As the nation approaches a grim milestone, public and political will to do much about the disease has faded. But absent health measures, the devastation could have been far worse.
Aside from the direct health effects, Americans have paid an enormous cost. The pandemic led to a staggering number of small business closures and trillions of dollars in additional government spending. School closures have curtailed enrollment and led to severe learning loss, with millions of students slipping below grade level. Many downtowns remain ghost towns, more than two years on.
All kinds of social indicators are pointing the wrong way. Drug overdoses, suicides and traffic fatalities are all up. Many criminologists blame the pandemic and its societal and economic disruptions for the spike in homicides over the past couple of years. “It’s not that the whole society fell apart,” says Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “It’s just that there are enough people who were already living on the edge, and this pushed them off of it.”
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