This is a milestone that by all accounts was not to happen so soon.
The US death toll from COVID-19 rose to 700,000 late Friday – more than Boston’s population. The last 100,000 deaths occurred at a time when vaccines — which prevent deaths, hospitalizations and serious disease — were available to any American over the age of 12.
The milestone is very disappointing for doctors, public health officials and the American public, who watched a pandemic that had subsided earlier in the summer take a dark turn. Millions of Americans have refused vaccination, causing the highly contagious Delta variant to spread across the country and the death toll from 600,000 to 700,000 in 3 1/2 months.
Florida suffered the most deaths of any state during that period, with nearly 17,000 residents dying since mid-June. Texas was second with 13,000 deaths. Both states account for 15% of the country’s population, but account for over 30% of the country’s deaths since the nation crossed the 600,000 mark.
Dr David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who has analyzed publicly reported state data, said it is safe to say that at least 70 of the past 100,000 deaths, 000 were among unvaccinated people. He said those who have been vaccinated died of successful infection, most of them having caught the virus from an uninfected person.
“If we had been more effective in our vaccination, I think it’s fair to say, we could have prevented 90% of those deaths,” said Dowdy, from mid-June.
“It’s not just a number on a screen,” Dody said. “These are the sad stories of thousands of people whose families have lost someone who means the world to them.”
Danny Baker is one of them.
Seid Holler, 28, of Riley, Kansas, contracted COVID-19 over the summer, spent more than a month in the hospital and died on September 14. He left behind a wife and a 7-month-old baby girl.
“This thing took an older man, a 28-year-old, 6′2″, 300-pound man, and took him down as if it were nothing,” said his father, 56-year-old J.D. Baker, in Milford. , Kansas. “And so if the youth think they are still … safe because of their youth and their strength, it is no longer.”
Early in the pandemic, Danny Baker, who was a championship trap shooter in high school and loved hunting and fishing, insisted he would be first in line for a vaccine, his mother recalled.
But as vaccination began for their age group, the US recommended a moratorium on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to investigate reports of rare but potentially dangerous blood clots. The news scared them, as did information circulating online that the vaccine could harm fertility, although medical experts say there is no biological reason the shots would affect fertility.
His wife was also breastfeeding, so he decided to wait. Health experts now say that breastfeeding mothers should get vaccinated to protect themselves and it may also provide some protection to their babies through antibodies passed into breast milk.
His wife, 27-year-old Aubria Baker, a labor and delivery nurse, said there is “a lot of misinformation out there about vaccines,” adding that her husband’s death has prompted a Facebook page and at least 100 people to get vaccinated. inspired. “It’s not that we weren’t going to get it. We just didn’t get it.”
When the death toll exceeded 600,000 in mid-June, vaccination was already reducing caseloads, restrictions were being lifted and people were hoping for life to return to normal in the summer. Deaths per day in the US had fallen to an average of about 340, from a high of more than 3,000 in mid-January. Soon after, health officials declared it a pandemic of the unrelated.
But as the delta variant entered the country, caseloads and deaths rose—particularly among the illiterate and young people, with admissions and deaths dramatically increasing among people under the age of 65 in hospitals across the country. They also reported breakthrough infections and deaths, though far lower rates, prompting efforts to provide booster shots to vulnerable Americans.
Now, an average of around 1,900 deaths are taking place every day. Cases began to drop from their high in September, but there are fears that the situation may worsen in the winter months when cold weather brings people inside.
In a statement on Saturday, President Joe Biden called the “painful milestone” of 700,000 COVID-19 deaths and said “we should not be numbed by grief.”
He renewed his pitch to get people vaccinated, saying the country has made “extraordinary progress” against the coronavirus in the past eight months thanks to vaccines.
“It could save your life and the lives of the people you love,” Biden said. “It will help us defeat COVID-19 and move forward together as a nation.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 65% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while about 56% have been fully vaccinated.
But millions are either refusing or are still on the fence because of fear, misinformation and political beliefs. Health care workers report being threatened by patients and community members who do not believe that COVID-19 is real.
The first known death from the virus in the US occurred in early February 2020. It took four months to reach the first 100,000 deaths. During the deadliest phase of the disaster, in the winter of 2020-21, it took only a month for 300,000 to 400,000 deaths.
The US reached 500,000 deaths in mid-February, when the country was still in the midst of a winter wave and vaccines were only available to a limited number of people. The death toll stood at about 570,000 in April, when every adult American became eligible for shots.
“I remember when we hit that 100,000-death mark, people nodded and said ‘Oh, my God,'” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “Then we said, ‘Are we going to get 200,000?’ Then we kept seeing the 100,000-death mark,” and eventually surpassed the estimated 675,000 US deaths from the 1918-19 flu pandemic.
“And we’re not done yet,” said Benjamin.
Deaths during the delta surge have been unreliable in hotspots in the south. About 79 out of every 100,000 people have died from COVID in Florida since mid-June, the highest rate in the country.
Amanda Alexander, a COVID-19 ICU nurse at Augusta University Medical Center in Georgia, said Thursday that one patient had died in each of her three previous shifts.
“I have seen a 20 year old child die. I’ve seen 30-year-olds, 40-year-olds,” without any pre-existing conditions that would have put them at higher risk, she said. “Ninety-nine percent of our patients have not been vaccinated. And that’s very disappointing.” Because facts don’t lie and we are seeing it every day.
Weber reported from Fenton, Michigan and Hollingsworth from Mission, Kansas. Associated Press medical writer Carla K. Johnson and data journalist Justin Myers contributed to this story.