The Darkest Hour for America Is Still to Come, Experts Say. What We Do Next Is Key

Four months that will decide America's future

Photo illustration of a map of the United States teetering.
Mike McQuade / for NBC News

How was a microscopic virus able to bring the world’s richest and most powerful country to its knees?

Americans might have expected that their country would marshal its tremendous financial and intellectual resources, and its technological might, to fend off COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Instead, it has been crippled for the better part of a year, and is now heading into a winter that one of its top doctors said could be the gravest public health crisis in its history. Ten months after the first COVID-19 death in the United States, the country is hurtling toward an appalling milestone: 300,000 deaths out of more than 15 million confirmed cases.

Yes, vaccines are coming, and the first vaccinations may begin next week. But their cumulative effect on the nation’s health will not be felt until well into 2021. If Americans do not change their behavior quickly, experts warn, the weeks and months ahead will be filled with more death and despair, packed hospitals and unemployment lines, and further political polarization and alienation.

The time to change our path is now.

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