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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 began treating patients and posting photographs of the number to his social media

    “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.

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