News ID: 99710
Publish Date : 05 February 2022 - 21:44

Grim Milestone: U.S. Tops 900,000 COVID Deaths

NEW YORK (Dispatches) --
Propelled in part by the wildly contagious omicron variant, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 hit 900,000, less than two months after eclipsing 800,000.
The two-year total, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the population of Indianapolis, San Francisco, or Charlotte, North Carolina.
The milestone comes more than 13 months into a vaccination drive that has been beset by misinformation and political and legal strife.
“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.
He lamented that most of the deaths happened after the vaccine gained authorization.
“We got the medical science right. We failed on the social science. We failed on how to help people get vaccinated, to combat disinformation, to not politicize this,” Jha said. “Those are the places where we have failed as America.”
President Joe Biden lamented the milestone in a statement Friday night, saying, “After nearly two years, I know that the emotional, physical, and psychological weight of this pandemic has been incredibly difficult to bear.”
He again urged Americans to get vaccinations and booster shots. “Two hundred and fifty million Americans have stepped up to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by getting at least one shot — and we have saved more than one million American lives as a result,” Biden said.
Just 64% of the population is fully vaccinated, or about 212 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nor is COVID-19 finished with the United States: Jha said the U.S. could reach 1 million deaths by April.
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 time between when victims become infected and when they succumb.
The death toll reached 800,000 on 14 December. It took just 51 more days to get to 900,000, the fastest increase of 100,000 since last winter.
“We have underestimated our enemy here, and we have under-prepared to protect ourselves,” said Dr Joshua M Sharfstein, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “We’ve learned a tremendous amount of humility in the face of a lethal and contagious respiratory virus.”
Jha said he and other medical professionals are frustrated that policymakers are seemingly running out of ideas for getting people to roll up their sleeves.
“There aren’t a whole lot of tools left. We need to double down and come up with new ones,” he said.
COVID-19 has become one of the top three causes of death in America, behind the big two – heart disease and cancer.
“We have been fighting among ourselves about tools that actually do save lives. Just the sheer amount of politics and misinformation around vaccines, which are remarkably effective and safe, is staggering,” Sharfstein said.
He added: “This is the consequence.”
Preliminary evidence has shown that Omicron, while far more infectious, generally causes less severe illness than earlier iterations of the virus, such as Delta. But the sheer volume of Omicron cases fueled a surge in hospitalizations that has strained many U.S. healthcare systems to their limits in recent weeks.
Data also suggests that Omicron may have hit the United States harder than other countries with younger overall populations, such as in Africa.
As of Friday, according to Reuters’ running tally of state-reported data, the total number of American lives lost to COVID-19 since the first U.S. cases were detected in early 2020 has reached at least 904,228, more than the entire population of South Dakota.