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COVID-19 death toll hits 1 million amid fears of renewed outbreaks

By Patrick J. McDonnell, Alice Su and Shashank Bengali, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

MEXICO CITY - The man with the hoe and shovel in the heavy white hazmat suit sweats in the tropical sun. His eyes sting beneath his face shield.

But Imang Maulana endures in his daily engagement with the red clay of Pondok Ranggon Cemetery in Jakarta, Indonesia, lowering white coffins sealed in plastic into graves reserved for victims of the coronavirus.

"It feels like it's never going to end," says Maulana, who often whispers an Islamic prayer on behalf of family members denied the ritual of farewell. "I feel exhausted."

On Monday, the global death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic surpassed 1 million, a bleak milestone that is but one metric of a scourge that has ravaged lives and economies, mocked notions of stability and evoked a seemingly bygone era of plagues.

The virus has drawn out the best and worst of the human spirit. Blame and pettiness have echoed alongside moments of compassion and resolve, from the chaos of a hospital ward to the hushed quiet of a father, mother or sister dying in the bedroom of a house on an unremarkable street or on a dirt path in a distant village.

Although contagions were once blamed on the wrath of the Almighty, the origins of this 21st-century blight were more prosaic. The virus was traced to a market in Wuhan, China, and may have jumped to humans from a bat or other wild animal, though scientists have not confirmed this.

 

Air travel and other aspects of global connectedness, esteemed markers of modernity, became viral vectors - just as amplified trade and urbanization once contributed to outbreaks of smallpox, malaria, cholera and other afflictions.

The virus's continent-hopping trajectory saw it bounding from its origins in China through Asia, to Europe and Africa, and across oceans to the Americas and beyond.

The pandemic has brought great cities to a standstill, shuttered schools and factories, grounded air travel and unleashed ongoing social and political tumult. It triggered restrictions on where people could go and when, while also prompting mandates to wear face masks and practice social distancing to avoid spreading sickness and death.

It shut down sports and entertainment venues and forced the cancellation or suspension of iconic events, from Germany's Oktoberfest to Mexico City's famed Passion play to Rios de Janeiro's Carnival.

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