Thu | Sep 23, 2021

US coronavirus death toll approaches milestone of 500,000

Published:Monday | February 22, 2021 | 9:29 AM
In this January 21, 2021 file photo, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with reporters at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The United States stood Sunday at the brink of a once-unthinkable tally: 500,000 people lost to the coronavirus.

A year into the pandemic, the running total of lives lost was about 498,000 — roughly the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and just shy of the size of Atlanta.

The figure compiled by Johns Hopkins University surpasses the number of people who died in 2019 of chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, flu, and pneumonia combined.

“It’s nothing like we have ever been through in the last 102 years, since the 1918 influenza pandemic,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The US virus death toll reached 400,000 on January 19 in the waning hours in office for President Donald Trump, whose handling of the crisis was judged by public health experts to be a singular failure.

The nation could pass this next grim milestone on Monday. President Joe Biden will mark the US crossing 500,000 lives lost from COVID-19 with a moment of silence and candle lighting ceremony at the White House.

Biden will deliver remarks at sunset to honour the dead, the White House said.

He’s expected to be joined by first lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff.

The first known deaths from the virus in the US happened in early February 2020, both of them in Santa Clara County, California.

It took four months to reach the first 100,000 dead.

The toll hit 200,000 deaths in September and 300,000 in December. Then it took just over a month to go from 300,000 to 400,000 and about two months to climb from 400,000 to the brink of 500,000.

Joyce Willis of Las Vegas is among the countless Americans who lost family members during the pandemic.

Her husband, Anthony Willis, died December 28, followed by her mother-in-law in early January.

There were anxious calls from the ICU when her husband was hospitalised.

She was unable to see him before he died because she, too, had the virus and could not visit.

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