Million US Deaths from COVID-19: The Grim Consequences of Sidelining Science.”