The death toll due to Covid-19 passed the 90,000 mark in the United States this week. This is a truly staggering if not sobering number that raises many questions about how we as a nation respond to this incredible loss of life. These are not just numbers, but people – someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt, friend, lover, child… The daily news boils this down to statistics. Numbers of new cases and deaths are reported each day before the newscaster moves on to the next story. Are we normalizing this staggering loss of life? Even worse, are we accepting it?

Yet I look at the leadership of this country and I don’t see people who empathize with those who have lost someone to this deadly virus. I don’t see people who are taking steps to minimize the impact of this insidious virus.

There is still much that we don’t know about Covid-19 and its effects on people, but it is becoming quite clear that low income residents and people of color are disproportionately impacted by exposure to the coronavirus. It’s also become clear that underlying health conditions, such as respiratory problems like asthma and COPD; diabetes, high blood pressure, immune diseases like lupus multiple sclerosis make people more vulnerable to covid-19, not just among the elderly, but among people of color and others with these diseases.

Why then is the USEPA doing all that it can to dismantle (repeal or weaken) regulations that protect people’s health. A report released today by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee describes how specific actions taken by EPA to weaken or repeal air pollution rules and regulations will “harm public health and potentially add to COVID-19 risks.”

The report specifically points to seven rules that were initially designed to remove greenhouse gas, soot, mercury and other pollution from the air that the agency has targeted and proposed or finalized actions since March 1st that “will result in increased air pollution and could cause tens of thousands of premature deaths. EPA has, in short, unleashed a pandemic of pollution in the middle of an actual pandemic, the respiratory effects of which may be amplified by pollution exposure.”

The committee is clear that the agency should reverse its deregulating efforts and strengthened rather than weaken the country’s air pollution laws and regulations, and take steps to address the Covid-19 specific risks posed by air pollution. In the committee’s words:

“EPA should re-focus its enforcement, compliance and monitoring activities in a manner that prioritizes the early detection of high exposure to air pollutants in communities that have both historically experienced such exposures and those at greatest risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19.”

This and other recommendations made by the Senate Committee offer hope that we will not accept 90,000 deaths and counting as the cost of doing business in the United States. There are steps we can take to reduce and minimize the impacts of Covid-19.

Read the full report here.