The United States has surpassed 500,000 deaths from the new coronavirus, even as the number of cases tends to decline and vaccination efforts continue.
The United States reached the milestone of half a million deaths on Monday, the highest of any country, just over a year after the first American is believed to have died from the virus in Santa Clara County, California.
However, the actual death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be much higher, as federal figures maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show excess mortality well above what could be expected. assume for a typical year.
“It’s something that’s surprising when you look at the numbers, almost unbelievable, but it’s true,” Fauci said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” the day before the United States officially crossed the 500,000-person threshold. “This is a devastating pandemic, and it is historic. People will be talking about this decades and decades and decades from now.”
The coronavirus burden has been shown to be deadlier than even some of the most pessimistic estimates suggested. COVID-19 has killed nearly 50 percent more people in the United States than the number of people who died from the flu during the entirety of the past decade, a number roughly equal to the population of Atlanta or Kansas City. , Missouri.
The news comes as other trends in the United States are more hopeful, including cases that have fallen more than 40 percent in the past two weeks and more than 70 percent since January, according to The New York Times. Daily positive tests are at their lowest rate since late October. Mortality rates are also beginning to decline.
The nation has made great progress in recent weeks in stemming a winter tsunami of new cases, although an average of 71,000 Americans still tested positive for the virus every day last week, a rate still far higher than the summer and spring peaks. . In the past week, an average of 1,850 people died from the virus every day.
Hospitalizations have fallen more than 50 percent since January, with a total of 62,000 reported nationwide as of Thursday, according to the Times.
A surprising advance in the development of two vaccines that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and several more that will soon request authorization for emergency use, has contributed in part to the decline in cases, although health experts warned that the country and the world – still has a long way to go before the virus is under control.
“We had a big peak and we are starting to go down. Certainly the number of people who have been infected is contributing to that, also some contribution with vaccines. Not much, I don’t think we’ve vaccinated enough people yet to get herd immunity. I think he’s seeing the natural peaking and going down, ”Fauci said on” Meet the Press. “
But extreme weather in some states, particularly Texas, may be obscuring the whole picture. Several Lone Star State testing and vaccination sites were forced to shut down and delay reporting amid winter storms, and Travis County, which includes Austin, has yet to report post-Friday figures.
At the same time, more states are relaxing coronavirus restrictions, lifting bans on indoor activities such as dinners and gyms, and increasing capacity at sporting events and public gatherings. Schools are reopening in many parts of the country, but health experts continue to urge people to take precautions to stay away and wear masks.
“The baseline of daily infections is still very, very high. It’s not the 300 to 400,000 that we had some time ago, but we want to have that very, very, very low baseline before we start to think we’re out of the woods, ”Fauci said.
The progress comes as many more infectious variants of the virus have been recorded in the US, including strains believed to have originated in England and South Africa.
Nationally, about 12 percent of Americans have received at least their first dose of the vaccine, and 5 percent have received both.
The virus has infected more than 111 million people and claimed nearly 2.5 million lives worldwide, according to data maintained by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.