The United States Covid-19 Death Toll Hits Half a Million

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On the 21st of February, 2021 the New York Times confirmed that the United States death toll from the coronavirus pandemic hit 500,000. This shocking number comes about a year after the first death and puts the United States ahead of every country in the world in terms of fatalities from Covid-19. Just to put the death toll in perspective, more Americans have died from Covid-19 than both World Wars and the Vietnam wars combined. As spouses, children, friends, siblings, parents, and relatives are left reeling from the losses they mourn, policymakers and experts are asking an important question: Just how did we get here?

Americans in every corner of the country were affected by Covid-19 from densely populated cities to rural counties. One in every 295 New York residents died from the virus. On the other extreme, in Lamb County, Texas which has a population of 13,000 living over a 1,000 square mile area, one in 163 people died due to the virus.

At this time, a year ago, even Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s infectious disease expert, had projected a death toll of 240,000. Nobody anticipated that the virus would kill twice that projected number. Among the people who passed away due to the virus, 163,000 people were those who lived in nursing homes and long-term care facilities where residents were left vulnerable by age, illness, and comorbidities. In fact, the virus has disproportionately affected Americans who are 65 years and older. 

Though vaccinations for Americans are underway, experts estimate that it will still be a few months before everyone is vaccinated. In that time frame, new variants of the virus might emerge and lead to another spike. An independent global health research center at the University of Washington studied trends and projected that we could reach 614,000 deaths by June 1. However, this number could change depending on how many people wear masks, practice social distancing and adhere to safety protocols. The speed of the vaccination rollout could also affect that estimate.

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