On Monday, February 22, the United States surpassed 500,000 known coronavirus-related deaths – a mournful milestone that arrived as we near the date that will mark one full year in this painful pandemic.
The death toll in the United States is higher than in any other country in the world, and it has additionally blown past federal experts’ predictions at the start of the outbreak. Furthermore, more Americans have now died from coronavirus than the number of U.S. casualties in World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined.
At a candlelighting ceremony hosted on Monday, President Joe Biden honored the half million U.S. lives lost in this pandemic.
“As a nation, we can’t accept such a cruel fate,” Biden said. “We’ve been fighting this pandemic for so long. We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow. We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or blur or on the news. We must do so to honor the dead, but equally important [is to] care for the living, those they left behind.”
That very day, it was reported that 1,200 more Americans had died from complications related to COVID-19. Though the U.S. only makes up 4.25 percent of the global population, the country has accounted for around 20 percent of the world’s coronavirus-related deaths thus far.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 44.1 million Americans have received at least one does of their two-dose COVID-19 vaccines, and about 19.4 million have been fully vaccinated. This accounts for around 5.9 percent of the U.S. population, but that is much less than the estimated 70 to 85 percent of Americans who must be vaccinated for the country to read “herd immunity.”
In spite of all this struggle, there are some who have still remained hopeful for the U.S.’s continued fight against coronavirus, as hospitalizations and deaths are declining across the country. According to the COVID Tracking Project, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has fallen for the 40th day in a row, and John Hopkins University has likewise reported that daily deaths have declined 24 percent this past week.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, expressed enthusiasm for these encouraging numbers, but also noted that the death toll in the United States is still “a truly tragic reminder of the enormity of the pandemic and the loss it has afflicted on our personal lives and our communities.”
“While the pandemic is heading in the right direction, there is still much work do,” Walensky said.
Where we go from here lies in the hands of individual Americans, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) team.
“Managing the epidemic in the next four months depends critically on scaling up vaccination, trying to increase the fraction of adults willing to be vaccinated above three-quarters, and strongly encouraging continued mask use and avoiding situations where transmission is likely, such as indoor dining, going to bars, or indoor gatherings with individuals outside the household,” the team wrote.
The American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association joined IMHE in urging Americans to continue to take this pandemic as seriously as they did at the start of our strife.
“With new, more contagious variants of the virus circulating throughout the U.S., now is not the time to let your guard down and scale back on the measures that we know will work to prevent further illness and deaths – wearing masks, practicing physical distancing, and washing hands,” their joint statement said.