US hits 1 million deaths from COVID-19
The United States has reached 1 million reported deaths from COVID-19, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a number that shows the shocking toll the virus has taken on the nation.
The U.S. has had more deaths per capita than Western Europe or Canada, and while new deaths have fallen, the total death count is still rising.
It is also expected that the United States, like other countries, has undercounted the true number of deaths from the coronavirus.
Illustrating how high 1 million deaths originally seemed, then-President Trump said in March 2020 that holding the country to between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths would mean “we all, together, have done a very good job.”
Deaths have continued stacking up even into 2021 and 2022, after vaccines became widely available, disproportionately among people who did not get vaccinated or did not get booster shots.
An analysis from the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about 234,000 U.S. COVID-19 deaths, or roughly one quarter of the total, could have been prevented if people had been vaccinated.
The share is even higher, at 60 percent, of deaths since vaccines became widely available in June 2021.
“Since vaccines became widely available last summer, a total of 389,000 adults in the United States have died of COVID-19, and 6 in 10 of those deaths — about 234,000 deaths — could have been prevented by timely vaccinations,” the researchers found. “This analysis underscores the importance of continued efforts to increase the number of people vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19.”
Globally, the World Health Organization recently reported that the total number of deaths is more than twice the number officially reported, once indirect deaths due to factors like health care systems being overwhelmed are taken into account. That wider total is almost 15 million deaths worldwide.
While vaccines and booster shots continue to provide important protection against severe disease, new variants of the virus have thrown curveballs that have meant cases continue to spread, though they are much less dangerous among vaccinated and boosted people.
There are still more than 300 people dying every day from the virus in the U.S. on average, according to a New York Times tracker, though that is one of the lowest levels since the pandemic began. In addition to vaccinations, a new treatment pill from Pfizer known as Paxlovid has helped to take some of the teeth out of the virus.
The White House is preparing for another wave of the virus in the fall and winter, which could infect as many as 100 million Americans, a senior administration official said earlier this month.
The administration argues the country now has the tools to make such a wave much more manageable, and that the number of cases could be lower if Congress provides the funding necessary to purchase updated vaccines, more tests, and additional treatments. Without those tools, the virus could take a much more significant toll in a coming wave.
As much of the country looks to move past the virus, though, funding is stalled in Congress. Republicans have opposed new funding unless it can be paid for with cuts elsewhere, and the parties have sparred over how to pay for it. The GOP has also demanded a vote to overturn the Biden administration’s move to lift a Trump-era pandemic border policy known as Title 42.
White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha on Twitter pointed to a hopeful trend, that even as cases have risen recently in the Northeast, deaths have stayed largely flat, which he attributed to high booster rates in those states and the effectiveness of new treatments.
But he said funding is needed to ensure supplies of treatments and updated vaccines are available.
“We’re at a point in the pandemic where we know how to manage the virus,” he wrote.
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