America passed a tragic milestone as the nation recorded more than half a million lives lost to the new coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The grim milestone comes just over a month after the nation surpassed 400,000 virus-related deaths in January, topping 300,000 fewer than a month earlier. President Biden is expected to hold a candle-lighting ceremony Monday night with a moment of silence in memory of the victims.
“This amount of devastation is a plague of our own making,” Dr. Greg Poland, an infectious disease expert at the Mayo Clinic, told Fox News. “Americans could and should have avoided this by taking science-based recommendations seriously.”
New daily deaths, cases and hospitalizations are declining, and while some experts say this is encouraging, the presence of more communicable variants and so-called “pandemic fatigue” with lax mitigation measures and fewer vaccination options in the spring could significantly extend the time. needed to achieve herd immunity, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, previously said.
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“While [a decline in cases] It is certainly hopeful news, the unfortunate milestone of 500,000 deaths should give us pause, “Dr. Steven Gordon, president of infectious diseases at the Cleveland Clinic, wrote in part to Fox News.” Behind every death there is a dear family member, friend or colleague. “
Gordon urged wearing masks, social distancing, frequent hand washing and avoiding gatherings until widespread vaccination leads to herd immunity. Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci recently projected that it is “possible” that Americans still need to wear face masks in 2022, even as the country could approach a certain “degree of normalcy.”
The news comes amid a feverish vaccination effort, restricted by a limited supply, intended to reduce serious illnesses and deaths in vulnerable populations. More than 18 million Americans (over 5%) have received two doses of vaccines, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, although a third candidate from Johnson & Johnson is pending FDA clearance. An independent panel of experts advising the FDA will meet Friday to discuss the candidate’s approval.
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The grim milestone also comes as preliminary studies weigh the impact of fast-spreading variants on vaccine efficacy, with research pointing to a two-thirds reduction in Pfizer’s vaccine-induced antibody levels against one strain. first detected in South Africa, and Moderna reports a six-fold drop in neutralizing power. The companies said it is unclear what protection the vaccines offer against the variant, although they previously promised they were confident the vaccines would remain effective. Drug manufacturers are now exploring the idea of variant booster injections in an attempt to achieve greater protection against the strains.
However, vaccinating the US population will not conquer the pandemic; Experts say that applying vaccines around the world will ultimately prevent the emergence of variants and end a pathogen to which at least 2.5 million deaths are attributed worldwide.