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U.S. COVID-19 Deaths Pass 700K As Delta Variant Continues to Rage

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 eclipsed 700,000 late Friday — a number greater than the population of Boston. The last 100,000 deaths occurred during a time when vaccines — which overwhelmingly prevent deaths, hospitalizations and serious illness — were available to any American over the age of 12.

It’s a milestone that’s deeply frustrating to doctors, public health officials, and the American public alike. Those who had tasted freedom in the latter part of the spring are now feeling frustrated by the pandemic taking a dark turn. Tens of millions of Americans have refused to get vaccinated, allowing the highly contagious Delta variant to tear through the country and send the death toll from 600,000 to 700,000 in 3 1/2 months.

Florida suffered by far the most deaths of any state during that period, with the virus killing about 17,000 residents since the middle of June; Texas was second with 13,000. The two states account for 15% of the country’s population, but more than 30% of the nation’s deaths since the nation surpassed 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

When deaths surpassed 600,000 in mid-June, vaccinations already were driving down caseloads, restrictions were being lifted and people looked forward to life returning to normal over the summer. Deaths per day in the U.S. had plummeted to an average of around 340, from a high of over 3,000 in mid-January. Soon afterward, health officials declared it a pandemic of the unvaccinated. But as the Delta variant swept the country, caseloads and deaths soared — especially among the unvaccinated and younger people, with hospitals around the country reporting dramatic increases in admissions and deaths among people under 65. They also reported breakthrough infections and deaths, though at far lower rates, prompting efforts to provide booster shots to vulnerable Americans.

Now, daily deaths are averaging about 1,900 a day. Cases have started to fall from their highs in September but there is fear that the situation could worsen in the winter months when colder weather drives people inside.

 

Infectious diseases experts say it’s safe to estimate that at least 70,000 of the last 100,000 deaths were in unvaccinated people. And of those vaccinated people who died with breakthrough infections, most caught the virus from an unvaccinated person. Vaccinations could have prevented a full nearly 90% of those deaths.



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