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US COVID Death Toll Hits 900K Ahead Of Predictions Thanks to Omicron Outbreaks

US COVID Death Toll Hits 900K Ahead Of Predictions Thanks to Omicron Outbreaks

Propelled in part by the wildly contagious omicron variant, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 hit 900,000 on Friday, less than two months after eclipsing 800,000. The milestone comes more than 13 months into an effort to get all Americans vaccinated that has been hindered by misinformation and political and legal strife, though the shots have proved safe and highly effective at preventing serious illness and death.

The two-year total, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the population of Indianapolis, San Francisco, or Charlotte, North Carolina. Cases have been declining in 49 states in the last two weeks, by Johns Hopkins’ count, and the 50th, Maine, reported that confirmed infections are falling there, too, dropping sharply over the past week. The latest bleak milestone came as Omicron is loosening its grip on the country; new cases per day have plunged by almost a half-million since mid-January, when they hit the record-shattering peak of more than 800,000.

FILE – Linsey Jones, a medical assistant working at a drive-up COVID-19 testing clinic, wears an N95 mask, Jan. 4, 2022, in Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle. The Biden administration will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free to Americans starting next week, now that federal officials are emphasizing their better protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 over cloth face coverings. . (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

When the vaccine was rolled out in mid-December 2020, the death toll stood at about 300,000. It hit 600,000 in mid-June 2021 and 700,000 on October 1st. On December 14th, it reached 800,000. It took just 51 more days to get to 900,000, the fastest 100,000 jump since last winter.

Despite its wealth and its world-class medical institutions, the U.S. has the highest reported toll of any country, and even then, the real number of lives lost directly or indirectly to the coronavirus is thought to be significantly higher. American deaths are still running high at more than 2,400 per day on average, the most since last winter. And they are on the rise in at least 35 states, reflecting the lag between when victims become infected and when they succumb. Also, the number of Americans in the hospital with COVID-19 has declined 15% since mid-January to about 124,000.

Still, public health officials have expressed hope that the worst of Omicron is coming to an end. While they caution that things could still go bad again and dangerous new variants could emerge, some places are already talking about easing precautions. “It is an astronomically high number. If you had told most Americans two years ago as this pandemic was getting going that 900,000 Americans would die over the next few years, I think most people would not have believed it,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

Dr. Jha lamented that most of the deaths happened after the vaccine gained authorization. Just 64% of the population is fully vaccinated, or about 212 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pfizer has just applied for emergency authorization for its vaccine to be used on children 5 and under, and once approved, the numbers may drastically decrease.

The warning is clear: COVID-19 isn’t finished with the United States: Dr. Jha said the U.S. could reach 1 million deaths by April.

 

 

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