US passes 900,000 COVID-19 deaths
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 on Friday topped 900,000 people, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.
The latest number, fueled largely by the highly contagious omicron variant, comes less than two months after the nation surpassed 800,000 deaths.
“Today, our nation marks another tragic milestone — 900,000 American lives have been lost to COVID-19. They were beloved mothers and fathers, grandparents, children, brothers and sisters, neighbors, and friends. Each soul is irreplaceable. We pray for the loved ones they have left behind, and together we keep every family enduring this pain in our hearts,” Biden said in a statement that also touted vaccines.
Despite three widely available vaccines that effectively prevent severe illness and death, only 64 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The vaccination campaign has been beset by inequities, misinformation and political sabotage, and the unvaccinated are the ones suffering the most. More people have died in the 13 months since the vaccines have been available than before.
“We now have more tools than ever before to save lives and fight this virus — with vaccines remaining our most important tool. Vaccines and boosters have proven incredibly effective, and offer the highest level of protection. Two hundred and fifty million Americans have stepped up to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by getting at least one shot — and we have saved more than one million American lives as a result,” Biden said. “We can save even more lives — and spare countless families from the deepest pain imaginable — if everybody does their part.”
The U.S. has one of the highest per capita rates of recorded COVID-19 cases in the world, with about 15,000 cases per 100,000 people, according to a New York Times tracker.
The omicron variant hit the nation hard in late November and cases skyrocketed.
While increasing evidence shows omicron may be less likely to cause death or serious illness than the delta variant, the sheer infectiousness and the speed at which it spreads has overwhelmed hospitals, primarily with people who have not been vaccinated.
Case counts have begun to decline precipitously, and hospitalizations are also trending downward. However, deaths are running at more than 2,300 per day on average, the highest level since last winter.
The U.S. saw the highest numbers of deaths in the pandemic last January, before vaccines were widely available, when the daily average reached 3,400. The last time the U.S. topped 2,000 deaths daily was last February, as the country was slowly coming down from the January peak.
Updated at 9:36 p.m.