New coronavirus strain dominates in the United States, but death rate is lower than last year

New coronavirus strain dominates in the United States, but death rate is lower than last year
Nikole Hannah-Jones, 1619 Project author. (Image: Wikipedia)

Most coronavirus cases in the U.S. are from a new strain of the virus, the highly-contagious Delta variant. As Fortune reported last week,

The Delta variant is now king in COVID America, responsible for 83.2% of novel coronavirus infections in the U.S., the CDC said…That’s up from 51.7% from two weeks ago…According to the CDC, more than 93% of new cases in the Plains and Upper Plains states are caused by the Delta variant. In New York, and much of the South, the share of cases linked to the Delta variant are above 80%….

The fast-spreading variant adds still more urgency to the drive to get Americans vaccinated. Those efforts have plateaued in recent weeks, with the percent of U.S. adults with at least one COVID shot still hovering around 68%, barely above the rate a month ago….studies so far show the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson shots to be effective in protecting against severe disease.

But death rates are lower than last year, despite rising cases. Most people hospitalized for COVID-19 get good quality healthcare, and survive.

Be grateful our healthcare system is better than Cuba’s, which couldn’t handle a much smaller caseload compared to its population. Cuba has lousy healthcare, even though, before communists took over in 1959, Cuba led Latin America in healthcare and was largely literate, with one of the best education systems in the western hemisphere.

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Cuba’s healthcare system could not handle COVID cases even though its geographic isolation and antiquated transportation system left it with a lower COVID rate than other countries like Brazil, Peru, and the United States. One Cuban lamented that the “healthcare system has crumbled and they are unequipped to contain the COVID outbreak,” with people languishing in dirty hospitals. “For years now the Cuban health care system has been suffering due to a lack [of] proper infrastructure, medicine, equipment, and personnel.”

In 2016, the Washington Post noted that “Cuban hospitals” were “ill-equipped.” It cited a 2004 news report about how Cuban pharmacies stocked “very little and antibiotics” were “available only on the black market.”

A 2014 news report described how hospitals in Cuba “are literally falling apart,” and patients had “to bring everything with them, because the hospital provides nothing. Pillows, sheets, medicine: everything.”

Before the communist takeover, Cubans lived longer than people in virtually all other Latin American nations. But that changed under the communist regime that took over in 1959. By 2012, Chileans and Costa Ricans lived slightly longer than Cubans. Back in 1960, Chileans had a life span seven years shorter than Cubans, and Costa Ricans lived more than two years less than Cubans on average. In 1960, Mexicans lived seven years shorter than Cubans; by 2012, the gap had shrunk to just two years.

(Cuban life expectancy statistics are probably inflated. Cuba apparently does not record some infant deaths, and it appears to exaggerate the life spans of its citizens. So Cubans likely die years sooner on average than Chileans or Costa Ricans).

As Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler noted, in “health care and education, Cuba was already near the top” before the communist revolution, and it “already led the region” in its low infant mortality rate “in 1953-1958.”

These realities contradict claims by left-wing New York Times correspondent Nikole Hannah-Jones, that Cuba’s healthcare and education systems were improved by communism. Hannah-Jones claims “Cuba actually has the least inequality, and that’s largely due to socialism, which I’m sure no one wants to hear.” She also claims communism “brought universal education and access to jobs to black Cubans.”

In reality, her own newspaper, the New York Times, has reported on how Afro-Cubans fair poorly in education and access to key jobs in communist Cuba.

Hannah-Jones leads the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which seeks to reframe American history racially. The 1619 Project’s left-wing history of the United States is taught in 4,500 schools nationwide, even though the 1619 Project has made many false claims debunked by historians.

The 1619 Project falsely claimed that “the moment [America] began” was in 1619, when 20 enslaved Africans were brought ashore in Virginia and sold. That is this “country’s very origin,” it claims.

In reality, America became a country in 1776, when it declared its independence. But the 1619 Project claims that it was really “out of slavery—and the anti‐​black racism it required” that “nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional” grew. This claim is so false that historians of every ideological stripe have criticized it — from liberals and conservatives to socialists.

The American colonies were first settled in 1607, before any slaves arrived on America’s shores. More importantly, some of the main colonies, like Massachusetts (the birthplace of the American Revolution), did not depend upon slave labor, and banned slavery soon after America became independent. America’s most prosperous and populated states were not slave states. The northern free states were much more populous and economically advanced than the southern slave states, which is why the north won the Civil War.

A liberal history professor who helped fact-check the 1619 Project points out it falsely claimed that the American colonists “fought the American Revolution in large part to preserve slavery in North America.” In reality, that fact-checker notes, “Far from being fought to preserve slavery, the Revolutionary War became a primary disrupter of slavery in the North American Colonies.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones is not just wrong about America’s history. She’s also wrong to praise Communist Cuba for its education system. Cuban children are taught by poorly paid teachers in dilapidated schools. Cuba has made less educational progress than most Latin American countries over the last 60 years, the period in which it was run by communists. According to UNESCO, Cuba had about the same literacy rate as Costa Rica and Chile in 1950 (close to 80 percent). And it has almost the same literacy rate as they do today (close to 100 percent).

Meanwhile, Latin American countries that were largely illiterate in 1950—such as Peru, Brazil, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic—are largely literate today, closing much of the gap with Cuba. El Salvador had a literacy rate of less than 40% in 1950, but it has an 89% literacy rate today. Brazil and Peru had a less than 50% literacy rate in 1950, but today, Peru has a 94.4% literacy rate, and Brazil a 93.2% literacy rate. The Dominican Republic’s literacy rate rose from a little over 40% in 1950 to 93.8% today.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at


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