The death toll in the United States from COVID-19 surpassed 800,000 on Tuesday, a figure that was once unimaginable and considered doubly tragic, given that more than 200,000 of those lives were lost after the vaccine became virtually available for order it last spring.
The death toll, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is roughly equal to the population of Atlanta and St. Louis combined, or Minneapolis and Cleveland together. It is roughly equivalent to the number of Americans who die each year from heart disease or stroke.
The United States has the highest number of victims on record of any country. The United States accounts for about 4% of the world’s population, but about 15% of the 5.3 million known deaths from the coronavirus since the outbreak began in China two years ago.
The actual death toll in the US and worldwide is believed to be significantly higher due to cases that were overlooked or hidden.
A forecast model from the University of Washington, followed closely, projects a total of more than 880,000 reported deaths in the US by March 1.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday signaled what he called a “tragic milestone.” He again asked unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated for themselves and their children, and he urged those vaccinated to get vaccinated.
“I urge all Americans: do your patriotic duty to keep our country safe, to protect yourself and those around you, and to honor the memory of all we have lost,” Biden said. “Now is the time.”
Health experts lament that many of the deaths in the United States were especially heartbreaking because they were preventable by the vaccine, which became available in mid-December a year ago and opened to all adults in mid-April this year.
About 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated, or just over 60% of the population. That’s well below what scientists say is necessary to keep the virus in check.
“Almost all the people who die now are dying from preventable deaths,” said Dr. Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “And that’s because they are not immunized. And you know it, God, it’s a terrible tragedy. “
When the vaccine was first released, the death toll in the country was about 300,000. It reached 600,000 in mid-June and 700,000 on October 1.
The United States crossed the last threshold with cases and hospitalizations on the rise again in a spike driven by the highly contagious delta variant, which arrived in the first half of 2021 and now accounts for virtually all infections. Now the omicron variant is gaining traction in the country, although scientists aren’t sure how dangerous it is.
Beyrer recalled that in March or April 2020, one of the worst scenarios projected more than 240,000 American deaths.
“And I saw that number, and I thought it was incredible: 240,000 Americans killed?” he said. “And now we have passed that number three times.” He added: “And I think it’s fair to say that we are not out of the woods yet.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism