© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Dr. Joseph Varon checks on a patient as medical professionals treat people infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., November 12, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare/File Photo
By Callaghan O’Hare
HOUSTON (Reuters) – In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, pulmonologist Joseph Varon offered an opinion that made headlines around the world and went viral on social media. He was fighting two wars, he said: one against COVID and one against stupidity.
As the United States nears the grim milestone of 1 million coronavirus-linked deaths, Varon, chief of critical care and COVID-19 at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas said only one of those battles has been won.
“I think that I have won the fight against the coronavirus. I think I’ve lost the fight against human stupidity,” Varon told Reuters.
“The reason why we have lost a million people in this country is because of that fight against human stupidity. I can tell you that the number of deaths that we will have would have been much more smaller if people just listen and do the right thing, if they have a little bit of common sense,” he said.
COVID-19 infections are rising again in the United States, and around 66% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to federal data. Most U.S. states and localities have eased mask and vaccination requirements.
During the coming days, various trackers of the COVID-19 pandemic will reach 1 million U.S. deaths. As of Monday night, Reuters had tallied 999,118 deaths.
“It’s mind blowing,” Varon said. “I can’t believe that we have lost a million people.”
Varon has been counting the days since his COVID unit https://reut.rs/3hOPbgm began treating patients and posting photographs of the number to his social media https://twitter.com/joevaron/status/1507502057380622348 accounts. That number now stands at over 780.
“What I’ve learned about myself is that I’m probably superhuman, that I’m a guy that can do things if he gets his mind to do it, that I can work 750 continuous days, that I’m very resilient on what I do, that I’m ready for the next fight if it comes any time soon,” he said.
Some 58% of the U.S. population overall and more than 75% of younger children have been infected with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to a U.S. nationwide blood survey.