UPDATED with latest: On Thursday, during his first Covid-19 address, newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden pledged a “wartime effort” to fight the pandemic. His words were apt.
More Americans have now died from Covid-19 than died in all of World War II. According to Johns Hopkins University, the United States has lost 410,102 lives to the virus. The Washington Post and other sources indicate that 405,000 American lives were lost during WWII. (Note: Biden said in his inaugural address that the country had already crossed this milestone, which was probably true, but only since then have the Hopkins numbers reflected that fact.)
That’s a staggering comparison, considering in the early days of the pandemic, some said it would be no worse than a seasonal flu and “simply disappear.” According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 60,000 Americans are killed in a severe flu season. Average years see about 35,000 deaths.
There is some good news, however.
On Thursday the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, announced that the United States may be seeing a “plateauing” of its Covid-19 numbers. Indeed, the New York Times reports that new coronavirus cases have fallen 21% nationwide in the last two weeks. Test positivity rates and hospitalizations have also declined. Daily deaths, however, remain stubbornly high. Experts have long pointed out that deaths are a lagging indicator that rise and fall accordingly after cases and hospitalizations.
On Friday, the country saw a slightly-lower 3,955 daily deaths from the virus. The number of cases was down drastically to 188,952. That is, however, still a very high number. And while daily deaths will hopefully decline accordingly, there will still be many more American lives lost before the pandemic is over.
As of Wednesday, the widely-cited model from the University of Washington predicted that the United States would see a total of 566,000 deaths from the virus by May 1. That’s a lot closer than anyone imagined when this all began to the 675,000 American lives lost to the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919.
Biden has also committed to administering 100 million vaccines in the next 98 days. The success or failure of that effort may impact that projection dramatically.
Another variable is the rising mutant strains of the virus. There are three strains that experts are most worried about. Concerns are due to, variously, to a potential ability to evade vaccines and greater transmissibility.
PREVIOUSLY on January 21: Exactly one year after health experts first warned Americans about what became known as Covid-19, the country has recorded its largest daily death toll to date.
The number of cases has come down nationwide of late, but the number of deaths has not only remained constant, but recently hit several all-time highs.
Johns Hopkins University announced on Thursday that the new, 24-hour total of virus-related deaths was 4,375. According to Johns Hopkins, the country’s previous high came on January 13 at 4,327 lives lost to the pandemic.
Numbers like that pushed the U.S. passed 400,000 Covid-related deaths in the past year earlier this week. That number now stands at 406,000.
“Deaths are tragically high,” said CNN’s Sanjay Gupta on Thursday. “Nobody should get used to over 4,000 deaths a day,” he went on, before warning, “It’s still going to get worse, in terms of deaths, before it gets better.” Gupta noted that some models have deaths peaking at 5,000 or 6,000 before finally dropping. He warned that the stratospheric daily toll could last through the end of February.
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